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Field Report: L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire is out now and we've had a copy on our desks since yesterday. While a full review is coming, here is our initial impression of the game after five hours of gameplay.

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Field Reports provide our first-hand experience with the latest games, but should not be considered a review. Climbing each blood soaked rung of the LAPD's career ladder is a long and difficult process. As Cole Phelps, players will gain first-hand knowledge of this journey, starting at the very bottom of the pack and rising to the top of LA's finest. Having only received our copy of the Team Bondi-developed action game L.A. Noire yesterday, I felt it important to put down my badge and shield and relay a few thoughts about the recently released game from publisher Rockstar Games. Though its controls and core environment looks and feels like a Grand Theft Auto game, L.A. Noire is a much different animal. Taking place during the crime-filled era of the late 1940's, L.A. Noire puts players in the shoes of a newly christened police officer looking to make a name for himself. While the game is promoted as an open-world, the initial experience is more akin to playing within a shoe box. The game is small, confined, and structured. It's comparison to a small area isn't meant to sway a negative reaction, but to prove a point. From the moment Phelps kisses his wife goodbye on his first day as an officer of the law, the game made me feel like I was taking control of a man venturing off to his 9-5 position. The initial stages, which work as a tutorial, place Phelps within reach of a number of cases. Here I learned how to work a crime scene, investigate leads, piece together clues, apprehend suspects, and make them break. Each piece is structured and cutoff from the outside world--a world Team Bondi says is bigger than any world Rockstar has ever been involved with.

Cole Phelps is on the case, investigating a multitude of interesting crimes in L.A. Noire.

Hours later, the experience is much different. As Phelps rises through the ranks he comes across new opportunities. Five hours deep, I'm only now being introduced to elements that exist in the environment--like Cole's desk, which allow him to explore new cases. The hint of exploration offered to me comes in the form of all-points bulletins that blare out of Cole's squad car. This is where I want the game to expand. I want more options throughout the world, but the initial run of random crime always seems to end the same, brutal way. In one instance, I found myself chasing a suspect who ends the pursuit by taking a woman hostage in an alley. Though I purposefully attempted to incapacitate him with a shot to the leg, the subsequent in-game cutscene featured the suspect lying dead in a pool of his own blood with a series of well placed shots to the chest. That's not what happened, but that's how it ends. Later another random pursuit ends with someone jumping off a building. Of the handful I've experienced, they have all ended in death. There are more body bags in L.A. Noire than a mortician's freezer, it would seem. That, so far, is disappointing. I'm trying to serve and protect all, aren't I? Unless there was an initiative in the 1940's to actually "paint the town red," I'm not getting satisfaction from those moments. The later stages of the game could be different. They could be more in line with the actual story's core narrative, which features cases that include actual investigation and arrests. Being able to be a good cop, without shedding blood is the part that I like about L.A. Noire. The core casework included in the game really whets that part of my appetite. L.A. Noire's facial animation system, the one in which the entire game's interviewing mechanic relies on, was initially impressive. Soon I became concerned that the embellished mannerisms of each interviewee would become stale and obvious. A few hours later my concerns were thrown away. During one interrogation, a suspect stared right at me and barely flinched, but was later proven to be a liar. The game doesn't only rely on facial animation, but listening to how people answer your questions. Overall, it's a challenge that has left me stumped on a few occasions. I'm about five hours into the game, putting it down after being promoted to Homicide division (the third rung of that career ladder, I mentioned earlier). So far, I'm enjoying my time. The game keeps surprising me. There are hiccups here and there--ones that I will mention in my full review, which will come as soon as I'm done--but L.A. Noire has really got me craving to go back for more. Also, the game is a constant reminder that I really need to step up my dress code. Those suits are sharp.
This Field Report is based on the PlayStation 3 version of L.A. Noire, provided by Rockstar Games. This is meant only as a first impression of the final game. A full, critical review of the entire game will be posted soon.

Xav de Matos was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 17, 2011 3:00 PM

    Xav de Matos posted a new article, Field Report: L.A. Noire.

    L.A. Noire is out now and we've had a copy on our desks since yesterday. While a full review is coming, here is our initial impression of the game after five hours of gameplay.

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      May 17, 2011 3:29 PM

      Has anyone in Chatty had a chance to play the game? Wonder what everyone thinks so far.

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        May 18, 2011 6:43 AM

        I think it's awesome. It's exactly what I wanted out of this game.

