L.A. Noire is a dark, moody and thought-provoking adventure that?s shaping up to be one of the artistic highlights of the games industry for 2011. So I?m constantly ashamed of myself for breaking out the ol? Chicago accent every time I see it in action.
It doesn?t look very comedic at all - you play a 1940s war veteran-cum-detective who gets embroiled in a string of gruesome murder cases that ultimately lead to the mystery of the Black Dahlia (or copycat murders thereof - nobody knows yet). Women are fatally slashed, stripped of all dignity and disgraced in ditches with peculiar messages written over their bodies in lipstick. And yet there?s me, doing impressions of Inspector Gadget
If I really was main protagonist Cole Phelps and not some part-Danish goon holding a controller, the rest of the police force would probably think I was on drugs or something. Funnily enough, as I play Rockstar and Team Bondi?s noir thriller for the first time, I?m told that there comes a point where Phelps isn?t quite as straightforward as he seems at the start of the game.
His war history helps him rise through the ranks very quickly - if you remember SPOnG?s last preview
, chapters in L.A. Noire
assume the form of desks in an investigations office - but as he experiences more horrific cases, he ends up having a personal battle of fears.
Indeed, I begin my playthrough at the midway point of the storyline, where Phelps appears to be more comfortable with his colleagues and starts to mouth off every once in a while. He?s not the completely polite smooth-talker that I saw in the First Look
, which was set several chapters earlier.
The case I undertook was a relatively lengthy one called The Silk Stocking Murder, some way into your time on the Homicide desk. This seems to be where it all gets interesting in the grander scheme of things - although each case holds a self-contained story, they also contain underlying plot points that relate to the 1947 Black Dahlia mystery.
Here, officials within the L.A. Police Department are at an impasse - Phelps believes the string of murders were all committed by the same person, while his associate Galloway thinks it?s the work of copycat murderers. The chief of department is happy to have anyone behind bars to maintain a bit of peace, and I suspect it?s this apparent ignorance toward justice that will lead Phelps on a path to self-reflection.
At the beginning of the case, you see Phelps and Galloway getting a briefing from the chief in a downtown diner. After the cutscene you really only have one option for investigation - the crime scene. A mini-map in the corner pinpoints your destination as you drive the police car around the crowded streets of L.A. So far, so GTA
- controlling vehicles feels very much like the open world Rockstar franchise we know and love.
That?s where the similarities end - reaching your destination results in a cutscene showing Phelps and Galloway exiting the car and introducing themselves to the coroner and crime scene at large. An Hispanic girl lies naked, slashed and with a message, ?Kiss the Blood. BD? scrawled over her body. After that, it?s down to your observation skills. Various objects and stains litter themselves throughout the scene and you need to trundle around - almost with a virtual fine toothcomb - to detect them.
This is where the clever sound direction comes into play. As you venture into an area where there may be a clue, light jazz music begins to play - stand right next to an interactive object and you?ll hear the plink of piano keys. Pressing the X button will allow Phelps to pick up the item, which you can then investigate further using the analogue stick. All worthwhile clues (there will be objects that are red herrings) will be met with some dialogue and its addition into your notebook.