Adventure games arguably fizzled out over ten years ago; their ridiculously implausible puzzles and slow pacing eclipsed by more immediate thrills. In their stead, modern games haven't always been the most cerebrally challenging, often focusing on the viscera of chainsaw-machine guns, endless multi-player deathmatches and really big explosions rather than traits more highly valued in cinema such as direction, plot and acting. We’re excluding Michael Bay films from this analogy, obviously.
This is what makes LA Noire a monumentally ambitious game. It aims to bridge not only the open world gameplay of the Grand Theft Auto series with the slower pacing of an adventure game, but also the production qualities of a Hollywood film with the user interaction of a game. It’s a bold move from developer Team Bondi, and goes a lot further than hiring some A-list stars to do voice over work and hiring a motion capture studio for a week or two.
Another day, another toe-tag
Set in a post-war 1940s Los Angeles lifted straight from a James Ellroy novel, LA Noire sees you pick up the role of Cole Phelps, begrudging war hero and newly recruited LAPD patrol-man. You don’t stay a humble beat-cop for long though, as you move up through the detective ranks of LA’s finest by cracking cases and booking bad guys.
Make no mistake though; LA Noire is certainly not GTA from the side of law and order. Most of the game revolves around searching crime scenes and interviewing or interrogating suspects and witnesses, rather than roaming the marvellously recreated streets of post-war LA in search of trouble.
Each case begins with an initial crime scene, be it a hit-and-run, a grisly murder or a tragic drug overdose, where you’ll need to search the scene, and the victim, for pertinent clues to the investigation. It’s no good trying to acquire skin fibres from shirt collars or picking up every coffee cup and empty bottle, though; this isn’t CSI and not everything is relevant. Potential clues are denoted by a sharp musical note, as well as a quick rumble of the gamepad, with the moody period music that plays throughout the sequence ending once you’ve collected all the available evidence.
They see me rollin', they hatin'
Further evidence and leads are also generated by what is arguably the game’s centre piece, interviewing witnesses and suspects. Rather than using traditional animations to model in-game characters, Team Bondi filmed its voice actors with dozens of HD video cameras to translate their facial movements and expressions incredibly well into the game, bringing a great deal to the one-on-one interrogation process.
You’ll need to watch the actors closely too, as their responses to your questions are followed by a prompt for you to decide whether you think the character is being truthful, if you doubt their honesty or whether they’re straight up lying. Selecting the right answer can unlock new information or a new lead, while making the wrong choice will see your suspect clam up. Accusing someone of lying requires evidence, though, so unless you can prove Bad Boy Bobby beat Debbie Two-shoes to death with an iron bar, don’t go running your mouth.