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L.A. Noire: A leap forward for video game tech?

More details on Rockstar's period cop caper...

A lot has been said about the tech behind Rockstar's new game, L.A. Noire. And rightly. In MotionScan, they have a real and genuine game-changer; a piece of tech capable of bringing writing and acting in videogames crashing into the big time.

Other games have come close - games like Rockstar's own Red Dead Redemption, and Bioware's Mass Effect 2 - but nothing apes this.

By recording an actor's facial performance and then transplanting it directly onto the in-game model, the developers at Team Bondi have hit on an unprecedented level of realism: brows furrow, noses wrinkle, eyes shift, muscles move and lips synch, each movement vital if they were to pull off their ambitious take on the likes of Ellroy's L.A. Confidential and Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye.

Punctuating the evidence gathering, people-reading and period sightseeing are elements more familiar to fans of Rockstar games. We watched one and a half missions in our almost two-hour demo, and the case we saw through to its conclusion ('The Fallen Idol') ended up with you, as hero Cole Phelps, having to protect a key suspect from a bunch of heavies on the dizzyingly high rafters of a Hollywood set.

The shootouts looked solid, without being amazing, and had obvious parallels with Red Dead's gun-play: period weaponry meant no rapid fire gunishment, which in turn meant you needed to make sure of your shot.

It felt tense and realistic, and true to the world, and although plainly not the focus of the game - Rockstar claim some missions won't require you to remove your gun at all - it's a decent supporting act to the meat of the game: the psychology of a police investigation.

CASE ZERO
One of Rockstar's most interesting admissions is that they're trying to open L.A. Noire out to people who've never even played games before. Ridiculous? Maybe not.

The tech grounds interviews and case-building immediately; anyone can have a go at reading people because the animation and voice acting is so, so good. Evidence-gathering is considered, slow even, and doesn't require extreme are just a process of pushing one button every 30 seconds.

Zoom

We can see exactly what they're driving at, but whether non-gamers are going to be able to handle the combo of targeting and locking to-cover in the shootouts, is more doubtful.

If there's doubts over whether this can pull in people who have no interest in games, there's no doubting just how good L.A. Noire is.

It's not perfect: we liked the shootouts and the car chases a lot less than the rest of the game, and the interviewing process will be too slow and 'Simon Says' for some. But for fans of the thriller, in all its guises, this will be essential.

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