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.