Tuesday 26 June 2012

L.A. Noire - Review

No, it's not another GTA...
Wow. A game review. What a new experience! I know it’s been a while, so I thought I’d have a look at a very interesting game from Rockstar.

This game was HUGE when it was released – but don’t get me wrong, I didn’t buy at cover price, OH NO - I had a friend who worked at the game store and I managed to snatch it up at 50% off. So after a weekend of cheapskatey-gamer-goodness I can sit down and ponder on a most curious experience. L.A. Noire is a game set in Los Angeles (big shock there) and styled as a 1950s ‘noire’ film. The story and gameplay concerns a good-hearted, WWII veteran’s life as policeman and detective, an occupation in which the he (and the player) are tasked with solving crimes by means of deduction, logical reasoning, fierce interrogation skills and thick American accents. Funnily enough, most of the voice actors actually come from Sydney, Australia.

I say, ‘voice’ actors with a hint of mistruth because the game doesn’t use just use the voices and animate 3D models to mouth the words – the clever people at Team Bondi (the co-developers) used some of the most realistic facial recognition technology I’ve ever seen – every twitch, glance and expression was displayed in perfect detail. I felt this really added some great elements to the gameplay; being a detective game, when you interrogated suspects or witnesses, you were asked by the game to make a judgement on whether they were telling the truth or not by use of previously uncovered evidence and their facial expression. You can’t do this in many games because the animation just isn’t real enough. The finer points to this technology also showed up in more subtle parts of the story – when you ran past people in the street or fired a gun in public, the reactions were genuine and made the experience more realistic. Definitely a thumbs up there.

The face-capture technology in action...
The gameplay itself was good also, but I couldn’t help but think it felt a lot like GTA, but from the police’s perspective and set in the 1950’s. The traffic mechanisms, driving system and action sequences all seemed exactly like Rockstar’s GTA counterparts. Even the ridiculous things that the people who you hit with your car scream were the same rubbish – “You jackass”, “Mind the road” and “You could have killed somebody” were some examples. But the biggest fault of the game lay not in these trivialities but more so in the repetitiveness of some of the missions. True, the story was highly engaging and the cases you were faced with were generally interesting, but the means by which you found evidence and interviewed witnesses didn’t change and the whole shebang got fairly uninteresting for long periods of time during cases. But after the first six ‘cases’, I found this happened less and less and the game started to mix things around a bit.

Generally a truly wonderful experience, especially considering the perfectly executed 1950’s L.A. open world environment and the face recognition technology. The story was awesome, I loved interrogating people and the game didn’t baby you along – If you made a bad call, didn’t catch the criminal on the run or charged the wrong suspect, the story changed and you as a player had to face the consequences. This aspect particularly made the detective aspect of the gameplay more realistic and satisfying.

The Bottom Line: An original and well-executed story meets polished and engaging gameplay – with occasional flaws. A truly unique and fun game.


- Critter

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