Beforehand there was already a lot of fuzz surrounding the new Motion Scan technology, the innovative piece of software that would make the characters in L.A. Noire not only life-like but also as human as possible, so that the specific gameplay from this new Rockstar and Team Bondi production became possible.
And we must admit, it’s a huge leap forward for games. The characters finally look like humans from flesh and blood and although graphically we’re not far enough to totally lose ourselves in the experience (for instance hair, skin and eyes still don’t look real enough) they do make that you sit at the point of your seat when questioning someone. To dissect them with a lot of attention, watch every muscle or study eyebrows for a revealing nerve tick or and exaggeration too many.
After all, you’re agent Cole Phelps and your task is to uphold the law in Los Angeles in the ’40s and track down those who break it. But before we delve deeper into the gameplay, let’s make clear that the faces, animations and acting make all other games look bare naked. And this time we do talk about true action. Characters are believeable, funny, nervous or irritating and each type enhances the experience you get even more. It never happens that a script and voices pass by of such a high level and allow you to participate. As of now we’ll never be pleased again with less and use L.A. Noire as the standard for the future in this area.
Also the setting is great. It surprises with lots of detail, beautiful decors and credible surroundings that could have run away from a movie. But as MILF lovers would say: “fuck graphics, go gameplay”. You start at the scene of a crime and collect the necessary clues. This works quite simple and you get subtle help from the sound. Once you’ve found all of them the real work starts: interrogation.
Here you need to carefully watch the faces of the people you interrogate, know very well which evidence you have and how to use it. If someone for instance looks nervous after a certain question you can choose to accuse them – and show evidence they’re not telling the truth – of “doubt”. With the latter you continue the series of questions. Beware as you only get one chance to say you don’t believe them and prove it, and if you lose that chance you lose a piece of the story. In the beginning this isn’t a real problem, but the further you get, the better suspects can lie and the smarter you need to act.
In other words: a bit like Phoenix Wright, if you’ve ever played those DS games. Next to that there’s of course also quite a lot of action present, and that reminded us of Mafia II. Think of car chases, fighting with criminals and of course the unfriendly exchange of lead. You probably won’t be surprised that these elements don’t reach the level of specialised third person shooters, but nobody will complain about that seeing the originality of the rest of the game.
Rockstar didn’t only watch movies and series to find their cast and build the story, but also the structure of the game is wellmade. Just like in Alan Wake you get some sort of episodes that are just big enough to finish in one session and it’s like watching the ’24′ DVDs: you want to check out just one episode more. That way you constantly get something new on your plate and things don’t start to bore nor do you get the feeling you know the entire world already like after a while in GTA IV. But again, don’t expect an open, free world like in that latest reference. This is a story you make yourself, but one with a tight structure.
L.A. Noire isn’t perfect, for that not all gameplay elements are worked out equally strong and I fear we’ll have to wait for a next generation of consoles before we completely get immersed in the experience. Still, it’s an accomplshment from the devs that that’s all we can make remarks about. This unique game isn’t only innovative but also very adult in its acting, atmosphere, script and presentation. A real jewel so to speak, and a step forward towards something that could once evolve into a genre that can’t be described anymore with a genre-stamp. Buy it, and twitter that we’re already waiting for L.A. Noire 2.