Monday, May 30, 2011

L.A. Noire Shapes the Future of Rockstar Games

Team Bondi has proved themselves worthy to be published by Rockstar, and along the way has created a game that can be called a work of art. Nearly every scene in this game comes off as original, fascinating, and fun. But this work of art is not without it's flaws.

L.A. is recreated in full form. Nearly 90% of the landmarks are there to see.

The one thing you have to know about Cole Phelps, the main character you play in L.A. Noire, is this: he is human. He may seem like some sort of super detective, always out to fight crime and right wrongs, but even so, he has his faults. Discovering those faults is one of the main appeals of the story.

Cole starts his rise to fame working on the beat, after coming home from leading men into war.

You are not told much about Phelps personal life. Hell, you don't even know he has kids until about half way through the game. For a game so heavy in story, this is one of the major flaws. They don't dig enough into Phelps life, something I find quite odd considering Rockstars solid performance fleshing out their games main characters. You are given a lot of insight into him, but it's never enough. Things are tied together very well at the end of the game, but because you don't know as much as you would about the main character, the end falls a bit flat. That's not to say it's a bad ending, but it's just a tad underwhelming.

Cole notes every detail about the case at hand in his notebook.

That's why I'm glad that the main focus of the game isn't only on Phelps, but also on the cases themselves. Each and every case has unique aspects and points of clarity. Realizing the right clues for the right situation is as close as the average gamer could get to being a detective on the force. At first, getting used to how a character talks and how their face's react to certain lines of questioning can be a bit overwhelming, but a few cases in and you get a real good handle of it.

The Homicide cases are intense, gripping, horrifying, but perfect.

Just as fun and interesting as questioning suspects is investigating crime scenes. Each desk offers interesting takes on the crime scenes you will encounter. Traffic has you looking into cars, hit-and-run victims, and trunks by the trunk load. Homicide focuses on high priority murders, like that of serial killers, or their copy-cats. Vice has a lot to do with drugs, high class victims, and the seedy underbelly of Hollywood (or Hollywoodland). Finally Arson has you investigating suspicious house fires, in which whole families get caught up in flames.

The tech in use is some of the best seen in any modern game.

Each desk offers something new, exciting, original, and interesting. Watching Cole work his magic powers of deduction in each of these cases is almost the highlight of the game. What is the highlight of the game? The face animations at work, in-game. While I was excited coming into this game about the new technology at work, I never could have imagined how well they would have been able to pull it off. Nearly every single character in the game you see was scanned into the game (clocking in at around 400 characters), and each random person you see on the streets has a face that could belong to a main character. In fact, I found myself waiting around in a bar once because this NPC was pissed off at Cole, and I just kept looking at the characters face change from emotion to emotion. It is fantastic, and I can not wait to see how it is used in future games.

The interviews can get quite tense, and are almost scenes from movies.

L.A. Noire offers a good deal in terms of content as well. As you go from location to location in the game, you can be alerted to crimes occurring on the streets of L.A. You can choose to respond to these right away, or wait until later.There are a total of 40 street cases to solve. While that may seem like a lot, they are short and sweet crimes that usually have you chasing thugs on the street, or ramming them off the road in a car. In terms of thing to do besides bust bad guys and solve murders, there is the standard Rockstar practice of putting in a crap-ton of things to collect. 30 landmark to discover, 50 golden film reels to find, and a staggering 95 vehicles to nab if you want to reach 100% completion.

The slightest details can lead to breakthroughs in a case.

Don't let my first paragraphs confuse you. I love L.A. Noire. It is nearly everything I could have ever wanted in a detective game. The characters are interesting and dynamic. The crimes are tragic and troubling. The problem solving is top-notch, making me think about my clues and crime scenes. I just wish there was more to the main character's story. If there was a novel about Cole Phelps, I would by it in a second, because I want more. Because the cases are fun and interesting, I will be buying the games DLC, which are individual cases for you to solve. 

Even the menu screen oozes the genre it follows.

Team Bondi did not set out to make a GTA clone. They didn't want it to be seen as just an open world game in which you are in control. They set out to make one type of game. A detective story. And they have succeeded far more than they could have ever hoped to.

L.A. Noire is one of the best stories of the year, and gets

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