L.A. Noire Hands-On Preview

We review the evidence in a first play of Rockstar's latest tale of redemption.

We have heard rather a lot about L.A. Noire since it emerged from the shadows three months ago. Since then we've been impressed by the technology behind it and intrigued by its detective story premise, but we haven't been able to play this long-in-development game. We finally got to try our hand at a few cases on a recent visit to Rockstar's London offices. But be aware: some of the case notes below could be considered spoilers.

L.A. Noire is, as the title suggests, heavily influenced by the golden age of film noir, seemingly offering as rich and murky a vision of 1950s America as the classics of that genre. It has you step into the shoes of fresh LAPD detective Cole Phelps. At the start of the game you'll be pounding the streets as a patrol officer, but as the game progresses, you'll move up the ranks. First stop is the traffic desk, and then you enter where we picked up the game for our demo--homicide.

After a cutscene showing a shadowy figure beating a woman to death, we found ourselves in a briefing room. There we were told we were being moved up to the homicide division following the retirement of one of the team's stalwarts, and we were quickly briefed on our first case. A woman had been found brutally beaten, with a number of hallmarks suggesting a serial killer called the Werewolf.

After being introduced to the case, we headed to the patrol car with our new world-weary and work-shy partner to drive out to the scene. Driving in L.A. Noire will be a familiar experience for anyone who played GTAIV--the controls are the same, the car handling feels similar, and we're told many of the same rules will apply. As a police officer you'll be able to commandeer any vehicle in the city should the mood take you, but according to Rockstar, this will come with penalties if you do it indiscriminately. You can also drive with the same reckless disregard you used in GTAIV; while the other pleasingly rendered 1950s cars will drive along at a fairly sedate pace, you're free to tear up the roads if you so wish--but you may well end up being charged for property damage further down the line if you're too cavalier.

Getting to the crime scene was easy enough via the minimap and full-size map in the menu system, though the lack of route planning was a little strange, given that even Red Dead Redemption's horses seemed to be fitted with sat nav. When we were there, a brief chat with the beat cop on the scene laid out the few key facts, and we set to looking for evidence. The first was the most obvious--the bloody, naked, beaten body in the middle of the scene.

Portentous music swelled in the background as we strolled towards the unfortunate woman's remains, but settled into the background quickly. Examining the body was a matter of examining the salient points in turn--one button lets you choose the area you want to investigate, and then the analogue sticks let you move that body part around to check for clues, with a gentle controller rumble letting you know you've found the right angle.

The game doesn't pull any punches with its sometimes gruesome content.

In the case of the head, this meant moving it to one side until severe blunt-force trauma was revealed on one side, with similar procedures for each arm, with one revealing that a wedding band had apparently been cut from the finger. The torso provided a more obvious, less cryptic clue--a message seemingly from the killer, signed off with an obscenity scrawled across the victim's stomach in red lipstick.

As we wandered around the scene, there were some helpful yellow evidence markers on the floor from the preliminary investigation team highlighting some of the bigger pieces, while the rumble that was present investigating the body came into play highlighting objects that could be interacted with. Somewhat akin to the pointer changing in a point-and-click adventure, this became a quick way to ascertain if things were of interest, and a useful tool to resort to when stuck.

Car chases look set to break up the more intellectual sections of the narrative.

After examining the scene and finding a few personal effects, we also found a puzzle-cum-lighter that provided our next line of enquiry--a country club not too far away. At this point the music faded out, serving as an audio clue that we'd found all there was of note in the area. This is where this section of the demo ended, and the Rockstar rep whisked us on a little further in the storyline to the case of a similar murder.

To get some more information on the next case we'd be handling, we headed to a diner where our boss was having a spot of lunch. With what sounded like Billie Holiday coming through the jukebox, we got a briefing on the our next case. Despite the similarities, there was even more scepticism from our partner that this was the work of the same man, in part because there was apparently already someone in custody for the case we'd been working on previously.

