Previews// L.A. Noire PAX Impressions

Posted 30 Mar 2011 12:11 by
Games: L.A. Noire
I have been hearing a lot about L.A. Noire in the build up to PAX East 2011. But rather than dive into the material that had thus far been released for the game, I decided to attend my scheduled preview event with little to no prior knowledge of it. This I tend to do with games that are surrounded by a hype cloud, as such attention makes a mess of one's own opinions of the game before you see if for yourself. Thankfully it was a tactic that I did well to observe, for LA Noire is shaping up to be a stunning game.

Based in 1947 Los Angeles, the player takes on the role of Cole Phelps, a war veteran who has started working for the LAPD as a detective. Alongside him is Rusty Galloway, an old grizzled cop who isn't very keen on working with Phelps. The preview kicked off with a murder case called the 'Red Lipstick Murder' that Phelps has been assigned to solve.

The game is structured as a series of cases that the player must solve in order to progress. There is a straight path from start to finish with some side missions tacked onto the main storyline that the player can choose to take on.

As you'd expect, being a detective requires the player to be terribly observant of their surroundings as well as the people they interrogate. When in a crime scene the player moves around to find clues, in a similar way to Heavy Rain. The big difference here is that rather than glasses that project holograms, Phelps has to rely on intuition and the sound of a piano playing a few chords to find clues. I thought this to be a very clever and subtle way to highlight points of interest in a scene.

The scene played out with Phelps searching for clues and managing to uncover some leads. He and Galloway proceed to drive around LA hunting down people who knew the victim in an attempt to try and find the killer. During this search they question people and it is at this point the motion capture technology used to develop the game comes to the fore.

Called MotionScan, it does away with the dots that are placed on people's bodies and instead uses scanning technology that is not too dissimilar to Kinect, only it is far more precise. This enables the developer to employ real life actors to play the characters in the game. By doing so the long sought after believable facial expressions in a video game have finally come into being. Granted it's something many people have heard before, but until you see it up close and personal as I did during this PAX East preview, it's hard to convey how convincing it really is.

The game has a selection of tools that assists the player in solving these crimes. These vary from being able to call out All Point Bulletins via any public phone, to a very detailed note book that allows the player to see where they are to go next to progress the investigation. There are even transcripts of all of the conversations the player has engaged in while pursing the case.

Replayability issues are addressed with the fact that each case can be solved in a myriad of different ways. The road the player takes to solve each crime changes depending on the order in which they investigate each point of interest they have discovered. It's a clever way of creating a story that has the same beginning and ending yet has many 'middles'.

With the game only two months away, I really am looking forward to trudging through the streets of 1940's LA. For that is something only a video game could promise and deliver on...
Games: L.A. Noire

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