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The way we play is set to change
by Jacques Hulme

These two weeks see the release of two of this year's supposed 'biggest hits' Brink and L.A. Noire, which both aim to both bring a new set of dynamics into the lives of gamers. Yet, how do the changes offered by the two big budget titles rack up against one another?

Rockstar's L.A. Noire is, straight off the bat, a completely different experience from most mainstream games released today. This, coming from the publisher that brought us Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, is to be expected; Rockstar are known - nay, famed - for their top-quality, innovative games, and their recipe certainly seems to work, as all they touch seems to turn to gold.

One of L.A. Noire's features that Rockstar really want to push home is the facial detail that they've managed to achieve using the MotionScan system, a sparkling new feature which manages to express a character's every feeling. From gameplay videos, it is clear that the team have really used the system to their advantage; it is arguably the first time a player has been able to easily distinguish lip movements, allowing for near-perfect lip reading.

However good it may look, though, some may question whether the tech will significantly change gamplay in the way Rockstar hope that it will. Rockstar claim that the features offered are needed for the detective-action title, as one needs to physically note whether the character they're interrogating is telling the truth. If it is true, then perhaps we'll see the MotionScan wizardry adopted for other titles, even despite the time-consuming process needed for significant results.

Connections between L.A. Noire and many other titles can be drawn, as it manages to delve into several different genres. It can be difficult to avoid placing it in comparison to Heavy Rain, as both share some common roots, but if you were to look further into the gameplay mechanics of L.A. Noire, you might find it closer to something in the point-and-click genre. Indeed, when searching a crime scene for a set of clues, we are reminded of the lovable Sam & Max duo. In certain scenes, equipped with a gun, elements from third person shooters are seen, although it is apparent that these areas of the game are minimal. The game is trying to 'blend' the genre boundaries, like many titles this generation have attempted to, but perhaps it is worth mentioning that L.A. Noire seems to have picked its colours from a very different palette to those other titles.

The other big hitter of this week is Brink, a title which, similarly, tries to 'blur' the genre boundaries by bringing single player and online play closer together. The system that Brink utilises allows for 'drop in, drop out' gameplay, whereby a player can invite their companion to join them straight from a single player game, without the need to set up lobbies specifically for online campaign game modes.

In my honest opinion, I've been extremely excited for a system such as this, and I really want it to succeed, in the hope that other companies will adopt the idea. Imagine the variety it could bring to other genre; for example, in something like Skyrim, one could wander into a town, find a tavern and seamlessly 'recruit' a friend as a mercenary force. One of the biggest pitfalls for a system like this, though, is that it could be completely ignored by players - if you want to maintain a single player campaign, it's likely you'd entirely leave any sort of seamless offline-online, jump-in-and-jump-out feature alone.

Brink is also a title which offers a grand amount of customisation for gamers, with recent stats having revealed the scale of this mechanic. Bethesda stated that there are over 4,963 different combinations of weapon attachments, and a mind-boggling approximate of 47,325,358,080,000,000 costume combinations (that's over forty-seven quintillion combinations, if you couldn't work it out). It's one crazy amount, and means it'll be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to find two players with exactly the same qualities.

Both games are set to rock some pretty nifty changes from the norms that gamers are used to, and both are extremely unique. For a purely technical advantage,the most impressivle has to be L.A. Noire, as the impressive facial animation is something it is difficult to find in past games. However, with questions surrounding how many games the advanced technology will really change, the award for influence to the way we play can only go to Brink, whose innovative online system will hopefully lead to a fluid mix of online and single player play.

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- Jacques Hulme

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