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Gametrailers slideshow, IGN preview

 

Rockstar has made a name for itself creating open-world sandbox games with lead characters that have little concern for the law. It's only natural, then, that people viewing the first L.A. Noire trailer assume you play a mobster up to no good in the 1940s. But that couldn't be further from the truth. In L.A. Noire, you play the seemingly incorruptible Cole Phelps, a beacon of integrity in a police department mired in scandals.

 

But that's not the only departure from Rockstar's traditional formula. Not only are you a good guy out after the bad guys, the city itself is not your playground. Though L.A. Noire is an open-world game (explore L.A. if you like, see the sights, admire the pedestrians), there aren't mini-games to be played or side quests to complete or pigeons to shoot. L.A. Noire is a far more linear game, that puts an emphasis on the journey, moreso than the destination, and one where the narrative and the characters take a central role, with far fewer distractions. It's different, but that's what makes it look so promising.

 

Phelps is a few years removed from action in World War II, a decorated hero who harbors a dark secret certain to come out during the course of L.A. Noire. Though young in his career as a cop, Phelps is the kind of media darling the beleaguered LAPD can latch onto to improve its image.That means opportunities for advancement are quick to be had, but of course that doesn't sit well with many of the other men in the department (corrupt or not). So expect the reception to get pretty cool by the time you've made your way to homicide detective.

 

Phelps operates within a Los Angeles that's been beautifully recreated to match the style and feel of the late '40s. This is before sports came to the West Coast, before the freeways, and at a time when Hollywood was at its glitziest and the cops were at their dirtiest. The presentation elements seem as high-caliber as every other Rockstar production, with tons of character actors filling in various roles and superb voice work driving the story forward. Though I only saw a sliver of L.A. Noire, that sliver looked pretty damned good.

 

You start as a beat cop (think of these as your training missions), but soon move up to traffic. No, you aren't a meter maid. Traffic means you're investigating cases involving cars. Like, when a woman mysteriously runs her car off an embankment. Just because it starts off seeming like an accident, it grows into a case about Hollywood corruption, rape and pornography . Playing a good guy means the corrosion around you stands out even more. Expect cases to get dirty, for the guilty to be disgusting, for you to be the light illuminating the darkest, dingiest corners of L.A.

 

Each desk you serve on has a set of specific cases (all based on real cases from the '40s) that must be solved in order for you to earn a promotion. Okay, so I hope you are sitting (do you read IGN standing up?), because this might come as a bit of a shock. At its core, if you really boil it down to its essence, L.A. Noire is an old-school adventure game. That's right, Rockstar made a throwback to classic PC adventure gaming. Of course, use of some cool new technology completely revolutionizes many of the old concepts of an adventure game and make for something fresh, new and full of possibility.

Investigations start with a visit to the crime scene. Here is where the adventure-game roots really show. You can search the scene, pick up objects that might be of interest, scribble clues into your notebook and try to piece together the events that led to the crime. Often you'll find evidence laid out for you at the scene when you arrive from officers who arrived earlier, and you can pick these up and examine them in detail to find clues.

You'll have the chance to search other areas during your investigation, and the objects of interest there can be less obvious. When in the "search" mode, the music changes and will continue to play until you have found everything of interest at the scene. You don't have to find it all, but the more evidence you collect, the easier it will be to narrow your suspect list. There are some assists here, including subtle piano chimes when you near a clue and easier difficulties that have your partners more or less holding your hand.

 

 

he real beauty of L.A. Noire comes next, when you start talking to witnesses and suspects. L.A. Noire uses some amazing new motion-scanning technology. I won't overload you with the details and process -- because all that really matters are the results. Every face in the game is the actual actor. There are no touch-ups, no animations added. If you talk to a woman with bruises on her face, then she had to have makeup applied before the shoot. The faces are so real, and they are all actors (more than 300 all told), that it can be a bit distracting to see familiar faces that can't quite be placed.

