Interrogation refers to the obtaining of information through questioning. In the video game realm, said questioning often turns violent sooner rather than later. Many of gaming's most popular franchises, from Call of Duty to Splinter Cell, use some sort of interrogation to propel the player forward in the story. Oftentimes this is done in a linear fashion, the interrogation set aside as a little set-piece event designed to reveal crucial plot information. Other times, in games such as Mass Effect, the interrogation is a much more crucial part of the gameplay, taking the form of a multiple choice conversation. In many games such as this, the freedom allowed to players to interrogate characters can sometimes result in failure, and the player not receiving the information he/she desires.
To illustrate the points above, here are three games utilizing different types of interrogation. One is completely linear, the next offers minimal player input, and the last can and will be failed by players who aren't paying sharp attention. These examples also show the different approaches utilized by game protagonists in their interrogations. Some are brutal and violent, while others don't require players to lift a virtual finger to obtain what they want.
Splinter Cell Conviction opens with a memorable interrogation scene in which protagonist Sam Fisher learns that his daughter's death in Double Agent was no accident. He follows his target into a dive bar, at which point he pushes him into the bathroom. At this point, the player is given control of Sam's actions, but the end result of the interrogation is completely linear. Players lead Sam around the bathroom, smashing the target's head through a urinal, using his skull to crack a mirror, and finally kicking him through the door of a bathroom stall. By using blunt violence, Sam quickly but messily gets his target to spill the beans.This is but one example of the numerous interrogation scenes in Splinter Cell conviction. The mechanic of brutalizing a foe until he talks is repeated several times, with equally violent results. Enemies are smashed through tables, beaten to within an inch of their life, and brutally stabbed by Fisher in an attempt to get intel on his enemies. It's fast and effective, but not always the smoothest way to go about things.
LA Noire is all about the act of interrogation, but its methods are far more refined than those of Conviction's. Instead, players use conversation to get to the bottom of most cases, resorting to violence only in worst case scenarios. Take an early case in the game, when protagonist Cole Phelps is asked to investigate a murder at a jewelry store, for example. By successfully reading the target's tells and calling their bluffs, it's possible to glean certain information that most players won't be privy to, such as the racial biases of the murderer, leading to a discussion of his possible motives. Although the game is still tutorializing at this point, it's a theme that carries over throughout the rest of the game. By successfully calling target's bluffs, it's possible to get them to blurt out important information that would otherwise go unnoticed, or have to be obtained through violence. Coupled with the heavy focus on gathering evidence and presenting it in a way that conflicts with the target's stories, this puts a heavy emphasis on non-violent interrogation in LA Noire. However, unsuccessful or unlucky players will still see their share of gunfights and fisticuffs, as failing to gather the proper evidence often leads to a sloppy and violent resolution. The heavy emphasis on interrogation over physical action is underscored by the years of work that Rockstar and Team Bondi did on facial capture, providing facial expressions as true to life as possible in hopes of helping players interrogate accurately.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Splinter Cell and LA Noire, Phoenix Wright focuses entirely on the interrogations, to the extent that there is no on foot movement at all. A solid majority of the gameplay takes place in the courtroom, with the rest taking place in adventure-game-styled rooms designed to give players evidence and testimonials to utilize against the opposition in court. The act of interrogating is so in-depth that players must pay attention to every minuscule detail throughout a case, as it could be important in a testimonial later. If players hear a testimonial that doesn't line up with their evidence, they can object and present the conflicting evidence to change the course of a case. In order to progress through the game, players must interrogate successfully in order to win the case.