Every year, there seems to be a game that aims to push the boundaries of video game storytelling, and move to and beyond the likes of films and books. While Mass Effect 2 created a giant space opera with seemingly infinite depth and detail, and Fahrenheit (followed by its successor, Heavy Rain) earned the title of an ‘interactive movie’, L.A. Noire puts the player into the shoes of a 1940s Los Angeles cop in an incredibly compelling plot about murder and corruption.
Make no mistake, though, this is no ‘Max Payne goes to Hollywood’. The skill to learn here is not how to aim for the head or be quicker on the draw, but to how to use your wits and sleuthing skills to get the right suspect behind bars.
This may seem simple at first. Look around, find the clues, talk to a few people, and reach the pre-determined conclusion, right?
Not so fast. The bulk of the story must be pressed out of suspects in interviews, and the player is only going to get the answers if they can correctly guess whether or not the interviewee is lying or not.
L.A Noire uses all-new full facial scan technology, which picks up every flinch, smirk or hint of doubt in the expression of every character, each played by professional actors. These segments are deeply immersive, and require and almost exhausting amount of concentration.
Follow your instincts correctly, and you’ll bag the right perp – but get it wrong (or be lazy), and the case could go horribly wrong.
The game never fails to remind you, however, that the object is still to ‘win’ rather than simply ‘experience’, as you are given an end of case report, and scores in each area.
The whole game is bolstered with fantastic writing from the new talents of Team Bondi, along with some superb voice actors (many of whom can be recognised from recent TV shows and movies). It’s a plot-driven game more than anything, and this can be a double-edged sword.
While its twists and turns will no doubt be appreciated by those who enjoy a great narrative, the 25 hour campaign will no doubt test the patience of many players wanting a bit more intensity – L.A. Noire is truly a game that takes its time mulling over details rather than cutting to the chase.
This is likely the most ambitious title of 2011, and the majority of the time, it pays off. It’s deep, it’s original, and it uses the cutting edge of technology. A fair few of its mechanics have their flaws (which players will definitely come to notice), but this may just be the beginning of an incredible franchise.
Published by: Rockstar Games
Developed by: Team Bondi
Available on: Xbox 360, PS3