This crime scene was even more brutal than the last. The victim was again naked with writing scrawled on her torso in lipstick, but this time as well as basic blunt-force trauma being present, she'd been viciously slashed. Clues were scattered over a wider area this time, with fewer markers. Your partner acts in a similar manner to Fable II's dog in situations like this, moving around various possible items of interest and gently--or sometimes not so gently--prodding you in the right direction.

Following a blood trail down the alley, we found a key tied to a hydrant in the wall, and more blood smears leading up to the roof. Further items discovered up there clearly indicated the killer was toying with us by this stage in the investigation--a letter had been left, along with a handbag containing the second half of a card that allowed us to identify the victim with relative ease.

Then, having identified the victim, we headed to her rooms in a nearby boarding house. After a look through her things and finding evidence of a break-in, we got to conduct our first interrogation, the showpieces for the game's much-touted facial capture technology. The landlady, and instantly recognisable Myra Turley (one of many cast members the game shares with AMC's ongoing period drama Mad Men), very clearly had something to hide. Unfortunately for her, she wasn't very good at it. In interrogation scenarios you have a first-person view, letting you get a good look at every little bit of reaction as you ask your questions.

Based on those reactions and the evidence you've gathered, you've got three options for a response: you can accept what they've said at face value; you can express doubt they're telling the truth if you've got a hunch that they're trying to pull the wool over your eyes; or you can call them out for lying, if you have the evidence to back up that assertion. The capture technology means this isn't so much a gameplay trick as a purely human skill--it's not a matter of learning tells, or gameplay being shoehorned in; it's a mater of looking at someone's face and telling if they're lying. In those sections we saw, it was relatively easy to tell if someone was being less than honest with you, but knowing which approach to take to get the right information out of them was slightly trickier.

However, sometimes words just don't cut it. Later in the case we paid a visit to the victim's husband and ended up in a fistfight. The brawling will feel relatively familiar to anyone who played Red Dead Redemption; while the fights won't play out in quite the same way, the mechanics are very similar. Another action sequence cropped up later on; after uncovering some apparently damning evidence on another suspect, the suspect fled on foot before leaping into his car, which led to a lengthy chase across the streets of LA, while our partner hung out the window of our car trying to shoot out the tyres on the suspect's car.

Brawling can be most undignified; even the most well-heeled detective can soon find himself hatless.

Though this may all sound linear and formulaic, there are often multiple paths to important story points. While we managed to pick up an important clue by interrogating the landlady above, a later search provided us with a matchbook pointing to the same location. This means that while failure has consequences--you won't be rated as highly for each mission--roadblocks aren't thrown up after small errors that force you to backtrack and attempt sections again.

The mix of gameplay mechanics, branching investigations, and intriguing overarching narrative looks to be marrying up well with L.A. Noire's impressive technology. We hope to see the game again before its release in May, so keep it tuned to GameSpot for more on Rockstar's latest.

Written By

Want the latest news about L.A. Noire?

L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire

Discussion

194 comments
Arianno
Arianno

Is this 1:st or 3:rd person? I loved the story and graphics of Alan Wake; but the 3:rd person view frustrated the game completely: I wanted to investigate the fascinating environment, looking left and right; but all I saw was the back of my own head. I'm in the game to investigate the game's world, not "myself". L.A. Noire must have a 1:st person view if I'm to buy it.

noelmetal
noelmetal

sorry forgot... "spelt" not "spelled" lol!

noelmetal
noelmetal

Game looks good but as a side note i'd just like to point out to @feudemonj00 that nope... definitely spelt "tyres"! Sorry for the pointless post but it is only in reply to another pointless post lol!

studfly
studfly

Cant we talk about the freakin game....NEWS FLASH : No one cares if you people wish it was on P.C. GET OVER IT. This game is only for the consoles....and guess what??? It looks freakin amazing. If you dont own a PS3/360 then you are missing out. Dont get me wrong , because im sure P.Cs are superior. The problem is they are to costly, and a pain in the @$$. Im just saying, im a pretty wealthy man, but I play games to enjoy...not worry about if my rig can handle it... NO THANKS. Bottom line...the consoles are just as fun, and graphically amazing. Gamers on this site would rather talk about L.A NOIR, then listen to jealous P.C. owners....GET A LIFE....AND HAVE A NICE DAY.

