When Grand Theft Auto III hit store shelves it became a revolutionary title. We can look back at that game as the start of the “sand box” genre. As soon as GTA III exploded in popularity a genre was born and not only did the GTA series flourish but we saw the introduction of many other franchises that followed the same pattern. When we look back to L.A. Noire years from now I think that we will say that L.A. Noire had a similar effect on the industry. This title is a masterpiece and is up there as being one of the best titles of this generation. I have always had a huge amount of respect for Rockstar as they are always pushing the envelope and taking risks that no other studio will. L.A. Noire is set in the post war years of the late 1940’s and an amazing amount of detail went into the game to immerse you in that time period. From the clothing to the cars, the music and the “Golden Age” of Hollywood the development team over at Team Bondi hit a homerun in almost every aspect. This is a groundbreaking title in a lot of ways and definitely one that everyone should experience.
As an up and coming detective you will work at five different “desks” throughout the game. You will start at the “Patrol” desk and then eventually go up to the “Traffic,” “Homicide,” “Vice” and “Arson” desks respectively. L.A. Noire does start out a bit slowly but I think the development just wanted to make sure you knew how to do everything so they kind of hold your hand, so to speak, in the beginning. Each new desk that you get promoted to will give you a new partner to work with. Each partner has a different personality and Cole interacts with them differently. Team Bondi did a great job here making everything seem new so that you won’t get bored.
This title is from a much different viewpoint than what we usually see from Rockstar. In the GTA titles you normally play a criminal, however, in L.A. Noire, you are playing as a detective. As such, there isn’t as much action in L.A. Noire, however, there is still plenty to go around. As a detective you work to solve cases involving murder, arson, drugs and more. If there is a victim then you will have to utilize your investigative skills to search the body for clues as well as the surrounding areas. You will have witnesses to interview and suspects to interrogate. You need to pay attention to what everyone says and does because it might be relevant to the case later on. There are different locations to visit throughout the L.A. area and you will have to be diligent about searching those areas for clues. In this sense it is sort of like the evolution of the “point and click” adventure games. In another sense there are definitely times where you are involved in shoot outs and car chases which tend to push this title more towards the action/adventure genre. As you are searching different locations you will also want to make sure and check out any newspapers that you see. By looking that these you will be presented with a video that moves the main story along by showing some of the different events that are taking place in the city. The same people are usually shown in these videos and it helps you to get to know those characters.
There are also 40 street crimes (a.k.a. side quests) that you can tackle that are almost nothing but action. You might have to deal with a bank robbery, a hostage situation or something else that will test your skills. Fortunately there is a cover system in this game so if you are in a fire fight with a group of bank robbers you can take cover behind a police car so you don’t get shot up to much. As you are driving through the city you will receive a call from dispatch telling you about a crime that is taking place and asking whether or not you want to help out. It should be noted though that you can only receive those communications when you are in a police car. If you took another car from a location you were at then you will have to find a police car to get access to these side missions.
Throughout the development of this game Rockstar used a new performance capture technology called “MotionScan”. This new technology was instrumental in delivering the authentic performance from the actors. This is the first title where you could ever truly read the expressions of the people you were speaking with. You can see every nuance that is happening from a slight frown, shifty eyes or if that person seems to be nervous. You can even tell who a lot of the actors actually are. The big moment for me was when I was working on a murder case and I had to visit the victim’s home. As soon as I saw the husband my jaw dropped because I immediately recognized him. It was Greg Grunberg who played the role of “Matt Parkman” in the television show Heroes. It was actually kind of cool that he played a cop in Heroes and in this game he was suspected of committing a murder. There were also a few actors from the television show “Mad Men”, including Aaron Staton, who portrayed the main character in L.A. Noire, Cole Phelps. When you are interrogating someone you have three different options that you can choose from. By listening to what they have to say and paying attention to their mannerisms you have to decide which route to take. If you think they are telling the truth then you can ask some more questions. If you doubt what they are saying then you can say so and that might potentially open up brand new clues or lines of dialogue. If you know they are flat out lying then you can call them out and say they are a liar. Once you call them a liar you will need to provide some proof to back up your accusation. If you provide the wrong piece of evidence then they will probably make fun of you and then refuse to say anything else. In other words, you might have just lost an opportunity to prosecute them or at least get a crucial new clue. This is why you need to make sure you search everywhere if you are at a crime scene or somewhere else that is relevant to the case. If you miss an important clue then you might not be able to convict someone later in the case. If you are completely stumped and you don’t know what to do next you can also use “Intuition” points. If you choose to use an “Intuition” point during an interrogation then one of the wrong answers will be taken away and you will also see which option is most popular with the community. When I say community I am talking about everyone that has signed up with Rockstar’s social club and has their account linked with this game. If you are at a location and you think you might be missing something you can also use “Intuition” to reveal all of the clues in that one specific area. It is a great hint system and you only get a few points at a time so that you can’t abuse the system.
The presentation of the game is absolutely stunning blurring the lines between a game and an interactive movie at times. Each case is handled similar to a television show. What I mean by that is that once the case is wrapped up everything fades out to black and then the new case begins with you in the police station getting your next assignment. It is almost like you just finished watching one episode of your favorite detective show and you decide to immediately watch the next one. There are also two ways that you can play this game. You can either play it in the traditional way or you can play it with everything in black and white to really get the Noire feeling. Utilizing this option also makes the game a bit harder since you don’t have the contrasting colors standing out against the environment such as red blood on a sidewalk. For people who love to search for collectibles there are 95 different types of vehicles around Los Angeles as well as film reels to find. Those combined with the 40 street crimes should keep you busy for a while if you want to take a break from the main story.
Overall, L.A. Noire is an absolutely amazing title. The development team over at Team Bondi and Rockstar have hit a homerun here and have set the bar for any future titles in this genre. The Motion Scan technology is unbelievable and adds a layer of complexity to the game that we haven’t seen before. The way the development team blended different genres is very impressive and something that a lot of other studios can’t seem to get right. I’m sure that we will begin to see an influx of these titles coming out over the next couple of years and it should be interesting to see how they stack up against Rockstar’s newest franchise. L.A. Noire is, without a doubt, one of the defining titles for this generation. Be sure not to miss out on this title as L.A. Noire is a game that deserves a spot in everyone’s library.