Category Archives: Video Game Noir

Video Game Noir | Heavy Rain (2010)

Heavy Rain is a Playstation 3 game that was released in 2010– as such, this review will be full of spoilers so you should stop now if you want an untainted gaming experience.

Video Game Noir Heavy Rain

My Copy of Heavy Rain

The first time I played Heavy Rain was in 2010 with my wife, Hilary, and we completed the entire game within 48 hours. The game-play is a bizarre departure from standard fare, and coupled with incredible graphics and unique storytelling, Heavy Rain is a memorable experience. I revisited the game this week and drummed up all the old joys (and frustrations) once again. It’s a portrait of where games may go, and although it suffers from some inconsistencies it represents a beautiful moment in gaming history.

As a work of video game noir, it’s extremely pleasing- a collection of gritty vignettes which feel torn from the pulp rags of a previous era. The settings are perfectly detailed, and the rain dumps buckets of noir on the screen. The first chapters are suspiciously bright, but the memory of them later provides stark contrast within subsequent scenes. Not only are the backdrops dark, but the subject matter as well, and lends the thematic heaviness that should permeate any true noir media.

You control 4 separate characters throughout: Ethan Mars (an architect and father of two), Scott Shelby (a middle-age private eye), Norman Jayden (an FBI agent struggling with addiction), and Madison Paige (a loner photojournalist). Each character’s story orbits the central threat: a serial murderer called The Origami Killer.

Ethan Mars Heavy Rain

Ethan Mars (via gendergamers.wordpress.com)

Ethan is a textbook noir anti-hero. He blames himself for the death of his first son, and his self-inflicted shame robs him of self-worth and plunges him into depression. When his second son, Shaun, is kidnapped by the Origami Killer, his desperation reaches dangerous levels. I was annoyed that he never seemed to do what you’d do in a scenario, it wasn’t even an option. As the story unfolds, it’s obvious that the developers wanted you to feel in control of the action and direction of the plot– but sadly I frequently felt like a passenger instead of a driver. Why not go to the cops? The second I was contacted by the kidnapper of my son I would be talking to the cops. The letter Ethan received never told him that going to the police was against the rules, but he appears to not even think about it. So frustrating. A simple fix: one line in the letter that says “involve the cops and I kill your son.” Problem solved.

Scott Shelby Heavy Rain

Scott Shelby (via cheshirecatstudios.com)

Scott Shelby is another great noir character. He’s a bit overweight and asthmatic, an ex-cop with a kind demeanor and an eye for detail. You come to love him in his quest to gather clues from the victimized families who’ve lost little boys to the killer, and then you’re shattered when you discover that Scott IS the killer. I was peeved, not because he was a lovable character who turned out evil, but because we were given so little indication that he was the killer. In their attempt to fool the player, they robbed us of the chance to figure it out on our own. They give us a few little clues, and even give us access to Scott’s thoughts, but apparently he’s lying to himself the entire time just to keep us in the dark. I could understand it if they were trying to keep the “multiple endings” option on the table, but from what I’ve read, every ending has Scott Shelby as the killer– so why the blatant lies? If they’d just been a little more careful with his inner monologue, it could have been an even more compelling twist.

Norman Jayden Heavy Rain

Norman Jayden (via playstationeuphoria.com)

I had a great time with Norman Jayden as a playable character- he has access to some futuristic CSI tech, and a great New England accent. As a ‘Profiler,’ he acts as a surrogate to the player in solving the case: He gathers clues and at various times allows us to bounce our ideas off him through a close inspection of the facts. They deepen his character by creating a crippling addiction to ‘triptocaine’– and allow us to indulge him or clean him up. My only problem with Norman is that he rarely takes a partner along and never calls for backup. Half the crazy shiz that happens to him would be resolved if you could decide to take someone with you.

Madison Paige Heavy Rain

Madison Paige (via technologytell.com)

Madison Paige is the femme fatale of Heavy Rain, but I was a bit annoyed by the way her scenes/character develop. Within 5 minutes of taking control of her, we’re encouraged (by her thoughts) to take a shower. Then we’re given a lengthy wet and naked scene– a complete voyeuristic romp in her penthouse bathroom. C’mon guys. This was blatant pandering to the male audience (of which I’m sure a large percentage of Heavy Rain players are). I understand the need for eroticism in noir, but the emotion arises out of subtlety– not this sort of heavy handed strip down. When we should have been building a relationship with this character that will propel us through the game, we were shown that she is a play-thing for our appetites. Throughout, she’s portrayed as vulnerable and naive, constantly endangering herself.

