Disclaimer: This article originally appeared over the weekend on our PAX East 2011 coverage hub. Travel there to read more previews, interviews and features from the expo.
Judging by an individual case from Rockstar and Team Bondi’s next big project, L.A. Noire, people will either love the game or hate it. The way it’s been developed and written is completely unique when compared to really any other title within Rockstar’s catalogue. It’s slower, it’s more mental and it’s got an extremely tight focus on dialogue and performances.
That last point concerning the speaking roles of characters on screen may seem like a universally emphasized Rockstar premise, but inL.A. Noire it’s such a crucial piece of the game. Performances for characters were captured from real life actors using a 360 degree camera system. Every angle of those actors reading dialogue was then slapped onto the character models in the game. The result is a batch of very unique and descriptive facial animations and visual tells.
And that actually plays into the investigation mechanic. You’ll interrogate persons of interest throughout the game and you’ll need to select a choice among truth, doubt and lie. The main tip you have regarding the nature of their testimony is their visual performance. We saw, during our demo, a subtle example and a really obvious example. One guy spoke and looked all over the room, eyes darting back and forth the entire time. Clearly a liar. The other guy spoke and subtley clinched his jaw and portrayed some nervous ticks. It took some actual thought to doubt him.
And most of the demo we saw actually ran that way. We spent about 45 minutes sitting in front of a big TV watching the Rockstar guys as they took us through the first bit of this single case. In that time, our demo giver only pulled his gun once, for about 30 seconds. Then he had a short fist fight with a single guy. That’s it.
The rest of the time was spent walking to the car, walking to crime scenes or interrogating key case folk. This game is done up in an open world, about 8 square miles of a portion of 1947 Los Angeles, but the progression and storyline keep the action quite linear. As we were told, you’re not really going to run around and blow stuff up just for the hell of it.
And that’s where, perhaps, the biggest skism will take place amongst usual Rockstar fans for this game. We were told that the company is excited because they’ve never done anything like this before. And they even offered up that they feel that there’s no other game out there that’s quite like their own. And, while they are mostly right, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that people will love it.
Rockstar and Team Bondi are stepping largely and taking a big risk here. L.A. Noire is an exceptionally unique title that will probably release to a mixed bag-type reception. Just know that, and I’m speaking for the staff at CraveOnline.com here, we love this type of game. Cerebral efforts that dismiss the norms and genre definitions are completely welcome as far as we’re concerned. In that vein, we’re psyched for L.A. Noire.