The Biggest Missed Opportunity In Rockstar History

L.A. Noire should've been a franchise - but maybe not the way you think.

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While there have been plenty of incredible highs, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the last decade of Rockstar Games has been a bit of a weird one. In between successes like Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2 - in particular the cash cow multiplayer mode of the former, GTA Online - the studio has also presided over several noted disappointments. Red Dead Online was all but abandoned following lofty teases of future content when it originally launched, GTA: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition had a bonfire release in 2021, and there has also been criticism relating to the volume of Rockstar's output and what has also been perceived as missed open goals. Discounting remasters, Rockstar published just two major games from 2013 onwards, while long-awaited remasters and re-releases of the likes of Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3 either underwhelmed or never materialised.

Masterpieces like Red Dead Redemption 2 will of course mitigate any sense of disappointment we might get looking back at the last decade of Rockstar, but the sense of lost momentum and excitement with regard to a perceived lack of fresh ideas is difficult to shake. For some, these feelings may be exemplified in the treatment of Red Dead Online, or perhaps the studio's unwavering focus on the microtransaction-heavy GTA Online. For me, though, if there's any Rockstar franchise that sums up the studio's years of missed potential, then it must be L.A. Noire.

Developed by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games in 2011, L.A. Noire was a love letter to hardboiled detective fiction and the noir genre more generally, taking cues from the works of James Ellroy (the writer behind the L.A. Quartet, which includes L.A. Confidential), as well as more classic genre cinema from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. It was largely a critical and financial success for Rockstar, but apart from a 2016 remaster and a much-memed VR edition of the game, L.A. Noire as a franchise has - like Cole Phelps himself - been swept away with the currents, a sequel seemingly now out of reach.

This is frustrating for a whole host of reasons but undoubtedly the biggest is that, outside of GTA, L.A. Noire is the one franchise in Rockstar's locker that boasts the largest scope as far as potential sequels are concerned. Even though the '40s and '50s are the decades we're most quick to think of when we hear the word "noir", that genre isn't confined to one era of history. Yes, there's plenty more that could be gained from keeping the series there, but L.A. Noire to me would be far more exciting if it took an evolutionary approach to the genre, transcending its post-war roots to tackle gritty '70s detective fiction a la Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, synth-set and glossy '80s neo-noir in the vein of Michael Mann, or even a more bombastic and action-oriented approach to the '90s with a game inspired by Tony Scott or Shane Black.

The idea of an L.A. Noire sequel may instantly conjure imagery of '50s excess and returning characters like Jack Kelso, Elsa, and the Mickster, but by taking a different approach, the amount of potential Rockstar has been sitting on gets even clearer.

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Content Producer/Presenter

Resident movie guy at WhatCulture who used to be Comics Editor. Thinks John Carpenter is the best. Likes Hellboy a lot. Can usually be found talking about Dad Movies on his Twitter at @EwanRuinsThings.