Best Animation: L.A. Noire
From the time it was first announced, much of the pre-release buzz surrounding Team Bondi's 1940s Hollywood detective yarn, L.A. Noire, related to its revolutionary motion capture technology. One of the title's central gameplay systems – the ability to detect lies from reading body language – hinged significantly on the success of this technology, so the game's facial animations needed to not only be technically impressive but emotionally believable as well. With a budget behind it that most adventures can only dream of, thankfully the animations on display in the finished product exceeded their promise. While the dreaded Uncanny Valley wasn't completely avoided, the level of facial animation allowed for details such as subtle eye twitches and the setting and unsetting of jaws to come across in a way they never had before.
But there’s so much more to L.A. Noire’s impressive animation than just nervous blinking and awkward glances. There are many, many moving parts througout the historically recreated Los Angeles backdrop. The streets are filled with cars going about their daily business, while pedestrians roam the sidewalks, the nosiest clambering to catch a glimpse of the latest crime scene investigation. It’s a joy to simply to drive around the city soaking in all the sights, though it gets a little treacherous when the bright sunny days give way to pelting rainy nights. As a game with a moderate action element, there are car chases, shootouts and fistfights, and these too are convincingly orchestrated, if requiring some getting used to at first. In a genre that is all too often guilty of static screens and empty environments, L.A. Noire is almost the antithesis of what we’re used to. The combination of phenomenal performances from a seasoned cast and a living, breathing post-war world helped create an experience unlike any that came before, allowing the game to easily walk (or perhaps run or drive) away with our Best Animation award.
Runners-Up: Portal 2, Professor Layton and the Last Specter/Spectre’s Call, The Next BIG Thing, The Book of Unwritten Tales
Readers’ Choice: L.A. Noire
The top animation award this year was really a no-brainer (or maybe an all-brainer, since we both got it right!). Team Bondi’s incredible mocap technology took facial animation to unprecedented heights, and 1940s Los Angeles felt truly alive all around you, like a city really should and yet so infrequently does in a genre that rarely has the budget to effectively animate. Let’s enjoy it while we can.
Runners-Up: The Book of Unwritten Tales, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, The Next BIG Thing, Portal 2
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Next up: Best Music... the envelope, please!
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