It was September 2006 and the announcement of Rockstar’s partnership with Team Bondi to publish a groundbreaking, next generation thriller labled L.A. Noire began and the talk in the industry focused on the wonderful technology behind the crime fighting title that was sure to make an impact. Now the wait is over, we take a look at the game to see if it has lived up to expectations? Was it worth the wait? Here is what we think.
With Rockstar now playing on the other side of the fence (the good side) L.A. Noire is very different to what we’ve become accustomed to, indeed, learned to love from the open sandbox style gameplay of the recent Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption titles. Somehow though, there is a distinct familiarity to this crime thriller set in the Noire periods of 1940′s Los Angeles, from the typically expansive and most beautiful locations you can explore to your hearts content, to the freedom of vehicle choice and the hunt for hidden collectibles and clues. To all intense and purposes, this is a game that has the DNA of Rockstar running deep within. As with any great team with a host of successful titles to their name there has to be originality, direction and the ability to give you something different, something that keeps you interested. Without doubt, this has once again somehow been achieved.
L.A Noire is a 23 hour interactive movie that places you in the persona of a decorated Marine Cole Phelps (Aron Staten), a Marine with a silver star that now wants to make a difference on the streets of L.A. With the use of Depth Analysis’ newly utilized Motion Scan technology, L.A Noire really is a game ahead of its time using real actors to not only bring the story to life, but to immerse you with the perfect functionality of the technology. Yes of course, the Motion Scan technology is essentially what the game is all about, using it to determine the facial nuances of potential suspects to help you steer your investigations in the right direction. Are you good at detecting certain body language? It’s not something that will maybe sit well with everyone and not many people will have a knack for it. It is often quite frustrating when you know that an interviewee has nothing to hide but appears to be riddled with guilt. However, manipulating every shred of information from someone is incredibly rewarding and such is the sense of achievement when performed well, you may find yourself considering a career change. The game challenges your ability as a detective armed with your trusty notebook for a constant reference to the clues you’ve discovered during the case, the people associated with the case and the various crime scenes or locations of particular interest to the investigation. This thankfully means that you don’t need Einstein’s memory to do well, as all relevant information is stored here automatically. The correct line of questioning is invaluable if you are to solve a case promptly, though fear not, if some of your hunches are not on the money it will just take you a little longer to become the perfect cop.
The gameplay in L.A Noire is at times understated I feel, realism is on the menu and walking around L.A. is very simulated. The air of authority that Cole Phelps demonstrates as he navigates obstacles such as stairs, ladders, walls and virtually anything else is as realistic as anything I’ve ever seen in a game. The removal of ‘action’ buttons such as those typically used when jumping or climbing ladders was worrying at first, though when all the above is done for you in such a wonderful way you quickly forget about it. Combat is almost literally somewhat hit and miss, while the hand-to-hand combat moments are intuitive and largley satisfying, gun-play is at times flawed and the use of the cover system is very fiddly. Moving from one cover position to another isn’t as smooth as you would expect and you’re often exposed to the razor sharp accuracy of your foes. Sticking with the auto aim system is your best bet as manually aiming can feel heavy and cumbersome.
The characters that populate L.A. Noire are, on the whole enrichly entertaining thanks to Motion Scan, no stone has been left unturned as even the pedestrians on the street show greater signs of true life expression and individual dialogue thanks to the technology. For the first time in a video game, you’re treated to brilliant scenes that would grace any movie. The story unfolds utilising Oscar winning stylish performances with the aid of truly wonderful cinematic qualities and cut scenes. L.A Noire needed the Motion Scan technology to work, and it does, brilliantly.
1940′s Los Angeles is beautiful as are the cars that cruise down Hollywood Boulevard, graphically L.A. Noire uses a distinctive colouring-style in homage to the visual style of film noire that creates a wonderful backdrop for a groundbreaking, technological and intuitive game that’s streets ahead of its time.
The film Noire feel is forever apparent and the music that you either hear on a car radio or during the cut-scenes is truly authentic featuring recordings by artists of the period, such as Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
It’s true, L.A Noire very much holds your hand, somewhat linear some may say, but that’s ok because the path you find yourself being taken is akin to a tour filled with greatness. Besides, if it’s a break from investigating you require, take a timeout and explore the huge map at your leisure, trying out various cars that belong to unsupecting members of the L.A. community and responding to police radio street crimes of which there are 40 to complete. However, you won’t be able to create chaos, savage civilians with an array of weaponry because unlike Rockstar’s ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series, the main character is a police detective, a good guy with an over-riding sense to do good in a city brimmed with corruption. Whatever you decide the game delivers an overall experience that makes it all very worthwhile.
I do worry about Rockstar, that’s not to say that they’ve done anything wrong, but when you consistently achieve greatness as the history of entertainment will testify to, if and when you eventually put a foot wrong, the knives come out in full force. If you make brilliant look easy time and time again, your audience demands perfection with every release, thankfully no knives are present here with L.A Noire. Such is the technological advancement with Motion Scan, the current generation of games need a re-think. Hopefully the future of interactive gaming has arrived today and is here to stay.
Verdict: 9.5 / 10