Date: 06-05-2011 10:02
Author: Mason King

PDC profile: Mason

After years of waiting and anticipation, L.A. Noire has finally made itís release onto PlayStation 3. The game's creators promised us ground breaking game-play and innovation all round, but does it deliver?

LAPD Detective

L.A. Noire takes many risks in game design by pushing gaming beyond what we have become accustomed to over the past few years. New motion capture technology, less emphasis on guns, and actually being the good guy, were all very risky choices for the developers to make. It could even be argued that it was risky not adding any multi-player into the game in an era where almost every game released now has some sort of online functionality. But the risks have paid off, because inside this package is a beautifully crafted world that kept me hooked from start to finish.

The game is set in 1947 and follows the story of Cole Phelps, an ex-marine who served in WWII, who has returned home to Los Angeles and resumed his life as an LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) detective. However, life has been hard from the fact that crime and corruption in the city has spiraled out of control since the end of the war, and the LAPD have had their public image damaged as a result. Phelpsí bravery and skill could save the department from their public image disaster. Throughout the game Phelps works with various partners in the LAPD to solve a series of crimes in the city, while rising up the ranks inside the force and becoming a well known detective to everyone around the city and the department.

The game plays in a third person perspective, very similar to GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption, partly due to it using the same RAGE engine as those titles. However, donít think this allows for reckless driving, because unlike the previous games, L.A. Noire's main character is cop with the responsibility to protect the city's people. For example, causing crashes and driving into crowds will lead to poor reviews on the end of case reports. This might sound dull, but I found it to make the game more serious and kept me more involved and aware when driving. Also, if I ever got sick of driving, there was always an option to have my partner drive by long holding the button when entering a car.

During the game, Phelps visits many crime scenes and other places driving around the city. There are chases, both on foot and in vehicles. There is the occasional gunfight, but only seems to happen when it makes sense. I found this variety of gameplay, that is absent in other games, enjoyable. It would always bring out something fresh and new, even towards the end of the game. Most cases assign a crime scene to explore for evidence and leads, which is then followed by questioning witnesses and suspects to get to the bottom of the situation. While snooping around for evidence, objects can be picked up and examined, and bodies can be searched for any points of interest. The crime scene sections of the game are very enjoyable, and allowed me to dig out the clues and evidence which is more engaging than just driving somewhere and killing someone without any background to the situation. The investigations were engaging with each case forcing me to think about possible suspects and the pieces of evidence that need to be pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. I can't say that this is a simple game. It has plenty of plot twists during each case, as well as throughout the overall story.

Crime scenes are handled very similar to the evidence hunting in Heavy Rain. When walking around the scene, a chime or vibration will occur when something to investigate is nearby. A tap of the button allows objects to be picked up or a scene to be checked, where further investigation and manipulation of evidence can occur. Some clues had to be dug out through little mini-games, such as rubbing a pencil over a blank notepad to reveal an etching of what was previously written on the pad. These break-away sections are fun and easy to play, as well as an interesting and clever way of collecting evidence that wasn't visible at first sight. During an investigation, it is possible to find murder weapons, phone numbers, and addresses, which makes it easy to figure out what to do or where to go next.

Whoís Asking?

Another important gameplay feature in L.A. Noire is the questioning/interrogations. The game uses advanced motion capture technology on the characters faces that makes them look lifelike, and this shines during these sections of the game. In Cole's notebook there is a series of questions to ask people about the investigation. After selecting what to ask, I then had to pay close attention to the answer, before coming to a decision about whether or not they were telling the truth or lying. This is a real joy to do because attention must be paid on their words, actions, speech and muscles in their face to make a decision on whether to trust their story. For example, lies are usually told without eye contact. But cops can't just go accusing people without proof, and so the evidence collected during investigations comes in handy to split the lies from the truth. This is not just fun to perform, but also distracting as I sat in awe as for the first time in a game people actually look like real people. Itís truly impressive tech and isnít something to be missed.

Other parts of the game, such as the chase scenes, are fresh and fun to do, even if they do start to feel a tad repetitive towards the end of the game. When someone does make a run for it , I had to quickly pursue them, following the suspect through alleyways and over rooftops to catch them. Suspects can be tackled to the ground if Cole manages to get close to them, and it's possible to also corner them off and knock him out with a quick fight. Cole is even able to cause them to surrender by frightening them with a firing of his gun. Either way itís vital to catch the suspects involved with the investigation, because they can provide evidence that makes or breaks the case. This is just another example of why I enjoy this game so much; cases start with bare details, clues are slowly found, suspects are tracked, links and evidence are uncovered, and all of this is put together to close a case.

City of Angels
However, the biggest star of all from the game isn't the characters, or the impressive motion capture technology, but rather the city itself. Los Angeles is recreated to such a high degree of detail and accuracy it is stunning, and I really got the sense of being in the city in the 1940s. I tended to just cruise around the city and enjoy the fantastic and perfectly recreated buildings, cars, and people. Itís amazing how real and detailed it feels. The size of the city kept it interesting wherever I went, such as the upper class Hollywood district, the urban redevelopment area for war heroes, and the bustling streets packed with shops, services, and houses.

I was stunned by the array of vehicles, with 95 lovely cars recreated from the era. They are packed with detail, from the logos on the hood, to the interior light that comes on whenever someone opens a door. The damage model is also fantastic, with real-life crashes happening when reckless driving can't be avoided. Wheels fall off after a serious crash, sides get scratched when driving into other objects, and windows get smashed realistically. The damage model is also fantastic for other objects, with benches crumbling when driven into, and chairs falling apart when people are thrown onto them in fights. A lot of attention to detail has been put on this game, and it certainly pays off to create a believable and fun city. There are ever many parts of the city that are only briefly used in the story if at all, which are still perfectly recreated, above and under ground, such as the hidden train network that's used as a set-piece on a side mission for about 10 seconds, but still it is given a high-quality finish.

Besides the main game, cases can be revisited once they have been completed once, where star ratings can be improved and alternative endings can be found. Once all the cases on a desk have been completed, I also got access to a free roam mode entitled "Streets of LA," where I could solve some of the 40 street crimes that get reported randomly while driving, or just kick back and enjoy the view. There is also hidden vehicles, landmarks to be discovered, and hidden gold film reels that can be found throughout free roam. Finding collectibles is a great way for the life of the game to be extended, and is also a great way to enjoy the city and discover areas not featured in the main story. The DLC available right now provides extra cases and costumes, which should provide a few more hours of gameplay, but I have yet to experience any DLC at the time of writing. Plus, there are more DLC cases planned for the future.

Getting to the Bottom of It
L.A. Noire is a fantastic game and is a personal highlight from this generation of games. Inside this package lies a deep and engaging story that lasts around 15-20 hours, which kept me hooked throughout the entire game. The extra modes and promise of extra cases through DLC will ensure that the game will continue to be interesting, even after all the cases are finished. It is a breath of fresh air on a console crowded with generic FPS titles, and is definitely something not to miss. I can not recommend this game enough.

L.A. Noire was developed by Team Bondi, published by Rockstar, and is available now for the PS3 on Blu-ray. Prior to writing this review, I played this game for around 20 hours, finishing up the story, exploring the free roam mode, and improving some scores on my cases.

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