Rockstar has captured every shift of the actor's eye, the furrowing of a brow, the slight downturn of a mouth. What you see is exactly what you would if watching an episode of a police drama. These are actors, conveying the reliability (or lack thereof) in the smallest facial gestures, with their posture, and the inflection of their voices. And that's important, because in L.A. Noire, it's up to you to watch and judge the people you speak with to determine if they're telling the truth, hiding something, or flat-out lying.

Your notebook holds a list of questions to ask, based on evidence gathered and other interviews. It's not quite clear how the order you ask questions in changes things, but how you judge the truth definitely has an impact on the information you get and how hard it is to solve crimes.

When you ask questions, you'll need to pay attention not only to what people say, but their eyes, mouth, and body language. After responses, you have three options. You can believe them, doubt them, or outright accuse them of lying. The interface for this is remarkably ugly (a list of the same three options in the top left corner of the screen), but the results are pretty interesting. If you can tell someone is holding back, doubting them means pressing for more info. If correct, this leads to new info, and could give you a new suspect or clarify something about your investigation. Choosing incorrectly could close off a person's willingness to cooperate or, at the very least, cost you a piece of evidence.

 

Accusing someone isn't as simple as pointing a finger. You have to back up your words by linking it to a piece of evidence. So, for example, if a witness tells you that a girl in an accident was perfectly fine last saw her, you could show her the girl's torn panties that had been stuffed in the glove compartment. "Gotcha, bitch!" Oh, if only Cole would say that.

 

Rockstar assured me that even total idiots who constantly read people the wrong way and can't connect the dots will still be able to solve cases; it'll just take more legwork. The better you are as a detective, the quicker you can find the bad guys. With so many permutations of conversations, there should be replay value even in cases where you know the outcome. If there's any sandbox element to L.A. Noire, it's with the conversation system.

All this talky talk and detective work is fine and dandy (and looks really cool), but this is a Rockstar game so expect plenty of action. You'll tail unreliable witnesses, chase down suspects, and get into GTA-like shootouts where you kill an inexplicably high number of enemies. And if someone dares shoot off your hat, you can stroll over and pick it up. After putting a slug between their eyes, of course.

 

There are a few wrinkles to the action portions. You have a regenerative health system, but now when you take hits, the screen desaturates the color. As I'm sure you know, all cops die in black & white. There's also a contextual sprint button, so that if you're near a door while sprinting, you'll kick or shoulder-charge it open. Sprint is sort of your "don't mess with me" button. But overall, this looks a lot like the GTA IV andRed Dead Redemption system, though you won't be in combat nearly as often.

 

Rockstar and developer Team Bondi have carried out this task--which, one imagines, must be a painfully time-consuming and expensive one--because L.A. Noire is much more of a cerebral detective game than the sandbox action fare for which the publisher is so well known. Playing as Cole, a decorated GI who has just returned home from the Pacific theatre of World War II, you'll work your way up the ranks of the LAPD one case at a time. L.A. Noire's idea of detective work places a heavy emphasis on gathering evidence and talking to suspects, witnesses, and anyone who might help you unravel the mystery at hand. Conversations with persons of interest have you navigating the murky waters of potential lies and half-truths, so it's critical that you're able to tell the difference between a genuine smile and a coy smirk when someone is giving his or her side of the story. When you combine that with a web of clues and evidence that you can refer back to in your handy notebook, you've got an idea of how the almost adventure game-like detective work functions.

 

To put all of this into context, Rockstar showed us one of the game's cases as played from start to (near) completion. The case began with a call to check out a traffic accident. A Chevy Styleline had veered off the road and gone crashing from an escarpment (don't be afraid to look that one up--we certainly had to). At the wheel of the car was a fairly well-known Hollywood starlet joined by an aspiring actress in the passenger seat. Examining the crashed car revealed a number of strange items that might later serve as potential clues: suspiciously torn women's underpants, a note to the aspiring actress from her parents calling for her return home, and a shrunken head clearly intended for use as a movie prop (the latter of which prompted a chuckleworthy "Alas, poor Yorick!" joke from Phelps). All of these bits of clues and evidence were then jotted down in Phelps' notebook.

