It's part of a publisher's job to hype a game it releases, so often the company will use buzz phrases and catchy words in the hope of grabbing gamers' attention. Take-Two Interactive has raised the bar by announcing that "the technology and gameplay [for L.A. Noire] isn't available anywhere else." Strong words to be sure, but is it true?
The technology in question deals with an advance in facial animation. L.A. Noire reportedly will be sporting 1:1 lip sync (a really big deal in video games), actual emotion in characters' eyes, and highly detailed skin. Is it possible that Team Bondi has overcome the Uncanny Valley problem? Seems unlikely, but Tim Clark of Official PlayStation Magazine was a believer in the potential of the tech after watching a demo:
The level of fidelity, not just in terms of detail, but the way the actors are able to convincingly evoke emotions, and suggest motivations that are often at odds with what they're saying, was just incredible. I can't wait to see more of L.A. Noire of [sic] the back of this.
When it comes to facial expressions and in-game conversations, increased realism would allow gamers to identify with characters on a much deeper emotional level. If Team Bondi can deliver, such technology would be a huge leap forward in the industry, since many developers are placing an increased emphasis on a strong narrative within their titles. With L.A. Noire no longer exclusive to the PS3, it will be interesting to see whether this "unique" technology functions equally on both the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Take-Two's CEO, Ben Feder, had a few other interesting things to say regarding the state of video games, including the effect of the PlayStation Move and Kinect on the future of the industry and how success is measured by the whether a game reaches Triple A proportions:
Good is the new bad. Games have to be great, and there's no company like Take-Two to make the best games in the industry.
In a way, he's right. A new intellectual property needs to really impress to break through the glut of sequels and titles that offer similar gameplay. An above-average experience during a crowded release schedule could easily be overlooked by jaded critics and gamers alike.
Here's hoping that Take-Two can back up its claims when it comes to L.A. Noire. This is a game that I've been keeping an eye on, not just because I've always been a huge fan of Raymond Chandler's stories, but because I know Take-Two has delivered products that are not just games, but interactive stories. The screens that have been released for L.A. Noire have been impressive to date and appear to have captured the look and feel of the 1940's.
Do you agree with Feder? And do you believe Team Bondi can deliver on the promise of much-improved facial animations?
L.A. Noire will start playing "As Time Goes By" sometime in 2011 for Xbox 360 and PS3.