What Rockstar Games' L.A Noire got right
Why the detective thriller was a success with gamers
Players are transported back to 1940s Los Angeles to follow the journey of cop Cole Phelps as he moves up through the ranks of the city's police department bureaus, solving the mysteries of brutal murders, suspected arson attacks and dodgy narcotics within the city. With a gripping narrative and the chance to explore L.A - not to mention the advanced motion capture graphics - it's no wonder the game picked up such a positive following from gamers and critics.
Upon release, Gamesrader said that L.A Noire was a "staggering technological achievement", while The Guardian said that it "marks a breakthrough for games as a whole. Six years down the line, the game has made its way back into the spotlight after Rockstar Games released a remastered version for consoles and PC.
We take a look at the key features which we feel made L.A Noire such a popular game back in the day.
Ahead of its time
A key element of L.A Noire's gameplay is interviewing people suspected of crimes. As with real-life scenarios, someone's nerves or guilty conscience could result in them looking - shall we say - shifty. Looking to one side and nervous twitches are just a couple of telltale signs that something is amiss.
It's unreal to think that Rockstar and Team Bondi began working on the game seven years prior to its release, but the end result was phenomenal for a video game at that time. Unlike the majority of other Rockstar Games (games) which run on the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine - L.A Noire had its own custome game engine and MotionScan, developed by Depth Analysis.
MotionScan used 32 cameras positioned 360 degrees around the actor's head to capture movement and lighting at every angle. This technology can be commonly found in most recently released games and is often overlooked as the demand for realistic graphics continues to grow at a rapid pace. But having this technology at the time of L.A Noire's original release certainly made it a game-changer - and most likely one of the reasons why the game cost over $50 million to make!
Setting the scene
Not only did L.A Noire set the scene of the 1940s with its visual representation, it also captured the decade perfectly with its choice of audio too. Composed by musicians Andrew Hale and Simon Hale, the game had its own score and was recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London.
The way in which the music changed, ever so slightly, when Cole came across a clue or the mood changing during an interview with suspects gave L.A Noire that feel of a gripping cop drama television show or film.
One key element of a crime scene investigation-themed game is to have the player immerse themselves in the role of the detective, hunting for clues which could blow a case wide open. L.A Noire's crime scenes and important locations have everything from large blood splats, dead bodies and weapons to cigarettes, beer bottles and porcelain ducks.
It's because of this vast amount of objects and potential pieces of evidence that makes the gameplay so addictive, the player is - as we expect most detectives probably are - reviewed on how the case has gone and the outcome (charging suspects, etc). It's because of this 'appraisal' at the end of each case that the player feels compelled to search high and low to find any piece of evidence that will give them the advantage when it comes to the interrogations.
The MotionScan technology allows players to see whether a suspect isn't quite telling the truth, which Cole Phelps can use to his advantage in progressing towards a guilty plea or additional information. But when a straight face, or a slightly sweaty or nervous one, isn't getting you anywhere - it's time to pull out the hard evidence.
Cole will record notes of locations, evidence and witnesses depending on how much information the player gathers during the investigation. There's no better feeling than searching a crime scene high and low, obtaining a key piece of evidence, and then presenting it as a counter to somebody's petty lie in the interrogation room - watching them squirm and crumble under pressure as you deliver your argument.
After asking the suspect or witness a question and hearing their response, players are prompted to click one of three buttons - Truth, Doubt and Lie - depending on whether they believe or do not believe them, or simply doubt certain facts or information given. Although challenging, the interrogations were very engaging and in most cases (literally) intense. The remastered version of the game features a new interview/interrogation system as Rockstar have replaced these three options with Good Cop, Bad Cop and Accuse.
Whether it's the remastered version or the original release that you're used to, the gripping dialogue during an interrogation - and the way Cole can switch from a sympathetic Cop to an aggressive, hard-hitting detective - can keep players entertained and enthralled.