After examining the wrecked vehicle, Phelps took the opportunity to chat with the well-known actress, June, who was sitting in the back of an ambulance. L.A. Noire uses a conversation mechanic that lets you decide how to respond to people's statements with multiple degrees of acceptance and empathy. You have three options for each response: believe/coax, doubt/force, and disbelieve/accuse. Knowing which of these responses to pursue is where the game's facial animations really play a critical role. After asking June whether any foul play occurred before the accident, Phelps was told that she simply lost control of the wheel--an unspectacular, everyday car accident. But the response carried an undeniable level of smugness, as did the grin on June's face afterward. This led the Rockstar reps guiding the demo to conclude that she was covering up something potentially sinister, so they accused her of lying. Any time Phelps makes such a bold claim, he has to provide relevant evidence, so in this case, Phelps brought up the torn underpants inside the car to suggest that June was hiding some sort of potentially devious conduct that led to the accident. But that's the point at which she clammed up and demanded to see her lawyer.

 

Phelps and his partner then hopped in a car to drive over to the hospital and question Jessica, the aspiring actress in the passenger seat who apparently suffered far worse injuries than June. This is the point in the demo at which L.A. Noire began to flash more obvious similarities to Rockstar's previous games, those open-world action games in the Grand Theft Auto mold. The game is set in what Rockstar calls a "street-for-street re-creation" of 1940's Los Angeles. Going from one scene to another, you're in full control of how you drive there, though some points in the story place a stronger sense of urgency on your travels than others. And while the game isn't as crammed with side missions and hidden entertainment as GTA or Red Dead Redemption, there are occasional opportunities to take a break from the case at hand. In one example, while driving, you might hear a call come in over the police radio to lend a quick hand with a shoot-out or a speeding vehicle.

 

Back on the case, Phelps arrived at the hospital to chat with Jessica. We won't spoil how to best go about prying the truth out of her, but it's clear that there are numerous ways to approach the situation rather than one "right" path toward concrete answers. But suffice it to say, the conversation with Jessica set Phelps on a far more dangerous mission than the initial traffic accident might have suggested--one filled with sexual foul play on the part of some shady Hollywood figures that seemed to confirm Phelps' initial suspicions. The remainder of the case had Phelps tailing a suspect and eavesdropping on the suspect's phone conversation, getting into a fistfight upon entering a fresh crime scene, and fleeing from goons in a high-octane car chase that left several smashed and overturned vehicles in his wake. And it all culminated in a big foot chase and shoot-out through an epic movie set, showing that the developers at Team Bondi aren't afraid to throw some straightforward third-person action into the mix to change up the pacing. Unfortunately, this was a strictly hands-off demo, so we don't know how any of it actually feels to play, but the combat looked like a solid complement to the more cerebral detective work from earlier in the demo.

 

again, i'm all about settings in games, and Red Dead Redemption - despite my not often cottoning to open-world/sandbox games - was easily one of my best games this year. This one's definitely on my list of most excited titles for 2011 (Last Guardian, Catherine, Dead Space 2, etc).

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yeah, you & me both...the fact that we're getting solid info (and RDR has been out the gate for a while, natch) has me thinking this one's finally on course. for years, all that was said was "ps3 exclusive, we think?" which turned out to not be true, of course.

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  • 1 month later...

So here it is, the Rockstar game that will finally sell me.

 

I know i'm going to be outcast for saying it but I don't like rockstar games. I guess I should REALLY say I don't like GTA games. I had some fun with Vice City cause I loved the music and I did play through all of MANHUNT (with a headset on) but for the most part, Rockstar games just don't do it for me. I have been following this game since first heard of it and the more I read and see of it the more I can't wait for it to be released.

 

Maybe you will get me this time Rockstar.

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I will never understand how anybody, especially someone who dislikes GTA games, liked Vice City best. I mean, I guess if you're a Miami resident then there's a novelty to it, but it was a buggy, glitchy, mess and Vice City was the least fun of the GTA:3 era cities to play in, I remember that playing through Liberty City Stories was a fun trip down nostalgia lane, but Vice City Stories was like a chore with catchy music.

