|System: PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Team Bondi and Rockstar Games|
|Pub: Rockstar Games|
|Release: May 17, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence|
The motion capture system shines beyond its usefulness in interrogations, however. With the impressive detail allowed for facial expressions, the game's characters finally do credit to their voice actors' performances. When Phelps mentions that his new partner is "welcoming" him to the Homicide Department, the sarcasm is clear on his face. When a matronly neighbor expresses shock at the events happening next door, her face and gestures show not mere shock, but the kind of shock expressed by a woman with outraged middle-class morals. This kind of advanced characterization and subtlety of expression truly brings the game's characters alive and adds a great deal of plausibility to the game's world.
Although the characters themselves look impressive, the rest of the game's graphics are no slouch, either. Rockstar has done its usual excellent job of realizing the look of a city in this game. The plants and buildings in the game are authentically Southern Californian, causing this native daughter of the state to feel right at home. At the same time, Rockstar has obviously gone to great lengths to depict the 1940's, from the cars to the fashions to the rotary telephones. It looks like it will be a treat to simply drive around the city in the squad car, taking in the sights of one of America's greatest cities from an earlier, albeit no less complicated, time.
Although L.A. Noire's sound wasn't always easy to hear thanks to the rather noisy convention in our background, the jazz-filled soundtrack seemed properly atmospheric and the voice actors all sounded solid. The most interesting part of the sound design that we saw, however, was the way sound effects were used in order to aid investigations. When Phelps is searching an area, a sound effect plays if there is an object nearby that can be investigated, preventing the game from becoming the 3D version of the old adventure game pixel hunts, although our guide was quick to point out that not every object will actually be useful to the investigation. Also, as long as there are items in an area to investigate, the "investigation music" plays. When the music stops, the player knows that they've seen everything they can. It's a nice way to assist the player without adding visual interface elements or the usual sparkles or glows around interactable objects.
One aspect of the game that we didn't see a great deal of was the action sequences. While L.A. Noire will be a slower-paced game than Rockstar's usual offerings, it will include gunfights, fist fights, car chases, and other staples of the crime drama genre. We saw one fistfight during our preview, which occurred when a suspect became agitated as evidence against him was presented, and it looked like a fairly standard action sequence. It will be interesting to see how the larger action sequences play out, since while Phelps won't be bound to today's standards for police officers, he'll presumably want to minimize damage to property and innocent bystanders.
Our preview ended partway through "The Red Lipstick Murder," since Rockstar didn't want to spoil the solution to the case for us. After the preview, we asked if it was possible to permanently mess up a case, causing a required reload or restart, and were told that there wouldn't be a way to completely fail a case, because there will always be a workaround for players who miss vital evidence or botch an interrogation. The penalty for poor investigative work is that the player may not have a full picture of what happened in the case, but there won't be any classic adventure game moments where the player can't proceed with the game and doesn't know why.
L.A. Noire is shaping up to be an impressive game, bringing cutting-edge technology, accessible gameplay, and a bit of action to the underused crime-solving game genre. It's worth a look for the motion-capture technology alone, but many other aspects of the game look impressive as well. Rockstar has captured the look and feel of Los Angeles in the 1940s and is working to create a game that reaches a level of maturity beyond their previous offerings. If the story and overall gameplay can hold up to the snippets we have seen of the game so far, Rockstar is going to have a big winner on its hands with L.A. Noire.
CCC Freelance Writer