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Saturday, July 2, 2011

L.A. Noire

There seems to be a lot of talk about how L.A. Noire isn't really a game, or that it is just a reboot of the old point and click adventure games. The people who want to reduce this game to derivative tripe are just near sighted ass weasels. L.A. Noire is the latest venture from those who wouldst entertain us which seeks to blur the line between video games and interactive movies. And it does a damn fine job of doing just that.

To say that it isn't really a game is stupid. You put the disk in your Xbox and you play it. End of story. To call it a point and click adventure.... not so much. Those games required a bit more logic and decisiveness, there was no gray area. You either solved a puzzle or you didn't. End of story.

What we really see here in L.A. Noire is a situation where everything is pretty well laid out for you in a fairly straight path, and while you may wander off for a bit and play around in the massive, seething 1940s LA sandbox universe, essentially all main quest plot points are neatly laid out for you and you can't really fail at solving a mystery. You can simply delay the solution by wandering off in the wrong direction for a bit. Essentially, you are on a rail. Some people find this upsetting. Those people make me sad.

These very same people may have also disliked the illusion of control that your choices gave you in the recent game Dragon Age 2. I for one, find very well crafted character and scenery quite distracting from the developers machinations and I suspend my disbelief and am willingly lied to in order to be taken on a journey. To experience something new and fresh which has not yet been experience by mankind.

What we are witnessing is the birth of the newest form of storytelling. This is perhaps the most ancient of all human art forms. Traditionally we follow the adventures of a protagonist. We identify with his journeys, his struggles and we find them enlightening, cathartic even. This end has been achieved through oral tradition, written novels and the like, and most recently film and television. But Yea. Behold. Now we enter an era in which not only do we watch and listen to the story, but we also participate in and sometimes inconceivably shape the very stories laid out before us.

The ability of a company like Rockstar to unite so many disparate elements of production, so many stages where things might have gone wrong, and to distill it down into a finely crafted story, with some of the finest digitized acting and scene design ever fabricated is nothing short of compelling. Yes, its not a true sandbox game. But the sad truth of a sandbox game is that the story is not very strong or well defined. Inevitably the story, when left to the devices of the users, becomes something along the lines of the tale of a young upstart gentleman who devolves into a series of violent hooker beatings and car thefts that eventually peters out into a tale of boredom and ultimately leaves one wondering why GTA 87 was even made in the first place.

But to craft something. A real story. With real people, twists, turns, revelations, and heartache. That is an achievement. And yes, it does hearken back to the old point and click adventure games because back then story mattered. Characters mattered. Maybe, just maybe, we've gotten to the point where the graphics race has come to a plateau, and rather than resorting to the newest SFX orgy explosioneering, game developers are going to return to the helm of the old art train and start cranking out some classic mythology for future generations.

One can only hope.

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