Rockstar Games is a name everyone is familiar with. From running around (guns blazing) as that loveable immigrant Niko Bellic, to quietly suffocating an extra from Insane Clown Posse in Manhunt, this gaming powerhouse has given so much to the gaming community, and most of it good. Having said that, I had fairly high expectations when I opened up L.A. Noire. Not only did this game meet my expectations, but it blew them out of the water.
You play as the protagonist Cole Phelps, a war hero having recently joined the LAPD. You begin the game as a run-of-the-mill beat cop, but with ruthless determination (and a strict adherence to the rules), you rise up the ranks towards detective and beyond. Along the way, you are teamed up with various partners. They’re all well thought out, although they tend to range from somewhat rude to downright obnoxious, having given up going by the book and just letting the seediness of the city pull them in.
The game is set in a typical 1940’s post-war Los Angeles, and is recreated with astounding attention to detail, although not all the landmarks are completely accurate. Rockstar Games really pulled out all the stops in this game's fairly long gestation. L.A. Noire employs use of "motion-scanning", a type of motion capture technology used to record the characters in the game. The neat thing about this is that the actors who play the characters look like they do in real life. Cole Phelps is played by Aaron Staton, of "MadMen" fame, and in the game he looks just like he does in reality. With motion-scanning, not only does the exceptional detail make the game more immersive, it also proves itself as a core feature of the game. Once you have scoured crime scenes looking for clues you are often able to take the suspect down to the station for questioning. This is when things get really interesting as you can decide whether they are telling the truth or not just by looking at their facial features. Those speaking the truth will generally stare at you with a somewhat vacant expression, while those that have something to hide with look shiftily from side-to-side and perhaps fidget in their seat. Another great feature in the game is the ability to play it in total black and white. While this may seem a bit unusual to some, I urge you to give it a try. It provides even the most hardcore Noire fans with everything they could want and offers the game an even sharper edge.
As mentioned, you approach a crime scene and need to find clues in order to build up evidence to solve your case and ideally put the perpetrator behind bars. When walking around a crime scene, the controller will vibrate and music will chime, this is a useful feature indicating that you're near a clue. Acting upon things makes Cole investigate the item of interest further. This ranges from him picking up a tube of lipstick (to see what brand and colour it is), to examining a newspaper and having a short cutaway scene appear on screen. All of these clues will then be added to your notebook. This is where all your clues, locations and suspect information is kept, and forms the core store of information while you are out solving crimes.
L.A. Noire does feature an over-arching storyline that ties together brilliantly in the climax of the game. It features all that you’d hope from Rockstar Games, from driving and shooting, to chasing down suspects on foot through the streets of the city. It employs some cutting edge technology that makes it possible for the player to become totally immersed in the game, losing countless hours solving cases. It was everything it should have been, and quite a lot more besides. Definitely another winner from Rockstar Games.