Heavy Rain has gigantic plot-holes introduced early that are never addressed later. Ethan has a blackout in which he awakes in the rain with an origami figure clutched in his hand– Are we to believe the origami killer is Ethan? or that the origami killer put the figure in his hand while he was blacked out? I think one line of dialogue later could have cleared it right up. We’re also expected to believe that of the 8 kids taken and killed, none of the families gave their letters/shoe-boxes of tasks from the Origami Killer to the police. Yeah right. Last one I’ll mention– while you’re visiting Manfred as Scott, he’s killed in the backroom. Turns out we did it, but we’re not shown that Scott was the killer until the big reveal at the end of the game. Such a crazy misdirect.

I really enjoy Heavy Rain as a beautiful ode to the noir genre– but I’m frustrated with the plot. With just a little more polish, a few edits here and there, and this could have been a superb piece of noir. Instead, we’re left with a semi-good crime fiction and an interesting video game.

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Video Game Noir | Max Payne (2002)

“Bang! You’re dead Max Payne.”

Video Game Noir Max Payne Cover

My 10 year old copy

Video Game Noir Max Payne Case

The guts

I was given Max Payne for my seventeenth birthday. At that point, I had never heard of it, and if you were to ask me to define “noir”  I would have had no idea what you were talking about. But, as I dove into the snow-bound grit of Max’s “Noir York City” I became enamored with the potency of the hard-boiled narrative. Truly, the video game noir Max Payne was my first taste of the genre, and I’ve been powerless to resist it since.

Written by Sam Lake, and presented in graphic novel cut-scenes, the story-line of Max Payne is a near perfect example of crime fiction. A brooding undercurrent of anger propels the intense monologues in this revenge/redemption plot. Couple that anger with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude and we’re given a violent recipe.

Video Game Noir Max Payne

Shootdodge (binaryarmor.blogspot.com)

Max is a good New York cop, a husband, and a father. With his wife and baby girl tucked safely in a New Jersey suburb, he’s living the American Dream. He’s rudely awakened. Upon returning home from the station on a late afternoon, he discovers signs of forced entry into his home. He yells for his wife…she doesn’t respond. A wicked strip of graffiti mars the inner hallway, a letter ‘V’ split by a syringe. The phone rings, a sinister woman’s voice on the other end:

“Is this the Payne residence?”

“Yes, someone’s broken into my house, they’re still here, you have to-”

“Good. I am afraid I cannot help you.”

“Who is this?”

*KLIK!

He mounts the stairs, and opens fire upon a deranged intruder emerging from the baby’s room. The junkie falls dead. Max cries in agony as he discovers his dead infant in the overturned crib. Gunshots are heard, his wife screams.

“MICHELLE!!” He sprints into her room and slays his wife’s killer. He’s too late, she’s gone.

Video Game Noir Max Payne

The loss of his wife (via rawcore101.com)

Everything he held dear is destroyed in a moment, a torturous moment on replay.  He learns that the junkies were high on a designer drug called ‘Valkyr’, ‘V’. Hungry for answers, revenge, and redemption, he enters deep cover in the DEA. When his only contact in the department is murdered and his cover blown, he begins a one man war against the Punchinello crime family.

Sound like a decent plot trajectory for a video game? It is. Here is the noir definition run down:

1) The Seedy Underworld

The setting of Max Payne is superb: the New York City underworld during the worst snow storm of the century. A cold day in hell.

I came in from the cold and the dark. Outside, the city was a cruel monster. I’d been slowly working my way from small-time to the big fish, trying to get to the source of the drug.

Video Game Noir Max Payne

(via maxpayne.wikia.com)

2) The Anti-Hero

Max Payne is an excellent anti-hero because he is so simultaneously desperate and tortured. He blames himself for the murders of his loved ones, and his rage is the slow burning fuel that moves the plot forward.

3) The Femme Fatale

Mona Sax is the femme fatale. She’s a hired gun, and although her role is small in this first game, in the second she truly becomes a central character.

I don’t know about angels, but it’s fear that gives men wings.