studfly
studfly

This game looks sweet.... Finaly a game that is focused on single player, like the good old days.Good Lord... I miss those days

feudemonj00
feudemonj00

And oh so sad that I'll have to change discs. I remember back in the day when Final Fantasy used to come on mulitiple discs people used to just rave about "the game is so huge it's on x amount of discs". Fail. Who cares if it's 1 blu ray or 3 dcds, it's the same game. Have fun with any online features in this or any other game you have. Oh wait, thats right, PSN is STILL DOWN!

feudemonj00
feudemonj00

Haha the reviewer spelled "tires" wrong.

dinslacck
dinslacck

@Deeze-Nutz Despite building a powerful computer rig, you also have to buy a console. Then you'll have a powerful PC rig and also a console to play at. you will not miss any great title. i've done mine and have a great time. unless you a diehard PC gamer then ignore what i have said.

dinslacck
dinslacck

@shiben why this game shouldn't be released on xbox 360? why it sucks you out..Clearly you hate 360 owners. Grow up, son. moreover, i will get this for my ps3.. and yeah shiben, i dont hate 360 owners..

Deeze-Nutz
Deeze-Nutz

Nice game, too bad it is not available for the PC.

benny446
benny446

@greygaurdianx well i am glad that i have a ps3 with bluray and 1game=1disc unlike the xbox360 wichi in this particular game it have 3 disc.....welll keep changing those disc :D

Zenmuron666
Zenmuron666

I hope it lives up to the expectation. Although I am afraid it will not.

hondustar37
hondustar37

console games are better because because you dont have to worry about specs. Who da f*ck wanna shell out 50 bones a game and den hundreds more after that just to upgrade your processor so it can play games. Look at Crysis for example. People didnt play that because the majority of gamers dont own supper rigged computers...we have consoles, consoles that until the newer ones drop we wont have to worry about modifying just to play a technically advanced game. F*ck all you computer games....

nikhilprim
nikhilprim

This looks lik such an awesome game. Hav 2 giv credit top Team Bondi for the tech that they r using 2 create this game. Rockstar games has already got so much credit for the GTA series and for Red Dead but this is really smthin completely diff. Its not just a slam-bang gun-ho action game for once. Hav 2 really use your head 2 get through this one....which looks lik its gonna b such a lot of fun. Can't wait for it!!!

Ar54ad
Ar54ad

Looks good, as long as it is easy to get around i.e user friendly, and it does not be a short game then i am looking forward to it,

Bruno_pc
Bruno_pc

Last time i heard a Rockstar video commentated by this guy was about Red Dead Redemption preview, i reckon it can be as good or even a better game.

00J
00J

Also for example i could see in this game the Phantom driving in one of those cars, you could take a vehicle from the game, and use it as your "batmobile" example... Or take a Plane or Helicopter for Non-flying heroes, see where this goes?

00J
00J

Oh and one more thing, you'd have to be able to Choose the look of your character, they could have gadgets all you would need are a few out of the most commonly found Superhero gadgets, such as a grapple launcher, smoke bombs. etc. Then you could also make a SuperPowered Hero, with the ability to Fly, and Super Strength, etc. See where this is going? Now add all that against a night/day game engine like this, with the story/writing, and it would sell 1million copies inside of 2 weeks, i guarantee it.

00J
00J

Oh and i mean that this game concept is pretty much THE MOLD FOR SUPERHERO GAMES! You want a real comicbook Superhero game experience? If done the way i invision it, you'd pay $80 for the game, and it would be historic. Comicbooks perfectly melded with a Computer Game.

