L.A. Noire skips a beat

Remember the chortling at Nintendo for adding a feature in its games where you can skip hard segments? It appeared in New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns so that younger and more casual players could potentially get through the entire game without feeling like inferior gamers. Though a lot of people saw it that way and in some cases, your ‘hardcore’ status was brought into question if ever you resorted to this digital aid. But what if Rockstar Games were to include such a feature and if one of their most ambitious titles was the first to try it out? Does it still remain a joke?

At the Tribeca Film Festival, attendees were shown a screening of L.A. Noire – the first time said festival has allowed a game to take part – and it was during the Q&A session that art director, Rob Nelson, revealed an in-game option that allows players who failed a certain segment a few times to skip it altogether. “You can skip those action elements and still experience the bulk of the narrative,” he said. Since Rockstar are going after a considerably wider audience for L.A. Noire, it actually makes a lot of sense to let those who wish only to absorb the story to do just that. Depending on whether they actually own a console of course.

What’s strange is how for traditional gamers, it’s usually the other way around and the cut-scenes are the parts that get skipped with action being the main reason why a game is played. But as the industry strives towards being something more than a quick entertainment fix, story is becoming increasingly important to the point where it’s now taking precedence over balls-out action sequences. The majority of L.A. Noire is devoid of action per se and instead has players seek out clues, interrogate suspects and slowly unravel a case to completion. MTV Multiplayer blog who reported the news said that in the demo shown which lasted about an hour, only about five minutes could be considered action-packed with the rest massaging the often neglected grey matter. Despite having a similar look to GTAIV in terms of engine, the gameplay itself is more akin to Heavy Rain they said.

It’s a bold move. Not the inclusion of a skip button, games have had something similar even before the aforementioned New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Devil May Cry 3 had a somewhat patronising but comparable pop up message on failure, suggesting troubled gamers try the easier setting. Rockstar are taking a risk by such a massive departure from their previous titles and fans wanting a cop-based GTA game may be angrily disappointed. But if they succeed and lure a different kind of gamer altogether while delivering an all encompassing experience for everyone clambering for more out of their games, L.A. Noire could be more important to the industry than anything that has come before it. Can games finally be regarded with the same respect as some movies rather than being mocked for cheesy story lines and emotionless characters? Maybe…

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