Video Game Noir Max Payne Mona Sax

(via ign.com)

4) Misogyny

One section of the game takes place in a run-down hotel/whore house. Some objectification of women is present, but never any from Max himself.

5) Redemption

The entire plot line revolves around the false redemption that comes from knowing the truth. I call it ‘false’ because knowing doesn’t really change the event. When Max learns the conspiracy laden truth surrounding the deaths of his family, it doesn’t change the fact that they are gone. He can never be truly redeemed.

6) Eroticism

A little eroticism here and there, but nothing compared to the second game. (Review to come).

I went for the hotel first. It was a sad old thing, with flickering lamps and faded colors, cheap mobster punks and tired-eyed prostitutes. I walked straight in, playing it bogart, like I’d done ahundred times before. The place was run by a couple of murdering mobsters, with shark smiles… 

7) Loss of Innocence

Max’s life is shattered by the tragic events at the onset of the game. The murder of his wife and child scar him in a way that can never be fully understood.

I have tasted the flesh of fallen angels… I’ve tasted the Devil’s green blood. It runs in my veins. I have seen beyond the world of skin, the architecture of blood and bone marrow… Death is coming… She is coming, and Hell follows with her.

8 ) Racism

The Italian-Americans in the game are portrayed in a very mobster/Hollywood fashion. This racism could be considered offensive.

Video Game Noir Max Payne

(via d9n.blogspot.com)

9) Smoke

Cigarette smoke and gun smoke. A choking combination.

10) Emasculation

A certain level of emasculation is inherent in the inability to defend his family. Even though the act was entirely out of his control, the guilt associated with surviving, especially when he could have protected them, is immense.

Max Payne will forever be one of my very favorite video games. The game play is addictive and intuitive, and the bullet-time/shoot-dodge physics are exquisite.  I conquered it again last week, and was once again pleased beyond measure.

To Sam Lake: Please, please, please start writing novels!

EXTRAS:

Sam Lake’s face was used in this game for Max Payne.

Max Payne’s footsteps are SO loud.

Max Payne 3 arrives on shelves in North America May 15th 2012 (YES, I’ve already Pre-Ordered it)

Max Payne 3 will unfortunately NOT be written by Sam Lake. It will be penned by Dan Houser.

Dan Houser and Sam Lake are releasing a free Max Payne digital comic in the next few weeks… I’ll let you know when it’s out.

 

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Video Game Noir | Batman Arkham City


The video game noir Batman Arkham City was released this week, and my pre-ordered copy arrived like an angel in xbox 360 green.  Within the first five minutes I had goosebumps from the perfect timbre of Dr. Hugo Strange’s voice and the early appearance of the femme fatale Catwoman. The main story is a lightning paced buffet of the memorable villains and mainstays of the Gothamverse; brilliantly counterpointed by the new “side mission” system that truly introduces you to the basest elements of Arkham City. Within 72 hours I had beaten the main story arc, and was well on my way into the delectable extras unlocked by the accomplishment. Now, I eagerly divulge the noir elements of this noir comics staple turned video game noir- Batman Arkham City according to the noir definition:

1) The Seedy Underworld

Arkham City is a sprawling piece of old Gotham turned penitentiary by the twisted mind of Hugo Strange. All of the inmates from Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Prison have been inserted into the walled island, and told to fend for themselves. Derelict buildings, the frothing sea-front, and abandoned subways frame this haven of crime. This seedy underworld is absolutely noir.

Video Game Noir Batman Arkham City

via wccftech.com

2) The Anti-Hero

Batman, the dark knight himself, is the anti-hero of this video game noir. He is known as “the world’s greatest detective” and is referred to as such several times throughout the game. The character archetype of Batman is absolutely founded in the private eye/gumshoe detectives of the old noir crime fiction and film noir genres: Batman Arkham City is no exception. As a player, much of your time is spent piecing together clues and following the trail of events to their final (inevitable) conclusion.

3) The Femme Fatale

You would think Catwoman was the femme fatale, but she didn’t fit this role exactly. She seemed to be bored of Batman and he was utterly uninterested in her. Talia Al Ghul was more fittingly cast; she refers to Bruce as her “beloved” and she was identified as the only woman that he ever truly loved. The fact that he chases her around the plot is motivated to save and protect her in spite of her failings makes her the femme fatale.

