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Take Two Intrigues With 'L.A. Noire'

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Take Two Interactive (TTWO - Get Report) introduced its edgy L.A. Noire title last week at an unusual venue for a video game: the Tribeca Film Festival, a 10-year old exclusive event co-founded by Robert De Niro known for top-tier celebrity sightings and a wild mix of alternative, documentary and feature films.

The first video game ever to debut at the festival, L.A. Noire marks a risky departure for Take Two, the publisher of huge-selling games like the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

The new game's focus on investigations and mystery-solving might bore core gamers used to titles centered around fast-paced shootings and stabbings, and few titles outside this action-oriented genre have succeeded, with the exception of sports games and brands like Super Mario, say analysts.
Rockstar Games' L.A. Noire title

But for Take Two, L.A. Noire is all about appealing to an audience outside of hardcore gamers, an effort to continue its sales and stock growth momentum in an industry that is experiencing a dramatic shift away from software sales driven primarily by brick-and-mortar stores.

"Whether or not this game is for everyone we don't know, but we do know that if its drive-somewhere-and-shoot-someone, it's not interesting," said Rob Nelson, art director at Rockstar Games, the Take Two subsidiary responsible for L.A. Noire.

L.A. Noire lets users skip action sequences that require more advanced gaming skills, like car chases with suspects, to appeal to new customers -- like film buffs -- who Rockstar hopes are drawn into the game's narrative and cinematic effects rather than its gameplay.

Unlike past Rockstar hits where players race cars and shoot other characters in an open "sandbox" type world, L.A. Noire is a more linear, cerebral game with an emphasis on a story line and no multiplayer option.

Inspired by noir classics like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, the game, due out later this month, takes place in 1940s Hollywood and centers around the investigations of a young detective named Cole Phelps. The game's story lines -- or cases -- are based on real-life Los Angeles crime stories; one of them, "Red Lipstick Murder" is mirrored on a 1947 homicide investigation of the murder of Jeanne French, a veteran Army Nurse.

L.A. Noire features the voices and facial features of actors like Mad Men's Aaron Staton, five years of development, more than 400 characters and a script of more than 2,200 pages.

"It's easy to sit and watch the game and not know what's interactive and what's not," said Simon Ramsey, international marketing director of Rockstar, referring to separating gameplay from storyline.

To this point, some analysts say that Take Two is taking a big gamble.
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