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Is L.A. Noire the hottest game of 2011?

In the UK on Friday one of the years most anticipated games is released, the new title from RockStar Games. This game features new technology for capturing actors movements. L.A. Noire has been released in America and has been receiving rave reviews on many of the major gaming websites.

Actor Aaron Staton, who is known for his role as Ken Cosgrove on TV show Mad Men spent more than three months delivering special face and voice performances from a chair surrounded by sophisticated 360 degree high definition cameras. By the end of the process there were millions of images taken and these were painted onto a three dimensional character which was then given his body movements.

Actor John Noble - you may know him from tv show 'Fringe'

The new MotionScan process has been used on hundreds of actors to create 400 characters who appear in L.A. Noire. This game is set to be a new benchmark in video game character creation and having seen it in action we can verify that the detail on the faces and movements is the best we have seen.

Staton has spoken to the press and he said “Everyone who has seen it and been a part of it has been blown away by the technology. With the dialogue and the characters, (writer and director) Brendan McNamara has really created a world that was fun to be a part of.”

For the last 10 years, video game technology has been consistently improving with video cut scenes and character animations an integral part of creating a living, breathing virtual world. Titles such as Heavy Rain proved popular due to their immersive character creation and development.

RockStar games are really pushing the boundaries of what is possible and the game delivers a very believable and intense form of storytelling which will appeal to a huge audience.

LA Noire is based around the concept of a crime novel, and is based in Los Angeles. The game is based around Core Phelps, played by Staton and he joins the police department after returning from serving in the Marines in World War II. The whole experience is an interactive noir film style experience and McNamara, who was involved in The GetAway for the PS2 told the press “They usually get forced into a situation where they have to do something because of events, and that brings out the humanity in the character. If you could make a video game character that wasn’t just this cardboard cutout — this guy who had big guns at the start and at the end — and people really cared about the character, for me personally, it would be really gratifying.”

To get into the mood for the game creation and to enhance his knowledge of the medium, McNamara and his development team spent months reading noir novels and even read old newspapers which focused on the unsolved Black Dahlia murder in 1947. They based much of the game on real events such as crimes and investigations. McNamara said “It quickly became evident that the truth is far stranger than fiction. I think it makes not only the atmosphere but the stories more believable.”

Gamers have to solve 20 cases, and the character starts in the LAPD patrol unit then heads into other areas such as traffic, homicide, vice and even arson units. A lot of the game is based around interrogating the suspects and working out who is telling the truth, and who isn’t.

MotionScan is brought firmly into play, because the players have to use the system to read the facial expressions, just like in real life. Rob Nelson, art director for Rockstar Games said “If you are going to make a game about a detective, and the main game mechanic is going to be asking questions and being able to tell whether they are being truthful or not, you need to make sure that you are getting strong performances. This was a technology that was developed for the sole purpose of making games better and with this game in mind.”

RockStar games are one of the most prolific development studios and have been responsible for the Grand Theft Auto franchise and award winning games such as Red Dead Redemption. The plan to move into a new genre seemed to fit well at the time.

The game does not play like Grand Theft Auto however, with a focus more on the storytelling and interactive movie style concept. It has been hailed as a breakthrough in game development. It isn’t for young children however as it is graphic and features some nudity. Rockstar are hoping that fans of Grand Theft Auto will still be attracted, but that a new audience who like TV drama shows may also be buying into the idea.

Rockstar have spent a long time developing the motion system and they say that initially the gamer will be aided a little in working out the facial expressions of the suspects and characters involved. Later on however, some of the ‘performances’ of the people in the game are so subtle that it will take a lot of face reading to work out who is telling the truth and who is trying to mislead the gamer. Is this a new revolution in game play? Rockstar think so, and if the critical acclaim is anything to go by, they might very well have succeeded.

KitGuru says: L.A. Noire, is it on your ‘to buy list’?

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