Pick up L.A. Noire, where limelight meets streetlight, but be warned: it is hard to put down

By Logan Senn

L.A. Noire – the newest installment in a long line of genre-defining games from Rockstar Games and Team Bondi – fuses a sandbox-style, open-world, first-person detective game with the gritty and compelling backdrop of post-WWII Los Angeles. This daring venture, from the gaming think-tank made famous through the Grand Theft Auto series, has broken into uncharted territory with the first game ever to seamlessly blur the lines between gaming and cinema, doing so in near-perfect fashion.

Aaron Staton

As the opening cinematic sequence beautifully displays the glitz and glamour of golden-age ’40s Hollywood, we are introduced to our leading man Cole Phelps (Aaron Staton of “Mad Men”), an LAPD Detective who was thrown into his position headfirst after a brief stint as an officer in the war. The storyline follows Phelps as he climbs the ranks and battles over a seemingly unending quest to tackle cases of corruption, drugs, arson and murder, all the while fighting with his own brutal conscience and his decisions about morality.

It sounds more like the plot of a twisted noir novel than that of a multimillion-dollar gaming endeavor, but I assure you that every possible facet of this cinematic journey has been overly developed to the point where you can hardly discern between the enveloping story and the gameplay itself.

L.A. Noire is the first game on record to use Team Bondi’s new MotionScan animation-capture technology. With MotionScan, the game’s producers were able to capture actors’ facial expressions and body language with an accuracy never seen before on any gaming console. More to the point, it asks players to use every aspect of their intellect to evaluate and engage with the in-game characters’ physical actions and reactions.

This is a groundbreaking game on many other levels as well. The size and scope of the game are completely unmatched in anything I’ve ever come across on a console system. Everything from the scenic Los Angeles backdrop to the rich and enthralling soundtrack have been fine-tuned to deliver the true feeling of the dark and twisted world around you.

As far as the gameplay goes, there is little available on the open market to compare it to. The game delicately walks the tightrope between beautiful CGI and actual interactive gameplay. There are times in which the player has trouble figuring out when it’s actually time to pick up the controller and start playing. The cinematics are breathtaking, and the new sandbox engine far exceeds the greatest expectations of the most seasoned gaming veterans.

I would compare it to the GTA (Grand Theft Auto) series, but that would be doing L.A. Noire a serious injustice. You could spend countless hours exploring the rich scenery of a Los Angeles long forgotten. Angelinos may take particular interest here in that it’s pretty darn fun to explore your neighborhood as it looked nearly 70 years ago. With more than 60 model cars available, the driving is authentic and the shootouts feel realistic but not overwhelming.

The most interesting aspects of the game, however, are the deeply layered interrogation scenes. Each one of the dozens of cases comes with its own cast of characters, offering hundreds of unique and diverse plotlines. It’s up to the player to read and interpret the facial expressions and body language of the suspects, and the outcome of the story depends on your ability to do so accurately.More