As a reader, writer, watcher of all things Noire, I'm happy I can now add player to my list of Noire enjoyments. Yesterday, May 17, Rockstar Games released it's long awaited title, L.A. Noire, in which you play the character of Detective Cole Phelps trying to make a name for himself in 1947 Los Angeles.
When I originally saw the trailer for this game back in 2007, it literally made me salivate, and I'm happy to report the game lived up to expectations. L.A. Noire borrows from all aspects of the genre, from spinning newspaper headlines to shadowy dark alley's, and blends them together nicely, and while the game isn't lacking in action sequences, they aren't the main focus, or draw of the game. Most of the game, from what I've seen so far, is not about using your gun, it's about using your brain. Gathering clues, interviewing witnesses, putting the pieces together, that's what L.A. Noire is all about.
Speaking of interviewing witnesses, that is where L.A. Noire shines brightest. The developers of the game created a new technology in which they film live actors performing their lines for their character and use the footage in the game. The result is the ability to actually read a characters facial expressions and body language, which the game puts to great use in it's interrogation scenes.
As Detective Phelps interrogates a witness, it's up to you to decide if the person is telling the truth or not, and whether or not you make the right decision effects the information you receive as well as your ability to discover clues later on. It's nice to see new gaming technology used to enhance the plot, not just make a game look better. It was fascinating to see a character shift their weight and avert their eyes when you changed the line of questioning to something that made a witness, or suspect, uncomfortable, and maybe, not as truthful as you would like. But don't think it's easy to read the game characters. Believe me, it isn't. Well, sometimes it is. See, that's the thing, different actors playing different characters means that each character has their own unique triggers and tells. Mrs. Brown might look away when she's lying, Mr. Jones might shrug his shoulders. Each character is as unique as the person playing them. The result was a player glued to the screen during an interrogation the way I would be during a shoot out or car chase in most games, perhaps even more so.
I've only played a short amount of time, but already I'm hooked. Any gamers out there, as fans of crime drama, you owe it to yourself to pick up L.A. Noire. You won't be sorry.