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Notebooks and Lip Sync: Why L.A. Noire Will Rock Your World


Playing Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire fresh from a surprisingly successful media blackout presents an interesting set of delights. For one, the facial animation and lip syncing is staggeringly good – I’d seen the odd video as we posted them but hadn’t really analysed the details, and to see multiple characters all talking and acting at the level they are shows just how far technology has come, even from the likes of the relatively staid, in comparison at least, Heavy Rain.

It really is impressive – not just on the main characters but on everyone, from sideline extras to supporting roles – every word, every expression, every nuance is captured perfectly, and it instantly grabs your attention.  Married with the well delivered lines and superb vocal work, L.A. Noire’s performances are sublime, making the game seem not only more real, but more engaging, more believable.  Money well spent, then.

The acting is superb, with plenty of current TV and movie talent making up the credits list.
Secondly, I had no idea the game was so structured and defined.  I knew it wasn’t strictly a free roaming title in the same vein as Grand Theft Auto (thankfully) but although there are sections where you’re free to take the plot at your own pace and explore a little, you’re really only doing this to gather evidence, and straying too far from the path won’t move the game along.  Instead, you’re given missions that are built and played linearly, at least in terms of overal construction.

This works brilliantly, in case you’re wondering.  The first few are short and serial in nature, but a promotion an hour or so into the game presents a fresh angle or two and things start to pan out to provide a little flexibility – of course, by this stage the game is holding your hand a lot less, the excellently done tutorial sections at the beginning never getting in the way or feeling contrived but to be free of their shackles is indeed welcome.  By the time you’ve learnt how to pursue a fleeing suspect, look for clues, aim and shoot your weapon and even conduct interviews and interrogations you’ll be happy enough to fill your own detective shoes.

The interrogation aspect is one that I found most intruiging.  Dialog trees aren’t new to gaming, but here they’re crucial, your skill in establishing whether a suspect (or witness) is lying or telling the truth (or indeed, you have doubts) from their language and mannerisms as important as ensuring that you’ve already found all the evidence you need to successfully carry out the particular conversation.  If you can’t, or don’t, the meeting can go astray, and you’ll need to restart.

Hand to hand combat is the only personal downer, but it's something that doesn't spoil the party at all.
Conducted mostly from your notebook, these sections stand out as being a real talking point, and even though a couple of times the game didn’t make it entirely clear why I’d failed at a particular question or I’d missed a vital bit of the puzzle, the game always manages to find a way around so that backtracking is all but removed and the plot can continue smoothly enough.  It’s a clever concept, and it means that sticking points shouldn’t remain so for long.

Each element of the game, from the slow exploration of a crime scene to frantic shoot-outs or car chases, manages to feel both coherent yet distinct enough to always feel fresh, the only demerit saved for the slightly clunky hand to hand combat that – thankfully – doesn’t really outstay its welcome.  The constant changes of pace, interspersed with the smart dialog and logically placed cut-scenes, relays a filmic quality that most games simply fail to manage – if nothing else, Rockstar’s latest is their most cinematic.

But I’m impressed with the whole package.  L.A. Noire feels like the sort of game I could really get my teeth into, the storyline already starting to show some interesting qualities as flashbacks hint at troubles sure to raise their heads later on, and it appears 1940s Los Angeles was an exciting place to be.   The game controls well, looks absolutely gorgeous, is dripping with atmosphere and could well be the best thing you’ve played for months.

Our review is on the way, the game’s out on Friday.

  1. Phil_E
    Since: Forever

    preordered from Zavvi :D hope it comes a bit early

    Comment posted on 18/05/2011 at 11:29.
  2. StevenHibs
    Since: Oct 2009

    I really cannot wait, this game looks so fresh and hopefully full of new ideas, roll on friday!

    Comment posted on 18/05/2011 at 11:56.
  3. SpikeyMikey23
    Since: Jul 2009

    Oh man I’m looking forward to playing this. Hope I dont do mu usual of playing the first few hours and then returning to it a year later. really need to finish the games I start!

    Comment posted on 18/05/2011 at 12:13.
  4. Dybro
    Since: Jan 2010

    Well, I can’t wait either, but I’m so lucky, that here in Denmark the game is set for release already tomorrow (it is national holiday on friday) so my game is already packed and sent from the shop :D

    Comment posted on 18/05/2011 at 12:49.
  5. 0-SPaRTiBuS-0
    Since: May 2011

    moneys a bit tight @ the moment so im leaning towards renting it even though ive pre-ordered it, it just dont seem like it got enough replay value for my liking :(

    Comment posted on 18/05/2011 at 13:50.
  6. E8_BALL_
    Since: Jul 2010

    All sounds great, cant wait. Wish it had of been total free roam, but you can’t always get what you want.
    (noticed the mind reading cop(forget name) from heroes, in a trailer i re-watched)

    Comment posted on 18/05/2011 at 15:13.
  7. Origami Killer
    Since: May 2010

    dont want to read anymore about it as i just want to be completly amazed when i play it for the first time

    Comment posted on 18/05/2011 at 16:54.
  8. Toby M [Dexter17]
    Since: Jun 2009

    My copy got dispatched today, so hopefully it will be gracing my doormat tomorrow! Everything I have seen and heard about it sounds amazing, so I hope that it lives up to the expectation.

    Comment posted on 18/05/2011 at 17:06.
  9. Jack_napier1318
    Since: Mar 2010

    I’m totally buing this just to get a look at the animation used. This could be the future fellas… The future…

    Comment posted on 18/05/2011 at 19:47.
    • DirtyHabit
      Since: Forever

      “You ain’t got no future Jack”

      But I’m guessing you’ve been waiting for someone to say that, right? :-)

      Comment posted on 19/05/2011 at 14:16.
  10. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Looks great.

    Comment posted on 19/05/2011 at 18:15.