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CVG
51 Reviews

L.A Noire

Face facts

CVG's LA Noire review is of the Xbox 360 version of the game.

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L.A Noire isn't anything like Grand Theft Auto. That's the first thing you need to understand before you even contemplate buying into what's sure to be another blockbuster title under the Rockstar roof.

There are elements of the crim-sim floating about - the circular radar, the white dot reticule, the driving and shooting button layout and that leaning sprint technique - but it's all superficial. To get the most from L.A Noire; nay, to play it effectively, you're going to need to forget all about Bellic and co.

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LA Noire review: Cole mining

For starters, there's your protagonist, Cole Phelps. Working on the right side of the law, he's a 1940s war hero turned LAPD cop, characterised by a humble duty that's a world away from gaming's usual assault rifle-wielding boys in blue. Phelps is tough and courageous, but he plays by the book, and in L.A Noire, you're reaching for your notepad far more often than your gun.

In fact, reaching for your gun isn't even on the menu for most of your time in 1940s Los Angeles. As you rise through the ranks of the LAPD - from uniform-sporting Patrol cop to the Traffic, Homicide, Vice and finally the Arson department - you'll spend a lot of your time wading through investigative procedure, ticking boxes and crossing off names.

These are intrinsically linked to a number of gameplay sections, almost like mini-games, that are repeated throughout each case.

You'll start off in the briefing room of your particular department with your senior barking details at you before shouting something like "Well, waddaya waitin' for?" or "Now get out there and catch me a criminal!"

Off you trot, partner in tow, to a given crime scene that'll be familiar to anyone who's ever seen an episode of CSI or other popular US whodunnit dramas. There's usually a body (if you're dealing with a death), a number of scattered clues and maybe a couple of other officers, witnesses and the coroner.

CSI: LOS ANGELES... 1947
This initial section is all about finding leads and filling your notebook full of evidence. You'll probably have a few words with the coroner before having a snoop around yourself, fully backed by some slow, tense, snooping, trumpet music.

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When you do come across a clue your pad vibrates and a few piano notes provide a sonic indicator. Pressing 'A' slides you into first-person view as Cole bends down to pick up the item, whatever it may be. Cole might analyse the clue straight away, or some further eye work may be needed.

Here the left analogue stick is used for wrist action, enabling you to tilt and rotate the object, scanning all its surfaces for detail. If it's a receptacle, like an envelope or a box, pressing A will open it up. When you find the sweet spot with the stick (representing the useful bit on the object) your pad will vibrate, prompting you to hold the position for Cole to finish his analysis.

Bodies can be knelt over with a touch of 'A'. Cole lets his hand hover, waiting for you to move it over the body part you wish to examine (hands, torso, or head) before pressing 'A' again to focus on the area as if it were any other clue.

When the slow trumpet music stops in each of these scenes, you know you've found all there is to discover, by which time you'll have a notebook full of clues, locations and people to follow up on. Perhaps a book of matches suggests that a victim spent a lot of time at a certain bar, or a note on a fridge gives details of a dinner date with a friend only moments before a fatal incident. All new possible leads, locations and people of interest are automatically added to your notebook to be called upon later.

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