L.A. Noire Review

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Welcome to La La Land


Back in February of 2010 Empire raved about the future of narrative in games while playing Quantic Dreams’ riveting opus, Heavy Rain, but little did we know that David Cage and his Parisian cohorts gave us gamers only a glimpse of what would arrive a little over year later.

In other words: welcome to the future. Rockstar Games’ future, that is. The developer’s ever-gestating ode to the pulpy, hard-boiled tales that shaped a generation of writers is an astonishing achievement; a game that feels like a film and a film that, like a game, lets you take control of its leading man. In this case it’s World War veteran Cole Phelps (played by Mad Men’s Aaron Stanton), a poster boy for the US Army and now the Los Angeles Police Department. That’s where simplicity grinds to a halt and a deftly woven (and chunky) narrative crafted by former Getaway helmer and Sony wunderkind, Brendan McNamara, kicks into play. That part, we refuse to delve into for fear of spoiling what is a perfectly-paced piece of pixel-based storytelling. Trust us, honestly.

Then there is L.A. Noire’s pièce de résistance – technology, or more appropriately, the MotionScan System that has allowed the Oz-based developer to smash through the uncanny valley in games and deliver the most astounding use of facial animations in any game Empire has gotten its grubby gamer hands on to date. MotionScan isn’t simply there for aesthetics – it serves as the backbone to L.A. Noire and you’ll have to carefully analyse any suspects or witnesses you interview at locations dotted around the gargantuan map of LA circa 1947 by looking for unusual facial responses or jittery body language before responding in one of three ways – Truth, Doubt or Lying.

Rockstar’s latest doesn’t just raise the bar so much as it kicks into the far reaches of outer space. As of now, we’re desperate to see what the pioneers of gaming pizzazz do next with it. So then, game of the month? Easily. Game of the year? Quite possibly.