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L.A. Noire Hands-On Impressions

by on03/12/2011
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Coming into PAX East we only seen a few videos about L.A. Noire. Most of them praised their actual development in terms of making characters. With a ton of effort being put on a real police work it was only natural that the characters followed suit, with MotionScan that enables them to capture and scan every nuance of a real actor’s facial performances and put them right into the game itself.

I have seen plenty of games that try to put you into the shoes of a CSI, but they feel like generic movie games. L.A. Noire uses historical cases from 1947 and puts you in the shoes of Cole Phelps a World War II Veteran who joins the ranks of the LAPD. When it comes to Rockstar making a game universe you can rest assure that is done well and will exceed its expectations game after game.

Enough about that, here is the experience that we had the honor to sit in on:

We sat in on a case called the Red Lipstick Murder. They start it out with a little CSI flashback opening where you witness the murder, and unlike CSI a crowbar to the head was followed with a fountain of blood shooting up the screen in the cold of night. You are then given your case at the station with the rest of the force and are put on your way to the scene. It is worth stating now that you have a partner and you can have chauffeur you around if you aren’t feeling up to the task. For time reasons the partner drove and loaded you into that area.

We are at a park and as it was stated to us, the amount of detail put into the areas and crime scenes are supposed to look as identical as possible. The developers worked hard and researched all of their settings and came out with an eight square mile 1947 Los Angeles (I would check out billboards and advertisements as much as possible, great creativity.)

While on the crime scene you can talk to the police on scene to give you a little rundown of what they have figured out thus far. After that you are free to explore, we talked to the medical examiner on scene. He tells you some more stuff that will end up in your detective notebook that you can refer to, after you are allowed to go hands on with the body. You use the thumbsticks to choose a body part and then select which one to examine head, arms, or torso, mostly because we are all immature. On our case as I stated, the woman was killed by blunt force trauma from a crowbar. So we selected her head and you are able to move the head at will, I don’t know if you can turn her head into a puppet, but the functionality is there.  As you move around the body part you will find clues depending on if you move it the correct way (if there is anything to find). On the stomach of the woman were words written in lipstick, some initials, curse words, and just smears. They don’t really mean anything yet, but it is obvious that this wasn’t just for fun.

We then stepped away from the body to check out the crime scene. There are clues littered around the scene and will give you new leads. Although you can check out anything on the scene that doesn’t mean that everything is useful. For example we came across her purse and other than findout her lipstick wasn’t the one used on her dead body we found nothing. As we continued to examine the crime scene we were told that the footprints on scene were male size 8’s and we found a globe that was made like a Rubik cube and had three separate sections.

Your character picks it up and you choose which section to turn, when you line it up it opens up and its a lighter from a restaurant table. The restaurant’s name is engraved on it and it is your next lead. So all players can enjoy the game they made your partner a little guide too. If you find yourself stuck searching for clues your partner will eventually keep moving around the scene sort of hinting that there is something to find. If there is nothing to find you are given subtle sound effects and music also. A score that dictates an investigative tone may seize when you have found everything to discover, or if you leave an area with clues still in it it will also inform you of that too.
Arriving at the restaurant we chat up the hostess and are directed to the owner who is sitting in the back. This is our first interrogation, we are given the options to believe him, doubt him, or completely call him out as a liar. This is where you need to start paying attention to detail. The first question or two it was obvious that this man was distraught about learning that the woman is dead. He tells us that she was fighting with her husband and you can sense a relationship. Then we asked him another question and after he replied his eyes started shifting, he started tucking in his lip, and you could tell something was up. So of course we doubted his response and he spilled the beans that he wasn’t completely honest.
He gives us the license plate of a car and tell us where our victim lived.

We walk away from the interrogation and I use the phone before I leave, called a Gamewell you talk to an operator that you can given information to that you need looked into. We naturally give her the license plate number and proceed. It is realistic where we aren’t given immediate effect which is fantastic. So the APB is out on a suspect’s car and we are on the way to the victims house.

At the victim’s house we investigate yet again. We notice a broken window, but really there were no clues. We decide to talk to a neighbor who was strange, but gave us the address of where the husband was staying it at. The couple apparently was having trouble and distance was the best option.

When we arrive at the address we took caution. My partner and I draw our guns and get ready for entry, we bust the door open and have our guns on the husband. He looks terrified and was putting up no sort of resistance. We were told in situations like these we could fire warning shot into the air, and things like that to take control of the situation.

Needless to say we sat the husband down and my partner kept an eye on him as I looked around the place. I went to the bedroom and found a pair of shoes that were a size 10-11, meaning the shoe doesn’t fit. I investigate a little more and find a legal pad, and like any good cop does we used a pencil and shaded the top page showing the indenture of the last note written. It described how he needed his wife taken care of and that he was thankful.

This did not sit well with Phelps so we start the interrogation. It followed the same style and he appeared to be very upset over the fact that his wife was dead. We asked him some questions about last night when his wife was murdered and he gave us contradicting information. We doubted what he was saying was true so we opened our notebook and told him about how the restaurant owner said that he called several times to have him pick up his wife and received no answer. This made the husband upset and he broke down in a sense. Now in these interrogation situations you can use things called Intuition Points that work as free clues, you can get a choice eliminated of the three for an interrogation question, or you can momentarily get all the clues on a crime scene shown to you.

Phelps isn’t a super-cop, so to let us see what could happen if you get the suspect aggravated we purposely told him he was lying. This is where we noticed the Rockstar humor and a little action. The distraught husband told us he left the house last night because his wife was trying to clobber him with a frying pan, he then tells us “So, I had to slap her down” my partner then responded, “Reasonable.” In their defense it is 1947, although the laughter in the room was excessive. As far as the action goes my partner got in the face of the husband and was punched in the face. I then get into a 1 on 1 fist fight with the gentleman and was greeted with similar GTA fist fighting combat. We won of course and cuffed the man bringing him in for questioning.

From there we are told that the story breaks off in various directions. You are given 4-7 cases for each desk you are promoted to. Each case takes from 45 minutes upward meaning there is a lot of game to play.

Very different is the style of the game I think it is because Rockstar is finally starting to mature a little and are shying away from the constant shoot civilians, run from cops formula. L.A. Noire is bound to upset the fanboys who have never used their brains in their lives and threaten to riot because they can’t kill hookers, but maybe those fans aren’t needed.

This is not a straight action adventure game, it requires you to think and use your detective skills. The action in my opinion is a bonus, it is evenly spaced out and will give a good change of pace to players. Situations like car chases, foot chases, shootouts, and fist fights will give you nice breaks from the thinking, but it is meant to feel almost like a movie, I wouldn’t expect a bunch of action and if you are open to innovation you will welcome it with open arms.