Video Game Noir Batman Arkham City Catwoman

via digitaltrends.com

4) Misogyny

Every female character in the game is crafted by male defined sexual desire. Talia Al Ghul, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy are scantily clad vixens who exude sexuality. To their credit, each of these female characters have redeeming attributes: Talia Al Ghul is violent and powerful, Catwoman has a well developed personality, Harley Quinn becomes a villain in her own right, and Poison Ivy is a petrarchan monolith (cold and utterly unobtainable). The tragedy in these characters is that they are still wholly male defined.

5) Redemption

The entire Batman mythos is founded upon the pillar of redemption. Bruce must redeem himself from not the guilt of allowing his parents to be killed. Also, as a detective, he “redeems” each crime by exercising intellectual control over it: knowing how it happened. Thus, even though he was unable to stop the initial crime from happening, knowing the details of its execution and punishing its perpetrators spiritually redeems him. Herein lies the tragedy of Bruce Wayne’s story, for he will never be redeemed. Without dropping any spoilers, I would argue that Batman Arkham City is the story of the Joker’s redemption. As you play, ask yourself, “How important is the Joker to the story of Batman?”

Video Game Noir Batman Arkham City Riddler

via gamingexaminer.com

6) Loss of Innocence

The Riddler’s little game with the lives of several hostages comes across as very sick and twisted. Batman finds himself in “riddler rooms” whose chief purpose is to force the dark knight to cause the death of the captive. These deaths are sadistically engineered, and the penalties for Batman’s failure as swift and irreversible. Listening to one captive be blow torched alive was enough to place the Riddler in this “loss of innocence” category.

7) Eroticism

The only instances of eroticism within this video game noir are as follows: Talia Al Ghul bares her middriff, Poison Ivy doesn’t wear any pants (just little green panties), Harley Quinn’s thong is whale-tailing, and Catwoman’s suit exposes her deep cleavage. Selina Kyle’s catsuit becomes more sensual and erotic the longer that you play, because a multitude of snags and tears reveal the delicate skin beneath by degrees.

Video Game Noir Batman Arkham City Harley Quinn

via attackofthefanboy.com

8 ) Blaxploitation

The only black characters are the inmates that Batman pounds in the streets.

9) Smoke

The Penguin enjoys a stogie and several inmates often talk of their desire for “a smoke.”

Batman Arkham City is one of the best video game noir examples on the market. Get it at Amazon.com.

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Video Game Noir | Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater


Those who are closest to me know that I have an unhealthy obsession with Metal Gear Solid. I would like to stress the fact that I am NOT writing this video game noir review of Metal Gear Solid 3 simply because of this obsession….but it may have something to do with it. As always, I will closely examine the most “noir” aspects of this game against the noir definition we have made. Then you can tell me whether it’s noir or not (and whether or not I’m just a crazy MGS fanboy run a muck). Now, the story-line of this video game noir is as convoluted and varied as they come, and I have NO interest in attempting to “synopsize” it . If you would like a run-down of the plot, please visit the Metal Gear Solid Wiki.

1) The Seedy Underworld

The early 1960′s : The thick jungle of Southern U.S.S.R. – overgrowth laden warehouses, snake infested caves, jungle huts, mountain top bases, and sprawling military compounds. Sometimes behind a waterfall, sometimes in a sewer, the backdrops are creative and alluring from beginning to end.

2) The Anti-Hero

Video Game Noir Metal Gear Solid 3 Naked Snake

Jack, "Naked Snake," "Big Boss"

Naked Snake, a special forces operative that would later go on to win the title “Big Boss” is the anti-hero of this video game noir. His origin (acknowledged or not) is firmly rooted in the detective novels of the 1930s and 1940s. He is forever caught in a struggle to exert his masculinity and dominance in a world that endlessly contests it. While his outward actions are confident, cool, and calculated; inwardly he is insecure, sensitive, and emotionally wounded. These issues are classic masculine struggles in any noir piece.

3) The Femme Fatale

Video Game Noir Metal Gear Solid 3 EVA

Eva

This video game noir is unique in that its plot is dominated by the presence of two femme fatales. I cannot decide is this is an attempt by Hideo Kojima to balance the masculine issues of the anti-hero, or if it is an example of the old adage,”two is better than one.” Eva, a sexy undercover double-agent with whom Naked Snake must work with, and Boss, his mentor, rival, and closest ally are the femme fatale pair in the game. Interestingly enough, they are opposite in nearly every way yet they both fit neatly in the noir defined role of femme fatale.

