Film Noir has truly left its mark on the face of cinema. Cynical attitudes, harsh contrasts, femme fatales, rugged detectives, plenty of cigarettes, and sexual motives, epitomize the once viral cinematic form. The uniquely stylized “genre” of Hollywood crime drama has managed to stay very much alive through modern day representations in mass media. In 2011, Rockstar games came out with the popular crime drama video game, L.A. Noire.
L.A. Noire blends investigative elements such as mystery and crime solving, with fast-action situations, including car chases, hand-to-hand combat, gunfights, and interrogations. The game quickly earned attention and eventually became one of the best games of the year . Soon after its release, the dramatic crime thriller was chosen to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, interestingly the first video game to be entered and accepted by the festival (vg247.com).
The aesthetic elements draw heavily from the imagery of classical hollywood film noir. The game does a great job mimicking “dark” lighting, almost always casting a shadow, with the right balance of darks and lights. It is obvious that the shots directly mimic that of Film noir, though the video game’s incorporation of graphic colors seem to introduce alternate moods that the noir period could not capture. It is my opinion that the success of this game is largely due to its representation of the ” dark visual style and black vision of despair, loneliness, and dread (Porfirio 80)”, that film noir so deeply encompasses. This participatory form of media re-creates and regurgitates this visual theme, in my opinion, perfectly. The game really defines itself as a neo-noir artifact, simply because of CGI and modern graphics. Otherwise, i’d say its almost exactly identical in visual style, and even in structure.
The protagonist, Cole Phelps, plays the niche of an L.A. police officer and later detective. The whole storyline of the game revolves around this one subject, following his path through his career as he deals with various cases. Both the gamers of L.A. and viewers of film noir are able to watch their “hero” take abuse, get into trouble, or even stumble into a sexual encounter, and be able to identify and grow with that character. Our not-so-heroic hero mirrors that of the noir protagonist’s status, as he is constantly “subjected to brutal stresses and strains”(Christopher 17). Intended for the demographic of young to middle aged males, L.A. Noir does a sound job at re-creating the structure of the game through the eyes of a man, for men. Ultimately, L.A. Noir is able to ignite a sense of “shared human responses” within the participator’s own psyche (Porfirio 81). For most of today’s video games, i think it’s safe to say that this isn’t the easiest thing to achieve.
Interestingly enough, TNT has recently ordered a pilot for their new drama series…. L.A. Noir. produced by former Walking Dead showrunner, Frank Darabont. Although there are many modern artifacts out there today that border on the line of noir, it will be a very different perspective to see true noir packaged into a TV series format. Since its creation from German expressionism, film noir continues to grow and transform, jumping from medium to medium, constantly re-surfacing within various artifacts throughout the world of media today.
If you haven’t played the game i suggest you do, however if you want to see more about how the game looks overall check it out right here!