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Rockstar Radio accounts for about 90% of the ambience of these games, and that's been true since #1 from DMA, so I can totally see where Bindu's coming from. Most reviewers(and friends i've discussed it with) have said long after the repetitive missions & sandbox fuck-aroundery got dull, they'd simply wait out to catch any radio they'd missed.

 

As for anything else they've done, there was a table tennis game(genre peaked with Pong in my book), the substandard Midnight Club series, and Red Dead. There's more so someone else fill the blanks, i gotta run.

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cant speak on GTA IV, still looking forward to it cheap on steam sometime just to mod up...but Red Dead Redemption was one of the finest games in a great year for gaming.

 

JZA's spot-on: yes, their huge worlds are buggy, but so are much less ambitious projects, and they go above & beyond on their atmosphere/detail sometimes.

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DMA did Lemmings? There ya go!

 

NZA- as someone who didn't play GTAIV to death I can see how RDR would be a standout title for you. I'm sure you've heard the GTA-clone accusations though, and it's not that unfair tbh. Still, was a good game that i still need to play through.

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I've heard REALLY good things about RDR and have been tempted to pick the game up several times, i'm just worried about it being more GTA I guess. And when Vice City is really the only game i've SAT DOWN with, the others i'd pick up, play and toss the controller down after a while because I was bored. (my apologies for sentence structure and/or grammar, hosting a webex meeting with a client while I post)

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  • 4 weeks later...

 

As for anything else they've done, there was a table tennis game(genre peaked with Pong in my book), the substandard Midnight Club series, and Red Dead. There's more so someone else fill the blanks, i gotta run.

 

Dude how could your forget the SNES DMA classic,

 

Uniracers_boxart.png

 

Damn did anyone know this,

 

Shortly after the game's release, DMA Design was sued by Pixar for allegedly copying the unicycle design and concept from their 1987 short film Red's Dream. Mike Dailly, one of the developers at DMA Design, commented, "The problem with Pixar was that they seemed to think that any computer generated unicycle was owned by them."

 

DMA Design lost the lawsuit, and as a result, Nintendo had to terminate production of further Unirally cartridges. According to Mike Dailly, "The deal was that Nintendo wouldn't make any more carts so Unirally only sold the 300k initial run".[1] Many reviewers and players believe the game would have been quite successful, given its critical praise, had it not been limited to its 300,000 production run.

 

Motherfucking Pixar.

Edited by Mr. Sexy Hat
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  • 3 months later...

Put this in the woodpile with every other R* sandbox game. Big pile of generic fail(if you're not sick of GTA IV that is).

 

The tragedy is, this'd be an amazing point and click on the PC, but the clumsy fucking detection system makes it impossible within 3 tries to say, inspect a matchbook on the floor if there's a goddamned shoe within 3 feet that the game thinks you want to look at. Despite being an officer of the law there are no real penalties for driving like a maniac and the odd accidental mowing down of civies, and there's not a lot of freedom in how you resolve the case insomuch as, you either gather the necessary evidence and crack it, or you can kill the suspect in the inevitable gunfight(that's more my poor detection though).

 

I'm being unneccesarily cunty about it as I always am with these things(and I still need to play more RDR), but I guess I'm just sick of the R* sandbox which never changes no matter how it's reskinned. Probably the most frustrating aspect of this game for me is though, you fail a case, miss a cue, whatever, you just go back to the last save point. There's no flat-out failure. I wanted to run the gammut of being the pristine golden boy and/or a shitty drunken failure of a man. I'm hoping later in the game I at least get the choice of being a good or crooked cop, because without that R* have missed the fucking point entirely.

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I often wonder if either of you have ever played bad sandbox games if you bitch about Grand Theft Auto/Red Dead Redemption and such.

 

Take True Crime: Streets of LA, Merceneries, Roadkill, or Driv3r/Driver: White Lines for a whirl and find out what boring and unplayable actually mean. Hell even the fun ones (Sabatouer, Just Cause 2, Jak 2, Total Overdose, Mafia/Mafia 2, Scarface: The World is Yours, The Godfather) only manage to capture some of the fun and creativity of those games. I will admit that it's looking like Saints Row is the new king of fucking about but I had a ton of fun with Grand Theft Auto 4 despite my initial misgivings with it and Red Dead Redemption's only crime was ending (compare it to Red Dead Revolver, there's a reason Rockstar North has such noteriety for this sub-genre)

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whoah, whoah.