“I bet if I kissed you, you’d taste like a wild beast.” -Eva

4) Misogyny

Video Game Noir Metal Gear Solid 3 Volgin

Col. Volgin

The only character to truly exercise any level of misogyny is Col. Volgin, a Russian separatist commander with lightning powers. He abuses “Tanya” (Eva in disguise) sexually at frequent intervals in the game. The player is never privy to their intercourse, but the scars of his sadism are clearly seen on her fair skin. She asserts that she is merely allowing his behavior in order to keep her cover, but in reality she isn’t strong enough to stop him. He treats her like a mere toy of amusement, and grips her most feminine curves at various intervals in several cinemas.

5) Redemption

The central theme of the entire video game noir is redemption. Specifically, the redemption of America. The plot begs the question: what is the price of America’s reputation?

6) Loss of Innocence

Video Game Noir Metal Gear Solid 3 Boss

The Boss

I would say this portion of the noir definition applies directly to Naked Snake. His heart is wrenched as his mentor betrays America, and he learns disgusting truths about the men he serves so selflessly. These revelations literally break him.

7) Eroticism

2 moments of eroticism worth mentioning: 1) Col. Volgin’s sadist adventures with Eva  (not because they are generally arousing but because they are bizarre and outré) and 2) the ever memorable behind the waterfall campfire scene. Basically Eva attempts to seduce Snake and gets shut down hard.

8 ) Blaxploitation

Well, the only example of blaxploitation in this video game noir is found with the character Sigint. I’m not even black and I was offended by the “over-the-top” Ebonics-style  dialogue. He “jive” talks every time you speak with him, and it gives you the impression that he is an idiot.

9) Smoke

Cigars and cigarettes a plenty. If you’re sneakin’ your’e smokin’.

I finally accomplished my dream, connecting Metal Gear Solid with the noir genre. Feel free to burn me at the stake, but I believe the evidence speaks for itself. The HD remake comes out this November. A video game noir that MUST be purchased.

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Video Game Noir | L.A. Noire : Vice Desk


I called it. Detective Cole Phelps, the lovable straight-laced boy-scout who was destroying my noir definition by refusing to be an anti-hero, finally fell to temptation! The L.A. Noire “Vice Desk” chapter was my absolute favorite to date. Detective Phelps new beat is Hollywood, and finally some African American characters make their appearance. The music is dark jazz with a heavy blues influence, and the laid-back tunes perfectly match the rhythm of the unfolding story. My only complaint is that the “Vice Desk” chapter was the shortest so far, being comprised of only three interlinking story arcs:

1) The Black Caesar (a nod to a 1973 blaxploitation film)

2) The Set Up

3) Manifest Destiny

I really don’t want to write a full synopsis (mostly because I’m feeling lazy), but here is a run-down from wikipedia:

Phelps is then promoted to the Vice Department, also known as Administrative or Ad Vice. He and his new partner Roy Earle, who is himself corrupt, succeed in halting LA’s drug trade, government-issued morphine in particular and bringing down several big time drug dealers, including associates of mobster, Mickey Cohen, an associate of Al Capone. However, Phelps’s past comes back to haunt him when a Marine from his former unit is found shot dead. Phelps then discovers many of his former squad members are being targeted for assassination as well, and after meeting with his old comrade, Jack Kelso, who has now become an insurance claims investigator, Phelps deduces the men who will be assassinated, but unfortunately is unable to save most of them. He slowly uncovers that the U.S.S Coolridge, which transported his platoon home at the end of the war, was also carrying a large supply of surplus morphine. Phelps then comes to the conclusion that the deaths of his old comrades are linked to the ship; and the morphine, realising that the men made a pact to sell the morphine on the street. This caused their assassinations by other drug traffickers, including the mob. Phelps also begins an affair outside of his marriage with a German club singer named Elsa Lichtmann, who Earle constantly berates. Phelps is eventually demoted when Earle discloses his affair as a distraction from the other corrupt activities of several city leaders, including himself.

