I have long been holding out hope for an immersive, Rockstar-style adventure game featuring a protagonist who was something other than a violent psychopath. I did not assume that Rockstar itself would be the source of this game, so I didn’t pay much active attention to L.A. Noire’s release.
With surprise and interest, then, did I read how C.E.J. Pacian, author of Gun Mute and other recent works of experimental text-game excellence, bought an Xbox console just to play L.A. Noire. It’s early yet, but he seems to be having fun with it:
First I accused the only witness of lying and she stopped speaking to me. Then, driving away from the crime scene, I crashed straight into a shop front. Getting out to make sure that none of the people who ran away screaming were hurt, I stepped in front of a car and was knocked down. Now confident that no-one was injured (except me) I then got back in my patrol car and proceeded to reverse over the body and fail the case.
Shortly after that, I was promoted to the traffic division.
Before I can think he’s simply being far too kind to yet another ultimately soulless Grand Theft Auto product, I see that the reaction of my smartypants ludeaste friends elseweb ranges from grudging respect to total delight. The game’s extraordinary facial animation attracts especial interest: Juhana Leinonen believes it to be the first foot planted past the nadir of the uncanny valley, and Courtney Stanton is impressed that Rockstar published a game that places its ladies’ visual focus above the neckline.
And then there’s this this Charlie Brooker review in The Guardian which invokes interactive fiction by name, hailing both L.A. Noire and Portal 2 as big-budget major-studio works that carry forward, after many years of commercial absence, the spirit of the old Infocom text games. He’s hopeful that these games prove harbingers of a highly visible revolution of high-quality, intelligent work, perhaps one like American television has been enjoying for a while.
Strong words all! I won’t give in to the temptation to write a shred of my own opinion until I play the game myself. But I do find it worth noting that this has suddenly become far more likely to happen than I’d expected.
Aside: It seems I ought to keep a closer eye on Mr. Brooker’s writing. I enjoyed his brilliant and naughty comics for British videogame magazines in the 1990s (which, sadly, appear to have faded from the web), and he appears to have made a larger name for himself in the UK media since then. I’d be willing to forgive his apparent embrace of the fallacy that all movies were better when you were twelve if he lets his games writing reflect the fact he’s been thinking about the medium for longer than six months, unlike far too many of the people now getting paid for it.