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1-Hour Review: L.A. Noire


This is the inaugural 1-Hour Review. If this were information in a travel guide about a trip to China, it would be a section in a travel book, as opposed to an entire book dedicated to the country. It's like a demo review. Meant to give you a general impression of the game without spoiling anything, and still allowing you to experience it fresh. I sit down for one hour, then let you know what I did and what I thought.

In association with Rockstar Games, the lead on the original Getaway game for the PS2 takes another stab at a story driven open world title in L.A. Noire. Unlike games like The Getaway and Grand Theft Auto, though, this isn't a sandbox title in which you spend your mid-mission time shooting people and blowing up buses. This is a distilled concentrated digital arts experience. From the start menu's black and white filter in the dark grungy alley way, L.A. Noire oozes a sense of style that is rivaled only by other titles bearing the Rockstar title.

One of the biggest sources of intrigue and hype around this title was the Motion Scan technology that was used for the game's actors. Utilizing a system of 32 cameras to capture every angle of a person's face, truly realistic facial expressions are achieved. It's an effect that is not only immediately present, but immediately impactful upon the game. The simplest of character interactions are intriguing for the sheer fact that the game creators have managed to evoke such humanity in the faces of the characters. The only downside to this effect is its impact on the world around it. When a part like the face is so faithfully recreated, it can't help but magnify the lack of "texture" in the rest of the world. Not that it is sub-par looking by any means, but the facial technology is just so advanced compared to what is being done for the actual game world itself. One area that rivals the level of detail in the characters faces is the voice acting. Just as has been the case with Rockstar games, the voice acting is superb. There is a reason this game was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. That is a first for a video game.

When it comes to game play, it is broken up into several different game types. The first of which is detective mode. You scour the environment looking for clues. As you move around you may hear a chime or feel the controller vibrate, this is the game letting you know you can inspect an item. By hitting X(ps3) you interact with the item. From here you can look around it for things of interest. If there is something to investigate further, the controller vibrates for a moment if you hover over it, and then automatically zooms in. Not everything you can interact with is actually a clue, so you really do start to feel like you are investigating a crime scene. You step back and look around, trying to recreate it in your head and find the right place to start your search.

Found clues and information are then added to you notebook. Your notebook is the source of most of your in game information. You have 3 main sections - people, clues, locations - as well as page for objectives and intuition points(xp). You can look through your clues and notes, look up addresses and set way points and read up on the people involved in your case.

I will note that as a father I appreciate games that allow me to pause at anytime. I don't always have the time to wait for a cut scene to end, and I love cut scenes.

You then have chase sequences. Now in my first hour I only had an actual on foot chase, but only very tense driving. The on foot chase was cinematic though. You hold R2 and you run forward chasing after your target. You automatically climb over things like fences and climb up ladders, so the chases maintain their pace. The hand to hand combat has also retained the same meaty gratifying feel that was present in Red Dead Redemption and GTA4.

The gun play is another area that this game is similar to the previous 2 Rockstar titles. The gun play, as it did in Red Dead, really does make you feel like a bad ass; moving towards your enemy, effortlessly lying to rest the dudes hiding around the corner. Bad ass is really the only way I can explain it.

As I wrapped up my hour with L.A. Noire, something dawned on me. There were never any pauses in between the game play section. Previous Rockstar titles encouraged you from the beginning to explore the world around you. Whether it be the skyline of Liberty City, or the vista of the desert outside of Armadillo; it enticed you to explore. L.A. Noire does quite the opposite. It instead takes the focus and aims it solely through the eyes of your character. The world seems so much larger around you. You really feel like a person in a big world. This is achieved in part through the narrative flow of the game. Much like in a traditional level based game, you constantly have an objective. Even if you have the ability to get away for a minute, there isn't really much to do. L.A. Noire is quite linear in that sense. The game world is not necessarily a game play element itself directly, so much as an elaborate movie set. That is not a negative in anyway, but a warning to anyone looking for a Grand Theft Auto experience that it is not. Like I said in the beginning, this is a distilled concentrated experience. One that's very specific scope pays off in an amazingly realized world. One that I will definitely continue through to completion. It's a game that immediately pulls at your throat and makes you want to turn the lights down and get absorbed in it's world.

Originall posted at http://experience-points.blogspot.com/
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About Hector Ferranone of us since 10:20 PM on 08.05.2010

I'm a life long gamer and creative person. In between bouts of Marvel vs Capcom 3, I raise a kid, run a media firm and create work for my art gallery. Check out my video game centric blog at https://www.experience-points.blogspot.com/