Video Game Noir L.A. Noire Xbox 360

everyone squints in this game, I should add that to my noir definition

The double-cross from Earle was amazing, and I am so pumped to see where it goes from here.  I have a hunch that there is more to the affair with Elsa than meets the eye, because we never actually see any indiscretions other than Phelps entering her apartment on several occasions. We don’t even see him kiss her. And when the “adultery” accusations begin to fly his way, he never denies the affair, but he is never allowed to explain himself. I was wondering when a true femme fatale was going to enter and with Elsa causing the downfall of our anti-hero, finally the stage is set with all the players outlined in our noir definition. L.A. Noire is shaping up to be a most incredible video game noir.

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Video Game Noir | L.A. Noire: Homicide Desk

Sorry Cats and Kittens, it’s been far too long since I put something up. Chalk it up to a holiday weekend and Minecraft. Back to the business at hand, I promised that I would be reviewing each of the “desks” that Cole Phelps is assigned to in the video game noir: L.A. Noire. Here is my second installment/fulfillment of that promise.

Video Game Noir L.A. Noire Xbox 360

everyone squints in this game, I should add that to my noir definition

The second desk in L.A. Noire started with a bang. Suddenly we were thrust into a whirlwind of dead naked bodies (all of them women, mind you (MISOGYNY)) and a hint of a serial killer called “the werewolf.” The women were found with obscenities painted on their bruised and strangled forms with lipstick, and each had a man in her life with motive enough for the harsh treatment. I will say that the nudity as done in a very classy way, and I never felt uncomfortable as I investigated the bodies. As each case unfolded with similar scenarios and culprits for the crime, I began to be really discouraged. I believe this stemmed from the fact that I didn’t believe we were catching the actual killers in each case, we were simply locking up the most reasonable suspect. Understandably, this was all a noir plot build-up to the final case where the player faces off against the Black Dahlia Killer, but these slowly unfolding semi-fulfilling cases were still fuel for frustration.

Video Game Noir L.A. Noire Homicide Desk

one of the victims

I felt the sting of video game limitation, my back fully against the wall of what I would do vs. what the character was able to do. It felt ridiculous to continually put away individuals who were obviously being set up by the real killer, but Phelps’ script would not allow for anything else. So basically, the first few murders are genuinely fun to solve, but once you hit the fourth repeat you’ll be ready to ditch the whole thing. I will say that once you get to the end of the line, and Cole is actually trying to find the true murderer, the game begins to shine once more. The developers allow you to solve the riddles given to Officer Phelps based upon how closely you have been paying attention to the historical landmarks in the city. Really fun stuff.

At the end of the day, the Homicide Desk in the video game noir L.A. Noire was excellent in part, but was bogged down by the limitations of the script. We’ll see what the Vice Desk has in store for Detective Phelps.

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Noir Crime Fiction | L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories

Noir Crime Fiction L.A. Noire The Collected Stories

sheesh...Femme Fatale with a capital "F"

I found out some amazing news through the BackAlleyNoir.com forums: turns out that Rockstar Games is releasing a noir crime fiction book titled “L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories”   based on the video game. The best part? All this week on Amazon, the kindle edition is COMPLETELY FREE. If you don’t have a kindle, don’t worry. If you download the Amazon Kindle app to your smartphone (also free) you can still get the collection in all its noir pulpy goodness. I haven’t started reading it yet, but it looks to be really good. Lets hope that it doesn’t disappoint. Here is some of the pulp cover art that is included:

Noir Crime Fiction L.A. Noire L.A. Noire Cover-The Girl

The Cover and the First Story in L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories

 

Noir Crime Fiction L.A. Noire Black Dahlia and White Rose-Hell of An Affair

Pulpy Goodness in L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories

 

Noir Crime Fiction L.A. Noire Postwar Boom-School for Murder

The Color Scheme for all these covers is perfect

 

Noir Crime Fiction L.A. Noire Naked Angel-Whats In A Name

I can't wait to review each of their noir crime fiction pulps.

images from:

http://rockstargames.com

http://blog.machinima.com

http://roccobarnard.co.za

http://mullhollandbooks.com

http://flavorwire.com

 

 

 

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Video Game Noir | Batman: Arkham City Catwoman Announcement

I could not resist posting this video game noir announcement. Batman: Arkham City will feature a PLAYABLE femme fatale Catwoman. How modern noir of them:

Making Catwoman a playable character was yet another great decision from Rocksteady. Do these guys ever mess up? I’m very pleased with the art direction of this game, because it’s absolutely noir in every way shape and form (don’t believe me? check the noir definition). The boys at Rocksteady seem to have nailed Catwoman’s sexy, sultry, and edgy nature in a way that would make any femme fatale blush. Although I admit its pretty easy to be sexy when you put a body like hers in a cat suit.