        I -love- doing the investigation parts.

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        May 19, 2011 12:00 PM

        I'll tell you what I think... I think I'm a pretty average detective. :/ I usually get anywhere from half to 2/3's the questions "right", and every once in a while I go completely in the wrong direction with the interrogation. Still, I'm having a lot of fun and this game's pace is a welcome change.

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      May 17, 2011 4:12 PM

      [deleted]

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      May 17, 2011 4:26 PM

      What I really wonder is how much content there is, and how the replayability is. But mostly how the content is. GTA and RDR give you a very long playtime, this seems more static.

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        May 17, 2011 4:49 PM

        It's hard to say; however, I wonder how replayability will even function with this game considering each case has a right answer. Getting to the answer could be different, but it appears every "end game" is the same.

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          May 17, 2011 6:22 PM

          It seems to have a low replayability factor, just like Portal 2.

          Maybe Rockstar will use this game as a platform to release DLC like packs of cases, depending of the demand, with different levels of difficulty and more elaborate stuff?

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            May 17, 2011 8:07 PM

            I have a feeling there will be lots of DLC and hopefully rockstar will not charge an arm and leg for it.

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              May 17, 2011 9:26 PM

              I'm thinking the sweet spot is five bucks per case. Rockstar knows how to package and charge for DLC, as they've shown with GTA IV's episodes and Red Dead's Undead Nightmare.

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                May 18, 2011 8:32 AM

                There sure will be. The game size was actually reduced because it was once a 6-disc game on the 360. They had to cut out 2 other departments from the LAPD in the story, which Rockstar says they want to make DLC. They have a good track record of making DLC that is worthy of the price.

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          May 17, 2011 7:09 PM

          There are multiple endings and situations that can occur depending on how you work the investigation. For example, in one of the cases you nab the main suspect, but you also have the opportunity to charge a second person with a lesser offense. There's another instance where if you go to a particular location first, you can stop a second crime from occurring, but if you decide to investigate a different lead first, you miss the opportunity.

          Stuff like that.

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      May 17, 2011 6:47 PM

      I ended up swapping my 360 preorder to the ps3 version. Too tired to play it tonight though. :\

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      May 17, 2011 7:53 PM

      I put about 3 hours into the game tonight and im only 11% in. Its fun, I like investigating the crime scene/ people homes. I have an old TV so it sucks finding small clues/ details. Interrogation is hard, I usually get 3/5 right.

      As of right now I think the game is worth it, there isnt a bunch of shooting but I didnt want a game like that.

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      May 17, 2011 8:03 PM

      God this game is amazing. Only issue so far is that it has been freezing a lot. A few google searches and I find out it is happening on both the PS3 / 360. Other then that, this is the game I've been waiting for awhile.

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      May 18, 2011 12:34 AM

      So far the game is good except for a few issues with the interrogation aspect. There were several instances where I got the question "wrong" when the piece of evidence I was using to support my theory was sound. It's like the multiple choice questions that ask you what the "best" answer is, where "best" is a matter of opinion not fact.

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        May 18, 2011 12:54 AM

        Does the game give you time to mull over a question? Or replay what a suspect has said?

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          May 18, 2011 3:36 AM

          yes, no.

          After they make their statement, you can review your evidence and examine their face when you're going through the evidence. However, you cannot seem to replay their statement and, if you make a mistake, your only choice is to either keep going with what you have or restart the episode.

          Right now, I just like going forward. You don't need all the evidence, or everyone to admit everything.

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            May 18, 2011 4:35 AM

            Press start to review the transcript of the discussion you've had with the witness or whatnot.

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            May 18, 2011 4:58 AM

            [deleted]

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              May 18, 2011 5:01 AM

              Not to mention a curious habit of manhandling dead bodies and wandering aimlessly around crime-scenes picking up every random object he sees.

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            May 18, 2011 5:12 AM

            [deleted]

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      May 18, 2011 6:56 AM

      I played for 30-45 min yesterday and was blown away by the facial animations. They've gone and made it possible to be fooled by close ups on a characters face and think they are real people.

      INSANE.

      And I love doing the investigations.

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        May 18, 2011 7:27 AM

        Only issue I have with the faces is the tech makes it inconsistent. Some people will just have a vaseline covered swimming face mess. Others will look fantastic. I think plain faced people with consistent skin tone just turns into a washed out mess. Yet characters with more wrinkles or makeup look fantastic.

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