Bright times ahead for developers of game-noire

A blockbuster computer game with a cast of 400 actors that would be the envy of Hollywood directors could renew the gaming industry's bid for supremacy as the most lucrative medium in entertainment.

La Noire, which has won rapturous reviews and is released in the UK on Friday after hitting US stores yesterday, rocketed straight to the top of Amazon's gaming bestseller lists. It is set in a 1940s film-noir universe and uses state-of-the-art technology to interpret characters' expressions.

Faces to be cast include Aaron Staton – Mad Men 's Ken Cosgrove – whose acting has helped win the game rave reviews. It has been heralded as a potential "game of the year" and one of the biggest releases since the 2003 Second World War action title Call of Duty, which has sold 55 million copies worth £1.85bn.

"It's very unusual for a video game based on new intellectual property to have so much excitement surrounding its release," said Tim Ingham, editor of Computerandvideogames.com. "It may target those who have been out of gaming for a while. Fans of films like Goodfellas and LA Confidential may buy into its symbolism. It will give players the ability to experience a world similar to those films in an interactive way."

Thirty-two cameras operating at 1,000 frames a second were used to capture actors' expressions. 3D models of their heads were then made, which early users say are almost indistinguishable from reality. Players assume the role of Cole Phelps, a war hero working for the LA Police Department, questioning characters to separate truths from lies.

The game was developed by Australian company Team Bondi for RockStar Games, the US-based publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series, founded in 1998 by British brothers Sam and Dan Houser.

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