Our first look at L.A. Noire in action included some pretty amazing graphics. Strike that, it included some pretty amazing facial animation.
The graphics are about what we've come to expect from Rockstar Games, but those facial tics, the worry lines, the creases, those were an impressive display of taking a bit of an actor's portrayal and porting it straight into a game.
Rockstar tells us that Australia's Team Bondie managed to do that with something they call performance scanning technology. The tech, called MotionScan and created by Team Bondi's sister company Depth Analysis, is meant to capture the actual performance of an actor, rather than just the motions an actor goes through. The difference may sound subtle, but those subtleties are the sorts of things that real detectives, real police use to suss out the truth in an investigation.
OK, so we know that they can capture an actor's performance, but how does that apply to the game we'll be playing, not the bits we'll be watching?
That trailer was stunning, but it could have been all cutscenes, sure cutscenes created within the game, but still not playable.
Not so, Rockstar tells Kotaku.
The trailer includes a blend of playable footage and cutscenes. Rockstar tells us that because of the tech behind the game there is no difference between the gameplay and cutscenes. Of course we can't say whether we agree until we see the game in action ourselves.
Keep in mind, though, the premise behind this game: You are a detective. This isn't meant to be a shooter, it's meant to be an interactive whodunit. Because of that, the game, we're told, is full of interactive moments that are driven by dialogue; like interrogating suspects. That's where a healthy chunk of the trailer comes from.
If true, that means there won't be an aesthetic shift when the game drifts between the interactive and the passive bits of the game. And that's a pretty big deal.
When I play a game, even games I love like Call of Duty: Black Ops, I tend to put the controller down during cutscenes. That moment, the second the controller drops from my hand and onto the couch, I transform from a gamer to a viewer.
What was an immersive experience suddenly becomes a non-interactive bit of entertainment. The game, in other words, becomes a movie.
If you can remove those moments, you can increase the feeling of being part of the fiction you're playing, and that's always a good thing.