00J
00J

I'm getting it. This game looks really cool. Looks like you finally get to be the Cop, a tangent from GTA that have been thought about by many. 1 step closer to the Truely good Superhero game like this... Take this game and add a Superhero element, with this kind of gameplay and writing, and whoa...

Andrew0824
Andrew0824

Looks pretty cool. I'll likely be getting it.

shiben
shiben

@greygaurdianx hehe I know dude, xbox is awesome, haved played GeOW1 and 2 co-op it kicks ass. Just thought of trolling for a bit and see what it feels like :P

Yochoo
Yochoo

@U-have-Krabs "Also it doesn't help that the publisher are making people believe all PC gamers pirates. They are blowing this pirating thing way out of proportion." Agree with you , now with both PS3 and Xbox 360 fully hackable (both able to read pirated copies) , they don't have an excuse for not launching games on PC. They should move their lazy asses and port it to the PC!

greygaurdianx
greygaurdianx

@shiben XBOX ROCKS I am so happy that it is on xbox 360.

shiben
shiben

This should not release on xbox-360... but it still is, that sucks

felipehelloween
felipehelloween

After committing crimes in GTA, now you is the law in L.A. Noire.

Blitzkrieg129
Blitzkrieg129

People are blowing this topic way out of proportion here. You can't fairly judge whether a PC or a console is better than the other. A PC can do so much more than a console can. However, developers and publishers have realized that people are more apt to buy a console, rather than buying a new PC that can handle the games the same or better than a console. Personally, I just wish Microsoft would release a new console every 5-6 years, rather than something like Kinect. Graphics aren't everything in a game...but they help a lot. That's all I'm gonna say... I could talk about this for a while, but I'll spare you all.

mooch35
mooch35

@lithus "THEN you have the joy of waiting on the installation and updates" Really? Haha. I thought I could take you seriously until you made that comment. Installation doesn't take but a few minutes and when you buy your games through steam, you'll hardly ever need cd's again. I've got tons of games I could install right now without having to search my whole house for the cd. Same goes for updates. I figured if you've played PC games for 17 years as you're claiming then you should know all this, but I guess you've been out of the loop too long to realize how much better things have gotten. Steam auto updates your games too and guess what? They're free and fast!! Oh wait, what's that? That's the sound of your crapbox live sub running out, better run down to Gamestop and buy something that should have for free in the first place. Not all consoles are bad, though. PS3 is alright.

punksterdaddy
punksterdaddy

pc, no consoles, no i mean pc is better.... no wait, consoles is better! OK CONSOLES ARE ACE but i think consoles are better than consoles with the pc??????????? Who gives a sh*te on this stooopid, yet very unremarkable and very consistent, on going waste of time and space of which is the better? Every night i log on and if its not some daft comments about pc or consoles, it will be some crazy dumb debate on ps3 vs x360 and who is the biggest fanboys??? ENOUGH! We are all gamers and we should all talk about the GAMES, NO?

Rocker6
Rocker6

@lithus PC isnt changing!?There are new components coming out almost every month!And what is this about being limited to a office desk?Have you ever heard of laptops!? Compatibility issues?Really?Of what kind?Only compatibillity issues on my PC I had when I couldnt play 90s games on Windows 7 without some patches.And You still have a tower, monitor, keyboard and mouse?What,like PS 1,2,3, didnt have almost same controllers,only PS3 has a sixaxis,and same goes for Xbox360,also very similar controlers.So I think you dont know what youre talking about,and how can I be a PC purist when I owe PS3 too,and enjoy great exclusives.I only want to say I prefer gaming on my PC,but I dont hate consoles.

specta1989
specta1989

@Rocker6 I'm just messing around. I know that it's Rockstar's new stance on the PC market. Do you remember how badly ported GTAIV was? I could barely play the game on my PC without the patch!! Rockstar has abandoned the PC and I don't see them going back any time soon, which kinda sucks as they make really good games. I still think that anyone who pirates a game wasn't going to buy the game in the first place, so the game company doesn't lose any money. But that's just me?!