 

1) i never actually played GTA IV, never got around to it and id wanted to on PC with this slick-ass mod but apparently it was a really shit port. i heard great things about Gay Tony though.

 

2) Sabateour and Infamous are great, from what ive played. i adore a more focused/japanesey sandbox like Shenmue or Yakuza, but in my mind id even throw Oblivion in the mix, which is totally unfair but fuck you. for me, the point is: if the plot's not interesting enough to return to, ill kill hookers/cops/own the obligatory colosseum level/etc and then im out.

 

anyway, :lush: but i didnt want you thinking id bitched about those titles. id not argue with anyone calling RDR the 2010 GOTY (and i dug revolver, but holy shit was this a leap in quality), i was just lamenting how i react to the average sandbox experience. what has me interested for this one is the same as RDR (and again, to cross over genres) Fallout 3 in my mind: make the setting interesting and ill wander, make the main plot solid and ill come back. im hoping for both here.

 

god, i wish i could ban CAD comics from this forum. so awful.

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I often wonder if either of you have ever played bad sandbox games if you bitch about Grand Theft Auto/Red Dead Redemption and such.

 

Take True Crime: Streets of LA, Merceneries, Roadkill, or Driv3r/Driver: White Lines for a whirl and find out what boring and unplayable actually mean. Hell even the fun ones (Sabatouer, Just Cause 2, Jak 2, Total Overdose, Mafia/Mafia 2, Scarface: The World is Yours, The Godfather) only manage to capture some of the fun and creativity of those games. I will admit that it's looking like Saints Row is the new king of fucking about but I had a ton of fun with Grand Theft Auto 4 despite my initial misgivings with it and Red Dead Redemption's only crime was ending (compare it to Red Dead Revolver, there's a reason Rockstar North has such noteriety for this sub-genre)

 

If I was saying it was bad I didn't quite mean that. WHat i meant to say was, I spent too much time in Liberty City(too much to even finish the game) to enjoy a buggier version that replaces slick cars with horses or older, shittier cars. The Rockstar physics doesn't shift between any of the titles(and if it ain't broke yadda yadda), but I guess being so accustomed to the physics of the environment means there's no mystique in exploration because, I know how our world's physics work to the extent I need them to and if you asked me to go outside and play russian hooker w/heart of gold/cowboy/50's detective I'd probably shrug and tell you to fuck youself much the same way.

 

I was talking to Adam about it this arvo, as he had today off and has spent a lot more time in it and he's more or less skipped the sandbox entirely by just having the partner drive, so there's that. I do like taking the calls that come through though, reminds me of Spiderman games where you POI can change based on what block you're passing. My biggest complaint and issue i cite with the quality of the game is just that they haven't put enough into the proper beauracracy of policework. As shit as CAD is, that pretty tidily sums up your xp. Adam even admitted he's downright awful at interrogations, but the game just continues the same way regardless of how you go about it and you either get a confession or shoot the suspect. THe difference is a block of text on your case summary.

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Moar unwanted opinions: Onto the second disc and have been promoted to Homicide, I guess I've seen more episodes of Perry Mason and maybe read one more Elmore Leonard novel than the collective 'creative minds' of Rockstar. The more I play, the better I feel about skipping RDR and maybe shall just watch the Machinamation collection of cutscenes instead.

 

I've bitched about the familiarity of the physics engine and am giving it one more game before calling R* the new Activision w/Tony Hawk, but it's just so fucking frustrating that there's no procedural effort put forth in this game. It's quite fucking literally a period GTA with an idiot-proof advancement system the like of which has not been seen since FFXIII. There's no lateral development or even a real atmosphere of detectivework OR noir. The main character's about as compelling as Brainy Smurf and is juxtapositioned against stereotypical corrupt cops and lushes. I'm still going because 1) I want so badly to be proven wrong and to have this turn around and 2) because I didn't buy it from EB so I can't just return it for a full refund.

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