Dial M for Mature
Last weekend Rockstar Games invited me to a private demo of L.A. Noire at the historic Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. As a girl who went 100% on Red Dead Redemption last year, I've been seriously looking forward to this game, so there was no way in hell I was going to pass up a private demo! Since my mother was in town, and I never meet strangers without bringing someone along, I brought her to the demo. We were led to a swanky room with haunting jazz playing, and the words "L.A. Noire" lighting up a big screen TV. After a briefing on the technology and basic information on the game, Tim - the guy showing me the demo - clicked Start. A moment later he paused dramatically to warn us that the video game is rated M. I turned to my mom and whispered "M is for Mature" then sat back to watch the show thinking the worst I'd see is what I'd already seen in previous Rockstar Games titles Red Dead Redemption and the Grand Theft Auto series. Holy shit, was I wrong.
Tim loaded up “The Red Lipstick Murder” and it showed graphic violence of a mysterious man pulling a woman out of a car trunk by her hair, then beating her over the head with some kind of metal object as she screamed and blood spurted from offscreen. It was chilling, but that wasn't all. After a homicide briefing the next day, Detective Cole Phelps went to investigate the scene of the crime... and lying on the grass was a full-frontal naked female corpse with a hairy private area and the chilling initials "B.D." (see Black Dahlia) written in red lipstick on her torso.
At this point I felt extremely uncomfortable. I was in a dark room, sitting next to my mother, watching a detailed naked, mutilated female corpse being thoroughly examined on the TV. This certainly wasn't Pac-Man.
The rest of the demo was great. I got to see how realistic the technology used to capture the actors' faces really was, and also heard how guns in this game, as they are in the real lives of police officers, are a last resort. It was refreshing, and made the game feel truly mature.
That said, this is a game made for adults. Though Red Dead Redemption was also rated M for Mature, I was consistently running into bratty kids playing it in multiplayer on XBox Live. Red Dead Redemption and the GTA series appeal to adolescent boys because it satisfies their aggressive teen fantasies with murder and crime, but L.A. Noire is a gentleman's game of intelligence, skill, and patience. While I'm still uncomfortable with the extreme nudity and the idea that someone may eventually hack the game to make a rather disgusting necrophilia scene (see Hot Coffee mod), I'm happy to see how Rockstar Games is growing up with its' players.