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Noir in Video Games


I've always been a sucker for film noir. Something about it, and the various subgenres that owe their existence to it, is awesome. It's a genre that doesn't quite translate well into a traditional video game, but when it does it is definitely something to behold. It might not be perfect, but the atmosphere helps.

Here are a few examples, to show you what I mean:

Gemini Rue is definitely more of a cyberpunk game than straight-up noir, but the game itself has a very Blade Runner-esque vibe that is matched only by the actual adventure game based on Blade Runner.

Gemini Rue is a standard point-and-click adventure game owing to the classic inventory puzzles and "use x with y" commands, so don't go into this expecting a modern Telltale-style of adventure. For those that like the older Sierra or Lucasarts style adventure games, they'll feel right at home. The biggest issue for me is the combat. There are some segments of cover-based shooting that really kill the flow of the game, and it reminded me of the third disc of Harvester in all the wrong ways.

The plot is straight-up cyberpunk: An detective is searching for information about his brother in some future dystopian hellhole. In addition to that, gameplay will shift to an alternate character who needs to escape from whatever prison he's stuck in. Any more about the plot could ruin things. It's a great one.

Ah, Heavy Rain. I'm still surprised that more people haven't played this one. I keep running into people who never even considered it, especially when I worked retail.

Heavy Rain is a game by everyone's favorite game director who probably wants to be a film director, David Cage, and his company Quantic Dream. They're the guys behind Indigo Prophecy and Beyond: Two Souls...

Y'know what? You guys here on DTOID probably already know this. For those of you that haven't, think of Heavy Rain as a long quick-time event - pressing buttons in sequence to pick things up, interact with people, or engage in combat.


Yeah, it's kind of rough. It works a hell of a lot better than other examples of quick-time events, as the story is engaging enough that you're willing to excuse the odd timing mess-up or weird button combination.

Speaking of the story, it's fantastic. Definitely worth one play through, at least. You play as four different characters, all intertwined in their quest to find the Origami Killer. Once again, any more about the plot would spoil things. And, uh, if you're curious, be sure to just pick up the game. Don't look on a wiki or anything like that, because even the first line of a random article will spoil some of the plot. And you don't want that, right?

This game's atmosphere is straight-up noir at its finest. The game is dreary and dark, and there is a looming feel of hopelessness. The few bright moments of the game aren't there to last, and Heavy Rain knows this.

Shadowrun is probably more known as a tabletop RPG (and a newer PC version that I have yet to play...). The 90s gave birth to two distinct Shadowrun games. The Sega Genesis one was radically different than the SNES one, which felt more like a Black Isle game. Think like Fallout or Baldur's Gate. I don't own a copy of the Genesis version, so all of this applies to the Super Nintendo one:

You play as a guy who initially starts out as a corpse in a morgue. Ew. You come back to life, though, and like most people in that situation, you have no idea how you got there. Sweet. Looks like you've got some exploring to do. You pick up a gun, shoot a couple of people, and then find a demon-posessed dog and a couple of witch-doctor people that can use magic... Damn.

You're thrust into the game rather fast, so it could take a little bit of getting used to things before you're able to play effectively. For instance, you have to move yourself and a mouse cursor independently with one controller. For some reason, they didn't include functionality for the SNES mouse, which would have been awesome, albeit a little more confusing at first.


Go and check out these games. They're alright. Not perfect, but I'm glad I played them. I left out a bunch of the more well-known examples (and stuff I didn't play through), so if I didn't hit on something obvious that's probably why.

Now, if anyone needs me, I'm going to drive off into the night rain, with the SiriusXM jazz station on...



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About Titannelone of us since 6:02 PM on 08.12.2013

Hey. I'm Titannel. I am currently a video editor for a local news station, but I'd like to edit for YouTube eventually. I also enjoy the video games. I particularly focus on retro video games, though I collect for pretty much everything, against my better judgment. Anyone who can decode my banner wins fifty bonus points. For what? Eh.

Oh, what's that? You want a shorter description? Here's one:

"Video editor. Amateur filmmaker. Creative Writer. Real human being. And a real hero."