by Ryan Cope
previewed on X360
So What Have We Got Here?
The location: Los Angeles. The date: 1947. The problem: crime. The streets are rife with robbery, drugs and murder while gangsters are running the town. Their only threat is the cops who run around after them like mindless donkeys following one lead after another. Everything’s going to change though as Cole Phelps, a World War II veteran, is about to take to the streets with a clean blue uniform and a shiny new badge. Players will take on the role of Phelps as he rises from an average beat cop to a top-notch detective.
Los Angeles is filled with many dark secrets and a lot of which take place hidden from view. Phelps must dig deeper than anyone before him and find the truth behind the racketeering conspiracies, the source of the drugs and the reasons behind the brutal murders. But he won’t like what he finds, as the truth is filled with backroom politics, shadowy figures, betrayals from the inside and an underworld of crime like no other.
All In A Day’s Work
Rockstar and Team Bondi have worked hard to bring forth another revolutionary game that is as beautiful and stunning as former Rockstar projects. Red Dead Redemption was called a western GTA, but Rockstar have not followed the same lines here. L.A. Noire is not just another GTA game in a different setting; while it still retains some of the basic gameplay elements of previous Rockstar games, it brings very innovative to the table.
A typical day’s work in the life of Cole Phelps goes along the lines of investigation, chases, gunfights, fistfights, interrogation and car chases. While previous Rockstar games have generally been combat based, L.A. Noire focuses on the investigation and evolution of a case. While combat is still present it is downplayed so that emphasis can be put on the story, finding evidence and conducting interrogations.
We’ve Got A New Case
L.A. Noire has a very linear storyline moving from one case to the next. While players do have access to free roam the open sandbox world of 1947 Los Angeles, there are no side quests or mini games to undertake. Such a move seems like a step backwards for Rockstar since many of their previous games have supplied players with hours of extra gameplay content outside of the main story. This may seem like a negative at first, but it should in fact work out to be a big plus as much more depth has been invested into the cases that Phelps must solve. Each case can be completed in many different ways with several possible outcomes that will help fight back the apparent linearity of the game. L.A. Noire keeps the feature of random encounters as seen in Red Dead Redemption, which means that if Phelps hears a crime taking place over his radio he can intervene and assist his fellow cops.
Instead of having levels in L.A. Noire, Phelps will climb the career ladder and move to different desks; each with their own specific purpose and individual partner. With five desks (patrol, traffic, homicide, vice and arson) there is a huge variety of styles that gives the player a look at many different crime scenes and cases. Each desk has several investigation to be solved before a promotion is made available to Phelps. At the start of each case Phelps will be called to a crime scene where he will be told the situation and then examine the scene for any kind of evidence. Once all the evidence is found its time to follow up on any leads discovered from the original evidence. From there onwards players will be expected to question suspects, find more clues and eventually track down the truth – or at least hope to.
The Usual Suspect
L.A. Noire uses innovative facial technology that captures every little expression on an actor’s face and transports it straight onto their character model. Team Bondi really wanted to make it a realistic experience and needed players to feel like real detectives. By using this facial technology players can see the slightest expression in a characters face that could tell they are lying, hiding something or telling the truth. With the flick of a smile, the rise of an eyebrow or the twitch of a nerve at the mention of someone’s name, solving the case depends on how well the player can read a person.
Players will have access to Phelps’ notebook that will holds all the information on each case as well as the people involved. New pieces of evidence or information will open up lines of enquiry. Whenever Phelps questions a suspect, players will choose questions from his notebook that have been unlocked by previous investigations. Choosing the right questions at the right time is an essential practice as asking something too soon might scare the suspect and cause them to be uncooperative. After each question players can choose to believe the suspect, threaten them, charm them or accuse them outright for lying. Reading a suspects expressions is vital to choosing the right response as, once again, if the wrong option is selected a suspect can become useless and ruin the case.
Team Bondi and Rockstar are engaging in a small leap of faith by taking a detour from their usual style, but it will be a welcome one. They hope that L.A. Noire will make a step forward for game design and have other developers following in their wake . The vision is that it will encourage less games to be based entirely on violent gunfights and explosive car chases with a shift in focus to investigation, NPC interaction and player choice. Maybe Rockstar feel that they are guilty for some of the abundance of action-focused game producing. Whether or not L.A. Noire actually manages to have any kind of impact, it can still be respected for its fresh take on a player-reliant narrative. While it will still contain aspects of casual combat, Rockstar have been selling L.A. Noire on its unusual approach of interrogation and investigation. This unique selling point ensures that L.A. Noire is adding up to be a very interesting game indeed, and one that players looking for something different should anticipate .