Last night, the Tribeca Film Festival broke down some barriers by allowing a video game to be screened as part of the festival. That game? “LA Noire,” Rockstar’s Los Angeles-based period piece which is scheduled for release next month. I had seen the game before, though last night’s presentation did highlight a new case. The case involved tracking down the killer of a murdered wife, found stripped and brutally beaten in a park. And while much of the demo focused on slow, strategic police work, there were a few action scenes, as well.
Which brings us to the question, if Rockstar is looking to bring in new or non-gamers for “LA Noire,” is there some concern about alienating them with traditional shooter or driving gameplay? What if it’s too hard for them? Rockstar has apparently thought of that.
During the Q&A session of the screening, Rockstar’s art director, Rob Nelson, discussed the lengths to which they’ll help out inexperienced players during the trickier parts. Apparently, after failing a certain action sequence two or three times, a message will pop up, asking the player if they’d like to skip this portion. “You can skip those action elements and still experience the bulk of the narrative,” said Nelson.
It’s a pretty massive shift for Rockstar, whose games have, at times, been too difficult for even experienced gamers to complete. Certain missions in “GTA 4,” for example, were extremely challenging and prevented some from finishing the game. But the company’s last game, “Red Dead Redemption,” opened the gates a bit by having difficulty settings…something the “GTA” games never had.
But with “LA Noire,” they’re taking it even further by allowing players to skip action sequences entirely. It’s akin to Nintendo’s efforts to make their games easier by having the Super Guide, which automatically completed levels for the player in “New Super Mario Bros. Wii” and “Donkey Kong Country Returns.”
Perhaps the reason for this is that 80% of “LA Noire” is an absence of action. It’s about talking to suspects, finding evidence, uncovering a mystery. The hour-long case demonstrated at the screening had maybe five minutes of typical action. Players looking for the next “GTA” will find that “LA Noire” is even slower and more methodical than “Heavy Rain.”
There’s no question that “LA Noire” is extremely unique. Nelson even called it “risky” at one point during the Q&A. As I’ve said before, it’s the opposite of a “GTA” game, and Rockstar is hoping to bring an entirely new audience, while convincing the old one that this is still a Rockstar game. The non-gamers in the crowd last night seemed impressed by all the focus on acting and story, and many of them will undoubtedly appreciate the ability to skip harder sequences. It’s still a question, though, whether a Rockstar game that’s more about talking than it is about killing can succeed. We’ll find out next month.