[PAX East 2011] – 30 Minutes of L.A. Noire

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[PAX East 2011] – 30 Minutes of L.A. Noire

Rockstar Games is nothing if not bold.  With L.A. Noire, Rockstar is making another bold choice, creating a game that forces gamers to pay meticulous attention to detail to solve crimes instead of simply telling gamers who the bad guys are and giving them a gun.  In L.A. Noire, you play as Detective Cole Phelps, a recently promoted detective who has just returned from World War II.  The case from the game at PAX East was entitled “The Red Lipstick Murder” and was inspired by a real case from Los Angeles during the time period in which the game is set (1947).

The demo opened in the police station, with a higher-up commending Phelps for his promotion and assigning him a partner and a case.  The first aspect that popped out to me was the soundtrack, which, typical of Rockstar, was phenomenal.  The jazz overtones of the soundtrack really helped establish the time and setting.  The voice acting was also top notch.  The real star, however, was the new facial mapping technique Rockstar has developed for L.A. Noire.  The characters’ facial animations were uncanny in their ability to convey the actors real face.

From the Police Station we went to the crime scene to find a naked woman’s dead body covered in contusions and writing.  The writing was in red lipstick, giving the case its name, and you began checking the crime scene for clues as to whom might have committed the crime.  Rockstar has stressed again and again how they want the players to really do detective work, and a gun is your last resort.  Searching the scene you come across a lighter from a club, and you decide to check out the club to see if you can uncover any more clues.

Arriving at the club you speak with the bar tender, and this is where the value of Rockstar’s new technology is really put to use.  As you question the bar tender you are given three main choices in how you will continue the interrogation.  The choices are truth, doubt, and lie.  You study the facial animations as well as the vocal inflections to try and get a handle on how honest the person you are integrating is being.  When you make a choice like Lie, you need something to back up your allegation.  After speaking to the bar tender, who gives you the victims name, you are directed to the owner of the bar.  The owner gives you an address for the husband of the victim, while also giving you details on the state of their relationship.  He also gives you the licence plate of a man the victim was seen leaving the bar with last night, and mention that he called the victims husband to inform him his wife needed picking up.

All of these clues are recorded in your notebook, where you can easily check back through them at anytime you need to.  From the bar the demo took us to the victims house, which appeared to have been broken into.  Finding an address for an apartment the husband is currently staying in you decide to check with the neighbors and head out.  The neighbor reveals more of the couples troubled relationship, while also showing off the emotions Rockstar is able to convey with amazing accuracy with the new facial animations.

You and your partner then head to the husbands apartment from the note found at the house.  Arriving at apartment you and your partner burst open the door to find the husband and begin questioning him.  However, before you do you decide to peak around the house.  In his bedroom you find that he had been packing, while also noticing that his shoe size doesn’t match the size of the prints found at the site.  The packing was raises your suspicions though and finding a notepad in the kitchen you use an old detective trick, rubbing the pencil on the paper, to find what was last written on the pad.  You find a note that implies the husband asked someone to “take care” of his wife.  Confronting the husband you call him out as a liar, backing it up with the evidence you have just found.  The husband takes offense to your partners “bad cop” routine and begins throwing punches.  After a brief tussle you throw cuffs on him.  This is where the demo left off.

Seeing 30 minutes of the game was enough to blow me away.  I was impressed with every aspect of the game.  L.A. Noire looks like it will definitely continue Rockstar’s string of excellent games.  It already appears to be a must buy.