Wave Foam – “Dispelling a Myth: LA Noire is not a Rockstar Game!”

Yes. It is not a Rockstar game. And I haven’t even played it, mind you. I’m not denying the obvious influence “GTA” and the Rockstar logo must surely have in the end-experience. But it is not by chance that so many find a tonal dissonance between “GTA IV“, “Red Dead Redemption” and this new Rockstar production. Whereas the Houser brothers have always embraced a cartoonish satire that never took its worlds seriously, “LA Noire” is bold, crisp realism, aspiring (perhaps somewhat foolishly – only the game can tell) to adult seriousness. This is perfectly in line with McNamara and Team Bondi’s previous output, the now infamous “The Getaway”. It’s their show all the way. Rockstar never housed similar formal and aesthetic considerations as McNamara; they take their genre lightly, focusing it on hyperbolic violence and unconstrained player freedom, giving little care to strict authorial considerations. McNamara, however, cares for his characters, avoiding stereotyping them as cardboard jokes with the expressiveness of… right, cardboard, both in terms of design and animation. This was true for “The Getaway” and is true for “LA Noire”. It’s for this reason that he chose to use state of the art motion capture, a realistic aesthetic into which to frame it, and focused gameplay on the investigative side. Only through these decisions could players truly fill in the role of the detective and seek deeper relationships with the fictional scenario and characters. Rockstar never, despite their multi-million dollar budgets, chose this path. They kept their formula witty, absurdist and comedic, structurally founded on driving and shooting sequences in physics playgrounds. Naturally, Team Bondi and Rockstar games share superficial qualities – both take inspiration from film-genres, play out in open-world scenarios, have the city as their main character, and employ driving and shooting gameplay – but they couldn’t be more apart in terms of vision. McNamara aspires, like David Cage and others, to tell stories for grown-ups, to challenge them with moral ambiguity and real-life considerations, whilst the Houser Brothers are content with sandbox dough-playing for young adults. And that, my dear friends, is an open-world of difference.

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  • Comments (14)
  1. Wave Foam indeed. I don’t know about you, but I think there is a major change happening amongst the developers. Valve recently surprised me by releasing Portal 2 which is a lot more inclined to mature story-telling than their previous games. Even the more blood-fueled game developers seem to be slowly veering towards mature-storytelling.

    • ruicraveirinha
    • May 17th, 2011

    No… no they don’t.

    • Ruben A.
    • May 17th, 2011

    What I’ve been observing on the other hand is authors signing in with successful publishing “brands” to ensure a better comercial result. The Mikami-Goichi-EA thing, Mizuguchi and Ubisoft, and of course McNamara and R*. Even Ueda has me worried with interviews like this: http://www.next-gen.biz/features/fumito-ueda-on-the-last-guardian?page=0%2C2

    • ruicraveirinha
    • May 17th, 2011

    I heartily agree Ruben. Surely, such a movement is consequence of increasing production costs which demand lesser investment risk. In the end, it is we who suffer the price with ever lessening creativity in the market.

  2. @ruicraveirinha

    I reckon they’re slowly, but that’s just my opinion and my standards for maturity might be lower than yours.

    • ruicraveirinha
    • May 18th, 2011

    Apart from Portal 2, which games support that assessment?

  3. @ruicraveirinha

    Well I haven’t actually been able to play many new games other than that, because I have been low on cash recently. But I have played another game that nearly supports this assessment and you probably wouldn’t believe me anyway. Bulletstorm, not as good as Portal 2 though. Despite the heavy amounts of gruesome violence and crude language this game still manages to have a rather good story and some decent character development.

    It is not much, but like I said, slowly.

    • ruicraveirinha
    • May 19th, 2011

    Yeah, we’ll agree to disagree. Completely 😉

    Cheers Lance!

    • Ruben A.
    • May 23rd, 2011

    Started playing the game today, it really is of the highest order…

    • ruicraveirinha
    • May 24th, 2011

    Which by definition means it’s not a Rockstar game.

    • Ruben A.
    • June 12th, 2011
  4. Great? Not on my book. It’s just a long-winding collection of meaningless critiques, which always end up showing how little Bissel knows about (good) videogames. His thoughts are so riddled with game criticism cliches that I lost count half-way through. Again with the storytelling-v-gameplay debate, again with the player agency debate, again with the picking on Heavy Rain debate. Bissel repeats these populist commonalities with the eloquence of a critic, but without the consistency, insight and appreciation that would be expectable of one. I grow tired of this medium’s discourse: it’s article after article like this…

  5. @Ruben A.

    This article is really terrible and provides no in-depth discussions, but I read it anyway so that I can just get a vague idea of what LA Noire is like. I agree with Rui Craveirinha on this one, Bissel tends to think too much in the box.

    • Ruben A.
    • June 16th, 2011

    Hook, line and sinker 😉

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