If I got a chance to write a sequel to L.A. Noire …

The possibility that Rockstar games might – emphasis on might – develop a sequel to L.A. Noire is, to me, the most interesting story circulating on gaming websites today.

Despite some, uh, difficulties in developing a sequel based on the adventures of the original protagonist, LAPD detective Cole Phelps`I think there is plenty of room for a second game exploring the history of crime, corruption and law enforcement in Los Angeles. I know some players would rather see a sequel set in another city, like Chicago, and although I think Chicago would be a great setting for a game, I’m sticking with Los Angeles because I grew up near the City of Angels.

H/t to Kotaku, Joystiq.

58470-LA Noire gunfight-thumb-480x270-58469.jpg

Continue reading

Batman: Arkham City is our Game of the Year

Tech-Out conducted a highly unscientific poll of its team of contributors to name 2011′s best game, and “Batman: Arkham City” took the top prize.

Current and former staffers for The Sun and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin newspapers comprised the majority of our panel. We don’t get to cover games full time (I spend most of my days as a business reporter), but we like games and like to share our opinions on which titles are worth playing .

As for Arkham City, here’s what contributor Reggie Carolipio, who also reviewed the title, had to say:

Arkham Asylum resurrected the Dark Knight’s career in gaming in much
the same way that Christopher Nolan’s Batman resurrected his
onscreen legend, and Arkham City delivered even more high-flying
crimebusting and street-level beat downs than its predecessor.
Squeeze in a who’s who of bad guys ranging from the Penguin to
Two-Face, a host of storied side missions, the Riddler, and Arkham
City isn’t so much of a sequel as it is a new chapter in the Caped
Crusader’s career.

We liked other games, too. The runners up are after the jump.
Continue reading

L.A. Noire Addendum: True Life Stories

L.A. Noire is one of the more interesting video games I have ever played not simply because I enjoyed most of what the game’s development team put into the title, but because it brought to mind so many memories – not all of them pleasant – of experiences I have had during my journalism career.

This is not a second review. It’s more of a self-indulgent column about some ideas that came to mind while playing L.A. Noire. Take it for whatever you think it’s worth.

Playing and writing about L.A. Noire led me to wonder how my time as a
news reporter may have made my experiences with the game different from
those of other reviewers whose careers are more firmly rooted in the
gaming and entertainment media.

I have never been a full-time crime reporter – let alone worked in
law enforcement – but I have had at least a glimpse of the
grimier side of California life over the course my newspaper years.

What follows are some stories to explain why I found L.A. Noire to be more affecting on a personal level than other games I highly admire, such as those within the Legend of Zelda, Fallout and Mass Effect series.
Continue reading

L.A. Noire reviewed

52474-Phelps for TechOut-thumb-480x270-52473.jpg

“If you think the atmosphere is thick in here, wait until you try the gas chamber.”
Det. Rusty Galloway, LAPD

L.A. Noire, in some of its best and most grim moments, is a title that reminds players that homicide is a part of American life.

Crime scene after crime scene, L.A. Noire forces players to confront the consequences of violence. In the role of Los Angeles Police Department detective Cole Phelps, players must examine the bodies of the dead and pursue their killers. The investigations can be a slow and deliberate process, and in playing Phelps’ part, players must try to think like a detective as they sift through clues and interview witnesses and suspects.

In this writer’s opinion, the question of whether games can be art is not a matter of if, but how. In L.A. Noire, developers and publishers Team Bondi and Rockstar Games, have put together an attractive game with top-notch voice acting and story that usually hits the right marks. All that can be achieved in cinema, and L.A. Noire’s storyline could have easily been written as a solid detective drama.

But despite being screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, L.A. Noire is not a movie and its merits as a work of art must be considered as a function of its merits as a video game. As such, if a work of art can be assessed in its ability to make its audience feel an emotional response or fire their own imaginations, L.A. Noire succeeds as a game and art by giving its players an opportunity to imagine what it is like to investigate a murder.


Continue reading

New trailers: L.A. Noire and Honest Hearts

New trailers are out today for “L.A. Noire” and “Honest Hearts,” the next DLC episode for Fallout: New Vegas.

I’m not supposed to embed trailers for Mature-rated games without age gates, so links to follow.

L.A. Noire, from Rockstar Games and Team Bondi, is scheduled to be released May 16 for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. If you’re reading this, you probably already know the game tells the story of an LAPD detective in 1947 Los Angeles and features highly-touted facial animations. The idea is to let players figure out if suspects and witnesses are telling the truth, and this writer looks forward to seeing how well it works in practice.

52245-LA Noire Night-thumb-480x270-52244.jpg

“Honest Hearts” places Fallout: New Vegas players in a post-apocalyptic Zion Canyon, Utah. I have to admit that I’ve barely made a dent in New Vegas, but Utah is an amazingly beautiful state. The DLC is set for a May 17 release for PC, PlayStation 3* and XBox 360 players.

52247-Honest Hearts 2-thumb-480x300-52246.jpg

*This assumes PlayStation Network is back online by then. Sony has not announced a date as of this posting.

Rockstar releases new trailer for “L.A. Noire”

Rockstar Games and Team Bondi have a new trailer for “L.A. Noire” that further showcases the game’s cinematic aspects.

