Best Setting: L.A. Noire
The main character of Rockstar’s L.A. Noire may be Detective Cole Phelps, but the real star of the game is 1940s Los Angeles, meticulously recreated to look authentic in every way and produce a vibrant, convincing game world. Unlike in most adventures, the City of Angels is a living, breathing city that’s teeming with period automobiles, cable cars, and pedestrians all going about their business independent of your actions. You could spend hours simply driving around seeking the many famous landmarks of the time, from Union Station to the RKO Theater to Chinatown. But the post-war era was also an important time for a city riddled with criminal elements and police corruption, creating an ideal atmosphere for the violence that pervades the gameplay.
Not only did Team Bondi convincingly rebuild the historical cityscape, they also reimagined the events of the time. Many of the cases were directly inspired by actual files from the LAPD, and several famous figures of the time are referenced for further real-life authenticity. Radio broadcasts and newspapers contribute to the larger picture of life in 1940s Los Angeles, as does fashion, with distinctive styles of various socio-economic classes on display. Even the little details that most games skimp on, such as product advertisements, shop window displays and interior furnishings, have all been carefully researched, so there’s never an aspect that feels overlooked. The immense budget behind this game may have created an uneven playing field, but the designers took full advantage of the opportunity, as L.A. Noire’s incredible scope and attention to detail is virtually unrivalled in the genre, making it a thoroughly deserving Aggie winner for Best Setting of 2011.
Runners-Up: Black Mirror III, Portal 2, Back to the Future: The Game, Stacking
Readers’ Choice: Gemini Rue
You sure wouldn’t want to live amidst the homeless drug addicts on the drizzly streets of a purple-skied Barracus, or be a prisoner in the sterile, oppressive Center 7 mind rehabilitation facility, but they sure were fun places to visit. For many of you, at least, as the dual environments in this gritty neo-noir thriller combined to earn the title of best setting in a very close race among all finalists.
Runners-Up: Black Mirror III, Gray Matter, The Book of Unwritten Tales, L.A. Noire
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Next up: Best Graphic Design... the envelope, please!