I’m in love again. Before I met L.A. Noire, I wasn’t too sure. I’d seen the videos, heard the commentary, and read the web-pages. But we all know what hype is like, right? Still, part of me was excited about the new technology, even though the concept sounded too close to a ‘Choose your own adventure” style game. Find the clues, decided if the subject is lying or telling the truth. How hard can it be? More to the point, how much fun can it be?
It can be very hard, and a lot of fun. Once I met L.A. Noire, I fell in love.
Perhaps, since I’m still in the Honeymoon period with L.A. Noire, you might take these as the ravings of someone blinded to the faults. Well, I can see a couple of teeny–tiny faults. Aren’t you glad you’re not on a real Honeymoon with me?
So, I’m having a lot of fun, and am having trouble tearing myself away from the game. I’m well into the second disk and …
Yes second disc. It comes on three disks, at least on the 360 (I believe it fills a 2-layer Blu-Ray disk on the PS3), and I must admit that gave me some pause. Does anyone else remember the bad-old-days of swapping disks constantly – if the game allowed some kind of free form movement between tasks – or a very linear game if it didn’t? So far, this hasn’t been an issue. The way the game is structured does (so far) seem fairly linear, in that the cases come to you in the same order each time. Within those cases, you can wander the city freely and, of course, between locations important to the case.
You’re also able to do the usual RockStar collecting. In this case, landmarks, newspapers, hidden cars and probably things I haven’t discovered I need to discover yet. There are also various “street missions” you can attend while driving. They come in though the radio and you can decide to go after them, or not. I admit I haven’t played around enough with these to know whether spending too much time doing that is detrimental to your current case or not. RockStar has usually been very lenient in the past (Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption coming immediately to mind), where they give you a sense of urgency to a mission, but then they don’t seem to care if you do a few side missions first and turn up two days later …
Of course, how can I rave about L.A. Noire without mentioning the new facial capture technology they use? I admit I worried that it would look like the faces had been projected onto the models, but in the majority of cases it blends in beautifully – and it works. Eyes darting, nervous tics, strong eye contact and more – all of these are present, and help guide you to deciding whether the person is telling the truth, telling a half truth, or out and out lying. I say “help” because I admit I suck at reading other people. More to the point, I suck at telling the difference between “half truth” and “lying”, which often leads me to either push too hard, or not hard enough. Which means I’m really doing well on as many cases as I’m screwing up.
RockStar have thought about what happens when you screw up too badly, and have handled it well. If you fail a case because you get killed, lose a suspect or shoot them (unexpectedly), then you’re returned to a previous part of that mission. So far, the “checkpoint” has been close enough that you don’t feel like you’re replaying too much, but not so close that you get cocky and figure you can just push with no consequences.
I’m no expert, but with the exception of the new facial capture, it looks like L.A. Noire uses the same graphics and game engine as Red Dead Redemption and GTA IV. This is no bad thing, as I’m quite a fan of that engine, it makes for a very pretty game; which adds to the atmosphere.
Atmosphere is something L.A. Noire exudes While I wasn’t alive in the 1940’s (nor if I had been, would I have been in the USA), the atmosphere feels authentic. The music, the clothes, the cars, the infrastructure and even the attitudes feel right. You feel like you’re in a time and place that has plenty of the “old ways” and is changing rapidly to “new ways” after the war, with all the pros and cons that implies.
I know I mentioned a couple of tiny faults. The first is a little unexpected. The game occasionally drops the frame rate dramatically. I’ve no idea why as it doesn’t seem to be at times when you’re busy, or the game is, and has usually happened when I’m standing around getting advice from my partner.
The other is more me wanting to install the whole game on my Hard Drive. However, once you’ve installed one disk, the 360 Dashboard won’t let you attempt to install either of the other two. The only reason this bugs me is my DVD drive is very noisy and distracting for me, and my housemate.
Putting those aside, I’m still in love, and likely to rave about this game to anyone who will listen. And probably any poor sucker who’s just within hearing distance.