“With Catwoman we get a brilliant character who will allow gamers to indulge in a darker side. With Catwoman, you can take a walk on the wild side and take a break from being the defender of Gotham.” -Dan Gix, Rocksteady Games

From my own comic book knowledge, Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman has always been a foil to Batman’s character. She represents one of the only women that Bruce Wayne ever truly loved, yet he rarely brings her into his confidence because of her criminal nature. He struggles to accept her fully because she breaks the law and his allowing her to continue doing so makes him a hypocrite. The give and take between their two characters is further complicated by the fact that Catwoman is very attracted to Batman but her feelings are not the same for Bruce Wayne. Now, in Batman: Hush Batman reveals his true identity to Catwoman, so I am interested to see if the storyline in Batman Arkham City takes place before or after that event.

The fact that they have made her into a playable character in this video game noir raises several questions for me: Where is Batman going to be while this is happening? Is she going to be a heroine, or a villainess? I love that they are giving her a meatier role than just femme fatale eye candy! Anyone else feel like this bodes well for the storyline of Batman: Arkham City? I do.

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Video Game Noir | L.A. Noire Misogyny

wow. L.A. Noire is a video game noir masterpiece… it’s also very misogynistic. Lets start at the beginning, I will be writing four different reviews for this game, one for each “desk” that you serve in the Las Angeles Police Department. First stop, Traffic. You play this video game noir as Cole Phelps, a World War II hero and aspiring straight-laced police detective. Cole shocks his peers and his employers with his uncanny ability to suss out the truth of any seedy situation or suspicious character. At this point of the game he falls short of our stated noir definition, for he is not truly an “anti-hero” ….yet. I haven’t beat the game yet (or solved the final cases) but if my gut tells me anything about noir, it tells me that Cole has some sort of flaw that has been hidden in his past (or some flaw yet to be expressed).  No one can remain a boy scout for that long.

Video Game Noir L.A. Noire Xbox 360

everyone squints in this game, I should add that to my noir definition

Lets talk about misogyny in L.A. Noire. Almost every victim of any crime thus far has been a woman. The female characters in the game are treated as little more than children or objects for the violent lust of criminal predators. Rape, molestation, and pedophilia all rear their ugly heads in one form or another, and the game refuses to pull any punches. Personally, I think this is perfectly in line with what I have studied so far in the noir genre. Women are often hated, either through their exploitation or through exerting one form of dominance or another over them. Misogyny is the sad reality of noir. L.A. Noire is simply portraying its genre effectively… or are they?

Video Game Noir L.A. Noire Traffic Desk

hit and run? or something else...

One thing I will commend Team Bondi and Rockstar Games on is that through all the objectification of women that occurs in L.A. Noire, Cole Phelps (the main character) never participates. This lack of misogyny from the main character seems to be a trend in modern noir. It’s almost as if the authors are rejecting this aspect of the noir genre by writing heroes for us that break the cycle of abuse. Instead of mistreating women, they become their defenders and protectors, and they strive to right (write) the wrongs perpetrated against them by the old guard. I speak more of this in my review of Criminal #1  by Ed Brubaker.

Video Game Noir L.A. Noire Misogyny

amazing art direction for this video game noir

I was greatly pleased and surprised more than once by this first of four chapters in the game. The cases range from blood smattered abandoned vehicles to heart-pounding foot chases and bare-fist brawls. L.A. Noire nails the historical era with a class an ease unmatched by any video game noir I have played to date. Play this game, and step into a simpler time in America’s history when men were men and you wouldn’t think of leaving the house without a suit and a hat. Oddly enough, no femme fatale has manifested herself yet… 3 more installments to come.

I purchased my copy from Newegg.com

The hit and run image was from photobucket.com

the L.A. Noire Logo image was from platformnation.com

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Quick Announcement: Video Game Noir Release

I don’t have time for a full post today, but you should all know that I have ordered L.A. Noire for XBOX 360 (it came out today). I should receive it in the mail by this weekend. That should provide some juicy video game noir posts I hope!

Keep whaling. (I got my copy from Newegg.com)

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Filed under Video Game Noir