Previous trailers have shown game protagonist and 1947 LAPD detective Cole Phelps investigating a case of murder-for-insurance money, a Black Dahlia-esque serial killing case and other examples of vintage vice. The new trailer, the game’s third, reveals the game will also put Phelps on the trail of both a rigged boxing match and government-issued morphine. What’s more, “the LAPD cops might be involved” with whatever sinister deeds are being committed in the City of Angels.

The trailer doesn’t really give prospective players a chance to anticipate what L.A. Noire’s actual gameplay will be like, but the featured cut scenes look superb. The game’s visuals and soundtrack are reminiscent of such noir classics as “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential,” just as last year’s “Red Dead Redemption” looked to Westerns like “The Wild Bunch” or “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” for visual and thematic inspiration. Is Rockstar guilty of borrowing too much from movies? Let us know what you think.

51374-LA Noire evidence-thumb-480x270-51373.jpg

L.A. Noire is scheduled to be released for PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 on May 17 in North America.

Rockstar Games: Tribeca Film Festival selects L.A. Noire, or, Film Artists Declare Video Games to be of Artistic Value

Rockstar Games announced today that upcoming release “L.A. Noire” will be an official selection of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

“We’re thrilled that L.A. Noire is being recognized by the
Tribeca Film Festival in this way,” Rockstar Games founder Sam Houser, said in a press release. “It’s a real honor, and another step forward for interactive
entertainment.”

The obvious big deal contained in that announcement is that L.A. Noire is a video game, not a movie. But it’s no secret that many video games, especially Rockstar titles like the Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption, have incorporated many cinematic aspects into their games.

Games are now cinematic enough for filmmakers to take them seriously, or at least wonder if they should do so. As Tribeca reports on its website, the film festival will on April 30 show a demo of L.A. Noire, to be followed “by a special discussion exploring the
cinematic elements of filmmaking that have crossed over into the gaming
industry.”

In years past, cinematic would mean cut scenes. L.A. Noire, however, has been getting a lot of press for the face capture technology game developers are using to give characters lifelike facial expressions. In terms of gameplay, the idea is that the player controlled detective will be able to tell if game characters are lying or telling the truth.

But in terms of cinematic arts, this kind of technology means L.A. Noire and future games may put honest-to-goodness acting in video games. Last year’s Red Dead Redemption, in this writer’s opinion, featured some of the best voice acting in video game history, but even though many well-known actors have given their voices to games, games are not really considered to be an actors’ medium.

L.A. Noire may change that. Players may not always agree if it’s a good thing that many games are becoming “interactive movies,” but this game’s selection for the Tribeca Film Festival represents a new step for games’ fascinating evolution. Aside from CGI and an overabundance of superheroes, the films of the 1980s were not so different from the films of today. Video games are almost an entirely different medium.

Is that medium art? Gamers have perhaps unfairly singled out film critic Roger Ebert for asserting that games are not art, if only because he is surely not the only person to hold that view. But this writer agrees with the many gamers who say games are art, or at least they can be.

Many movies are terrible, and do not deserve to be called art, or even entertainment. Many games deserve equal criticism, yet as is the case in cinema, many games are the products of outstanding craftsmanship and artistic vision. If film score can be called art, so can game music. If painting is art, so can be the work of graphics experts who develop beautiful vistas or cityscapes from ones and zeroes. If screenwriting is art, so can video game writing. Yes, really.

The argument against games as art seems to be that games do not have a singular story. In writing “Network,” for example, Paddy Chayefsky was able to tell the world exactly what he thought about the media and American society, and every character behaved according to his  vision. Games, especially RPGs, challenge the player to make their own choices. Some may say when the audience can determine if a story’s protagonist is good or evil, aggressive or diplomatic, suave or a clown, the writer’s vision is lost. I disagree.

Even when the audience is playing what may be essentially a high-tech “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, the writer(s) still determines the outcome of the players’ choices. In deciding what choices lead a character down a good or evil path, the writer is able to express a personal view on morality. I don’t know if humanity has ever really agreed on what “art” is, let alone good art, but if games provide a means for creative people to express ideas and emotions to an audience, they deserve to be considered in that discussion.

51163-Rockstar Interrogation-thumb-480x270-51162.jpg

Rockstar Games announces “L.A. Noire” launch date

Rockstar Games’ next title, “L.A. Noire,” will be released May 17 for PS3 and XBox 360 platforms, the company announced today.

The European release is set for May 20.

49410-L.A. Noire interrogation-thumb-300x168-49409.jpg

The ambitious-looking game puts players in the role of an LAPD detective assigned to protect and serve the people of the City of Angels – and devils. The game takes place in a postwar setting that should be instantly recognizable to fans of film noir and detective fiction. 

Rockstar mined the conventions and visuals of spaghetti westerns for 2010′s “Red Dead Redemption” and L.A. Noire’s aesthetic similarly resembles such films as “L.A. Confidential” and “Chinatown.”

The gaming media has thus far made much of Rockstar’s efforts to use new technology to capture facial movements to such a degree that players will be expected to determine whether NPC’s are telling the truth or not during the course of an investigation.

This looks to be one of the most anticipated games of the year and gamers around the world will want to see if the new tech works out as new gameplay mechanism or just makes the characters look cool. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how the company behind the Grand Theft Auto series interpret the world of law enforcement.