LA Noir

Hollywood’s competition has clearly arrived. As many movie fans can vouch, where on earth has the big budget drama gone? Summer’s around the corner and you know that will mean weeks of cheap CGI animations (Hop), then there’ll be the usual dirge of all-action blockbusters with Marvel comics leading the bill no doubt (Green Lantern, boo)then there'll be the sequels to terrible franchises (Pirates anyone?).

So who’s kicking Hollywood in the butt to give them a wake up call? Well, TV has been doing it for a while – especially in the States. Mad Men, Lost, Six Feet Under, The Pacific, Band of Brothers, ER – and many, many more have been taking drama out of the big screen and wrapping it up neatly in a DVD box set for years. I don’t think this is likely to end, and well, it hasn’t seemed to scare the movie moguls state side to up their game yet.

Well, exactly. It’s the gaming industry who’s going to cause those fat and lazy producers state-side to sit up and listen. LA Noir is the latest offering from Rock Star Games, and as someone who is definitely not into gaming (other than vintage Mario Kart), it’s been a personal surprise to see how keen I am to have a go.

Facial recognition technology (used with reasonable success in Tron to make Jeff Bridges 20 years younger) has allowed Rock Star Games to accurately reflect the faces of the actors in the game. The lead character, played by Aaron Staton (Mad Men’s Ken Cosgrove) not only talks like him, he literally talks like him too – using the same facial expressions. Impressive.

But what is this? We’re watching drama, acted out by legitimate A-listers, but it’s a game using plot, story line and a sophisticated script to take the gamer through a series of mentally challenging tasks. This is no Grand Theft Auto blood-bath, it’s intelligent drama – that you get to control. Kind of makes all those additional features on Blu-Ray look like Disney Singalong for the level of involvement you gain.

I can’t see this ever replacing cinema (TV never did and I doubt 3D TV will either) and it can’t replicate the social side of the big screen, but it’s certainly an emerging new genre for engaging entertainment. It won't be long before we start seeing more of the big screen stars immortalised in digital drama.

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