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Review: L.A. Noire - PC, Xbox 360, PS3

by Steven Williamson on 14 July 2011, 16:27 4.4

Tags: Rockstar, Rockstar Games (NASDAQ:TTWO), Action/Adventure

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Facing a 10 year stretch, what would you do?

A soundtrack reflective of the 1940’s, plus a cast of great characters and some strong voice acting, helps to propel you into an era where cops didn’t have reams of paperwork to fill in, but could simply rely on their instincts, and occasionally they’re muscle, to get a result. Production values are of typical high quality that we’ve come to expect from the Rockstar stable, though its visual impact doesn’t measure up against the beautiful looking Red Dead Redemption, or GTA IV. That’s largely because the high quality of the facial animations overshadows some of the tired looking backdrops and makes them look a little dated. Don’t get us wrong, L.A. Noire is still a great looking game, particularly the finely detailed interiors of the various bars, strip-clubs and shops. However, this new game-changing piece of face mapping technology has really taken things to a new level of realism, where visually everything else pales in comparison and stands out as being under-par.

Indeed, no other game has ever got close to representing real emotions on screen in the way that L.A. Noire does. And the technology isn’t just a gimmick either, but an integral part of the gameplay, which tasks you with studying the faces of suspects and witnesses for signs of whether they’re lying or telling the truth, while cross-examining them with evidence you’ve already stacked up. Tell-tale signs on a face can be as subtle as a raised eyebrow, a frown or pursed lips. Accuse someone of lying and you have to back it up with evidence, and if you’re wrong you have to investigate further to solve the case. It’s a superb game mechanic that really helps to hook you into the story because you really do need to watch people intently and read every scrap of evidence. It’s deliberately slow-paced, but totally absorbing.

Is this the face of a man with nothing to hide?

During these close-up moments, it helps immeasurably that the script is strong and voice acting impressive, plus there’s plenty of variation in terms of the 21 cases that you need to solve. An alleged hit and run incident and a guy who fakes his own death by smearing his car with pig’s blood give way to much darker themes, such as a serial killer on the loose and mutilated lady’s bodies discovered in public spaces. Giving a garment to the forensic examiner for him to check for signs of semen isn’t something we were expecting, but reiterates Rockstars intent to create an extraordinaty gaming experience. L.A. Noire is a mature game with adult themes throughout, but such is its ability to surprise both through its dark nature and plot twists, that you always get a tinge of excitement at the beginning of each case as you wonder what on earth you’re going to be involved in next.

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