Rockstar sent us an invitation to try out their next release, L.A. Noire and being the game aficionados that we are, obviously we accepted.
Once we got comfy on the couch at their Singapore office with the surround speakers around us and the curtains drawn, the Rockstar guy proceeded to explain to us what L.A. Noire was basically about. We were first brought through a mission to demonstrate the new gameplay aspects before we were allowed to handle the mission itself.
L.A. Noire does not share much in common with Rockstar’s most famous creation, GTA, except perhaps the camera angle and control scheme. We get to play a good guy this time, and missions are based on solving crime cases, which get more complicated as you move up the ranks. You start with cases you encounter when you’re a patrol police officer, and when you solve cases and move up the ranks, you get to try your hand at homicide cases.
We got a try at a homicide case and that’s when we realized how different L.A. Noire was compared to any of Rockstar’s previous releases. Once we got to a crime scene, the game allowed us to switch into body examination mode. We examined the body, and the game would automatically take notes of clues we noticed, and we would be able to refer to them any time in our notebook. The controller vibrated as we examined a certain body part and if there was a need to further scrutinize the body part. Holding down a button let us examine the body part closely for additional clues.
After examining the body, we then took a walk around the crime scene, feeling like we were in a 1940’s version of CSI. Every time we would be near a possible clue, the game would play a certain piece of music in the background to prompt us to take a closer look. Walking around, we took a look at the blood trails and clues littered around the crime scene. It seems the game does not penalize you for missing out clues, though it does make your task of apprehending the culprit all the more challenging if you miss out important clues.
After combing through the crime scene, and getting a clue to where the victim lived, it was time to head off to the victim’s boarding home where she lived. There we examined her room for more clues and interrogated her landlady.
Every interrogation scene plays out the same way; you get a list of questions to ask depending on the clues you have uncovered so far. This is where the most interesting piece of tech in gaming lately comes to the fore. Rockstar has used MotionScan technology which captures an actor’s facial expressions, and we did notice the facial cues and the shifty eyes when determining if the person we were interrogating was lying. You get the options during the interrogation to determine if the suspect is telling the truth, or you can doubt them if you feel they are withholding something, or you can tell them outright that you think they’re lying.
This makes for a more cerebral approach to video gaming then we have experienced; the facial cues, expressions, gestures and the clues you pick up along the way, all help in solving your case. In a way, you don’t exactly guess an animated character’s reactions; rather you are trying to decipher the cues and expressions of an actual actor’s animated face onscreen.
Once we ran out of questions to ask, the interrogation was over. Guessing correctly if the suspect is lying or telling the truth will yield more useful clues and thus make your investigation much easier. Clues can range from more questions to ask another potential suspect, or an additional address for us to investigate.
We did experience a fight scene during the case, and though the action was not as fast and furious as Red Dead Redemption or GTA, it was by no means slow and tedious as you dodge punches and return some with some of your own. Driving around the city will be familiar to GTA fans, and an amusing experience as he explained, since there was no GPS back in the 40s, pressing square will actually get your partner giving you directions on where to turn and head to next.
After completing the case (no spoilers guys!), we still stand by the fact that L.A. Noire is far different from Rockstar’ previous releases. It is heavy on narrative and the game takes a very slow and deliberate pace as we went around examining clues and interrogating suspects. Playing L.A. Noire was an experience that can be likened to watching a movie which provided us a chance to interact and be in the main character’s shoes. It was a definitely more immersive experience though some clues and scenes will end abruptly and catch us off guard.