mrtweed2
mrtweed2

sounds good! I'm not a huge "csi" gaming type (although i enjoyed those limited abilities in "Condemned") but this looks very good and as long as there is an open world multi-player like GTA, I'm in! Not that it will keep me from purchasing if there isn't MP:)

lithus
lithus

[QUOTE="Rocker6"],I too miss those good old days when console gaming wasnt holding PC back and when PC games were ported to consoles.[/QUOTE] Perfect example of a PC purist. Typical "It's the consoles fault!". Ever think PC gaming just isn't practical anymore. Consoles aren't holding PC gaming back. PC gaming is holding itself back because the platform isn't changing. You still have a tower, monitor, keyboard and mouse while still sitting at a desk. There's no standardization. No two PC gamers have the same rig. So compatibiliy issues are rampant..................................................................... Consoles (in reguards to gaming) can do pretty much everything a PC can do. Online mulitplayer, d/l add-on's, updates, fixes/patches and even stream movies. In a much smaller package and not limited to an office desk.

Rocker6
Rocker6

@Yochoo I totaly agree with your comment,RDR and L.A. Noire should be ported to PC,and yeah,I too miss those good old days when console gaming wasnt holding PC back and when PC games were ported to consoles.

Rocker6
Rocker6

@specta1989 I really hate when somebody is saying games arent made for PC because of the piracy.We have piracy on Xbox360 and PS3 too,and there's a lot of them,so piracy isnt the reason why L.A. Noire isnt made for the PC,its probably Rockstar's new developed ignorance for the PC potential.

lithus
lithus

@mooch35: And you're the typical PC purists who thinks they're better than everyone else. New's flash Jimmy... you're not.

lithus
lithus

@Blitzkrieg129: Well said. @everyone else: I'll say this 1st before anyone starts throwin labels. I've been gaming on the PC for the past 17 years (longer than most of you have been alive). Like a lot of people, I got fed up spending $800-$1,200 on a gaming rig, only having to drop a few hundred more 2 years later. Better video cards, sound cards, more memory, new mother board/CPU etc................................................................... THEN you have the joy of waiting on the installation and updates. Worrying whether or not you're going to have compatibility issues. I decided years ago all that wasn't worth it anymore. Not because I can't afford it, because I don't want to....................................................................... And I'm not alone. This is consumer and market wide. Publishers see the console trend. That's why many of the PC titles and add-on's aren't being released at the same time...if at all. When you go to a store like Gamestop, look around. Where's the PC selection? Used to be there 10 years ago. It's all console now. This is the trend................................................................ PC gaming may not be dead, but it's definitely not where it used to be. And it's getting worse. Even a PC pursist like mooch35 can't lie to themselves anymore about that fact. So PC games may look a little better, calling it a superior system...but where's the support? How long are you going to wait for games to release (Starcraft, Diablo 3)...Not getting add-ons/content, yet consoles did? That's not the definition of superiority.

Blitzkrieg129
Blitzkrieg129

Because people are talking about it...I figured I'd give my 2 cents that I've become to realize over the years. The bottom line is this... PCs: Can be amazing if you can afford the $800+ getting started, then paying that every 3-5 years for upgrades to keep updated with times. Xbox 360: $300 one time and you can use it in your home theater much more conveniently than a PC. I love my PC and my Xbox 360. But the 360 is the less expensive option for those of us who don't have the ability to upgrade that often.

Jawad2007
Jawad2007

Damit i wish they make one for pc !

zizo_wanted
zizo_wanted

This game is AWESOME........ But, if there's an online multiplayer..how could it be?

mooch35
mooch35

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

hkymike
hkymike

Who cares about the PC.....Gaming on the PC sucks! Consoles all the way

hkymike
hkymike

Getting it for the 360

OGKNav
OGKNav

Game looks remarkable I'll give it that. But I'm not buying it for console after seeing the difference between GTAIV and Mafia II on console. Those games look remarkable on PC and the experience really looked subtracted compared to console.