Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Full Review:L.A. Noire
Smooth jazz plays over the radio, you're chatting it up with your new partner while driving to a fresh crime scene, the nightlife seems as lively as ever but, the city has never been deadlier. You arrive to a bloodied body and your only initial thought is how someone could kill something so beautiful, though, this one is no more or less tragic than the last. An excited new beat cop was the first on scene and gives you the rundown then let's you on your way to investigate the gruesome murder.
This is just a small example of the incredible atmosphere Team Bondi and Rockstar have created with L.A Noire. Tension builds with every crime scene and characters are fleshed out between and during investigations. Rockstar and Team Bondi manage to deliver an unparalleled narrative tale, all while recreating the look and feel of 1940's L.A to a T. After a bit of research into the topic I found out just how in depth the studios got when bringing the city back to life, while I won't go into detail here, I highly suggest you check it out for yourself if you have any interest in game design.
There are a few graphical hiccups and some frame rate issues but, L.A. Noire, for the most part looks great. Buildings, cars and, people are all tailored in true 1940's style. The real graphical star though is not the games backdrop, it's the facial animation. L.A. Noire's groundbreaking MotionScan technology allows the studio to capture a given actor's entire performance down the the smallest facial expression and will likely be seen as a new bar for in game performances. It's also a core part of L.A. Noire's interrogation mechanic which serves as the main gameplay device throughout the entire game. Watching a character's face while he spouts off lines during an action sequence is something I'm sure doesn't happen often but here it's almost impossible to not notice that even outside of interrogation the new MotionScan technology is a game changer.
Sadly, outside of the investigation and interrogation L.A. Noire's gameplay falls a bit flat and tends to get a bit repetitive. You'll grow accustomed to chasing down fleeing suspects, which is fun at first, but most of these chases(see:Most) fail to feel unique and they soon become more tedious than anything. One thing that did surprise me though is the amount of verticality in a lot of the chases, sometimes you'll get more of a Price of Persia feel than Grand Theft Auto. The gun-play feels pretty standard, it's third person cover based al a GTA, but without the ability to lock on. Rockstar and Team Bondi do a decent job of setting up some interesting shoot-outs, especially in the shorter more action oriented street crimes. These serve as a small relief from the main story and do a pretty decent job of giving the action craving audience their fix.
Though L.A. Noire is an open-world game there's really not much to do outside of the investigations and street crimes. It's kind of disappointing that after painstakingly recreating the city Team Bondi and Rockstar didn't give players much reason to really explore the world. There are some hidden cars and the landmarks to discover but none of these really change the game at all. The city more serves as a means to get from point A to point B than it does a living breathing character which is a real let-down considering the scope of the city. It takes about 20 minutes to get from one end to the other, but again there's really no reason to. Really, under its surface L.A. Noire is a glorified point and click adventure that happens to be polished to the max.
I don't want to give the wrong impression, L.A. Noire is an incredible game and is really one of the first games to truly successfully blur the line between movies and games(besides Heavy Rain). If this is was Team Bondi and Rockstar's goal, which i'm guessing it was, they've unabashedly succeeded. More often than most games you'll identify with characters and truly get a feel for each characters personality. Any fan of movies will easily get caught up in the well written plot and find themselves wanting to know what the big picture is.
L.A. Noire Succeeds in delivering an intriguing twisted story of corruption, greed, and murder. It's fully fleshed out world, while baron of activity, is a testament to game design. The in-game performances are unparalleled and I'm sure we'll see this technology popping up more and more in the industry. While it does lack a little outside of the investigations and interrogations, these new gameplay innovations bring enough of a fresh feeling that you'll be sure to play this from it's beginning to it's culminating end. I'm excited to see what Team Bondi and Rockstar can do with this new franchise and look forward to future entries in the series.