It was a Raymond Chandler Evening...
When I first heard about L.A. Noire it sounded almost too good to be true, the game went through a tumultuous development cycle and vanished off my radar. I dismissed it and went to look at other things until suddenly, it was back on the radar again and Rockstar were touting some pretty impressive things, albeit under a cloak of secrecy that would have made the Shadow proud.
Now new details and gameplay have come to light that deserve us to shine a spotlight on this up-coming game. May is going to be one heck of a month for gamers who want a combination of freedom and crime drama. Rockstar and Team Bondi have been quick to explain that L.A. Noire is not a GTA style game, whilst it is an open city there's a definite linear narrative and you're firmly cast in the role of hero this time around.
I've long since wanted a noir-style game, one that combines the pulp era with the birth of something like Hollywood. Thankfully L.A. Noire actually hits that want list pretty much spot on, set in the growth period of the US in Los Angeles and during the rise of Hollywood, this era was a massive burst of popularity both in terms of the aforementioned Hollywood and crime. 1947 was a time of alcohol, corruption and jazz music.
Behind the scenes of the brightly light nightclubs, flash cars (for the time) and swell dames, were the brutal murders and violent undertones of the gangs hidden away in the darkness. Team Bondi and Rockstar have reached into the annals of this time and drawn their inspiration from cases and crimes that happened for real, to give the player a taste of what it is like to walk in the shoes of a beat cop striving to do the right thing.
Cast firmly in the role of the returned war hero, Cole Phelps, the player follows Cole's story as he rises from the desk of beat cop, to the various desks of the LA PD involving a myriad of cases to solve. Cole can expect to work his way through the following desks and each desk has a variety of cases for him to solve.
Beat cop, traffic, homicide, vice, arson and so on.
Each case is made up of different kinds of gameplay, but there's one kind of gameplay that has our interest over the others - interrogation. Crime solving, questioning witnesses, clue finding, tracking suspects also play a major part in the game. But for us we're impressed with the interrogation aspect, where you can pump the suspect for information and through the new tech: MotionScan, you can actually see if they're lying to you or not.
MotionScan is exciting stuff and allows a near-perfect facial map of the subject; real actors portraying the characters lend a level of detail that was almost there in games like Heavy Rain, but not quite. Now MotionScan has blown this all away and watching the tell-tale ticks of a person's face is a skill you'll need to master, think Lie to Me only in 1947.
A character can give a lot away, too much blinking, too wide a smile or a smirk at the wrong time. Perhaps a sudden flush of colour or a spark of anger, it's all you'll need to prod them to get the information that Cole's looking for. It's this kind of gameplay that really takes the genre into the next level and pushes the game beyond a mere action/open world/sandbox title.
Of course it isn't just crime solving and so on, there's an action game here too. L.A. has been re-created with the kind of detail that we've come to expect from a title like this. So you can expect to engage in shootouts, car chases, running down suspects and exploration. There will be street crimes to keep you occupied but don't expect to take a best friend out for a drink or bowling, Rockstar are quick to point out that this game isn't about a GTA style of play.
Graphically it's looking pretty amazing so far, especially with MotionScan and the way that the characters convey emotions. The City of L.A is a fantastic looking place with the right vibe from the 1940's where you get the feeling that behind every bright light, every flash looking woman and every slick guy there's a knife just waiting to spring out and stab you in the back.
It's also refreshing to see a game that combines action with actual crime solving, so you're giving the old brain matter a workout rather than just a trigger finger.
It's packed with characters, characterisation and a level of detail that only the collaboration between Team Bondi and Rockstar can provide. We can't wait to see more of the game come May 17th in the US and a few days later in the UK. We adored Red Dead Redemption and from the look of L.A. Noire it's going to be another great year for Rockstar and their unique style of open world atmospheric games.