Just because a game isn’t an aged classic doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a sequel. While a lot of our Where’s My Sequel features focus on titles from far earlier console generations, this one pines after the open-world detective game, L.A. Noire.
What It Is:
Built like an open-world shooter, L.A. Noire is a sleuth-y take on the genre with investigative mechanics and a hard-boiled story. Players control Cole Phelps, a war hero-turned-Los Angeles beat cop as he rises through the ranks by solving a series of increasingly high-profile crimes. Along the way, players survey crime scenes scattered across an open-world recreation of 1947 Los Angeles and discover evidence to build a case against their suspects. Once they collect enough evidence, players enter an interrogation mode in which they study suspects’ facial expressions and body language to gauge the truth behind their words.
L.A. Noire is the first (and currently only) game to utilize MotionScan, a process created by developer Team Bondi. MotionScan captures a 1:1 model of a real-life face and transplants it onto an in-game character model. The technology is crucial to L.A. Noire’s gameplay; the realistic facial animations allow players to spot tells on a suspect’s face during a heated interrogation. It’s that intuitive application of technology to gameplay that gives L.A. Noire a unique edge when held up against other open-world games.
When It Stopped:
L.A. Noire released in May 2011 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was developed by Team Bondi with the help and publishing prowess of Rockstar Games. Some DLC missions and outfit packs dropped in the months after its original release, resulting in L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition (including the game and all of its DLC—the whole shebang), which came on consoles and PC on November 15th of the same year.
After the game’s release, a series of accusations concerning Team Bondi’s managerial conduct precipitated a Rockstar/Team Bondi split – Rockstar went on to publish last year’s Grand Theft Auto V and Bondi’s currently developing its second title, The Whore of the Orient. In the wake of the breakup, Rockstar retained the rights to the L.A. Noire franchise and has played coy about expanding on it.
What Comes Next:
L.A. Noire’s story wrapped up pretty tidily, but that doesn’t choke all sequel potential — there are more places to go, people to meet, and stories to follow in the Noire universe. For example, take the dedication to its aesthetic. Even if the game world feels a little barren, L.A. Noire nails the 1940s atmosphere. In fact, it’s one of the game’s greatest strengths, arguably making it as much a period piece as it is a video game. Not only would an era shift give us something great to look at, it could also drastically impact gameplay. Depending on when it’s set, a sequel could incorporate mechanics based on forensic and investigative techniques available at that point in history. For example, if the game is set in the 1990s, we might get mechanics based on DNA profiling or criminal databases. The ‘70s saw the rise of closed-circuit surveillance cameras. Voice recordings came into the investigative apparatus in the ‘60s. The sequel’s mechanics would be dictated by its historical setting.
Now that Rockstar has the reins of the franchise, it can inject some new blood into L.A. Noire’s veins. The talent at Rockstar has the ability to craft excellent stories on top of solid gameplay basics (Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3 are ample evidence). L.A. Noire’s story had some truly gritty moments and gruesome scenarios that stood in stark but dramatic contrast to the muted ‘40s color palate. The tale only got better as it got blacker, and Rockstar could make a sequel pitch black in tone.
If gamers took one thing away from seeing MotionScan in action in L.A. Noire, it’s that it produces a unique experience with visible seams. It failed to keep the game out of the uncanny valley, ultimately backfiring and making some animations straight-up creepy. After the Bondi split, Rockstar took MotionScan with it and hasn’t used the technology since. But Rockstar’s has a pretty good pedigree for hand-crafted facial animations and pushing the limits of its tools (just play Grand Theft Auto V to get a feel for what I’m talking about). With the new console generation finally finding a foothold, just think of what Rockstar could cook up with a sequel built from the pavement up using new-gen tech.
In retrospect, L.A. Noire is a strange game that’s even more fun to remember than it is to play. It was on the cusp of something truly groundbreaking, but some of Team Bondi’s design choices kept it from achieving perfection. The Bondi/Rockstar fallout appears to have left a sequel hanging in the balance, but I think it deserves a second chance. I know Rockstar would deliver an impressive sequel that would feel as unique as the original.