When Phelps opts to Disbelieve/Accuse, the suspect or witness will invariably react with outrage - genuine or otherwise. To force an answer, Phelps must produce evidence to back up his claim. Every clue you find - whether it's a physical object or a piece of information - will be entered into Phelps' notepad, a vital tool that helps you to keep track of the various plot threads and personalities that arise during each case. Each fresh discovery will be pencilled down in neat handwriting, and every new character you meet will have their portrait sketched down as a visual reference. You won't just be limited to looking at details in the current case, either: as the story progresses, you'll uncover links back to crimes that you resolved earlier in the game. You'll have to be careful about putting too much stock in any one clue, however, as there are plenty of red herrings to stumble across.
Rockstar's first showing of the game focused on a case called The Fallen Idol, Phelps' final assignment on the Traffic desk. I'm slightly torn here, as I'm loathe to reveal too many details about such a story-driven game. As a compromise, I'm going to sketch out the rough outline of the quest while glossing over most of the twists and turns; with any luck this will give a solid indication of how the game plays (well, looks - this wasn't a hands-on demo) without giving away too many of the good bits.
The Fallen Idol begins with Phelps receiving a briefing at Police Headquarters: a car has driven over the edge of an embankment, almost directly across the street from the cop-shop. The vehicle's descent was prematurely halted by a billboard - a lucky occurrence that probably saved the lives of the car's two occupants: film star June Ballard, and a teenage girl named Jessica Hamilton. Phelps heads to the scene with his partner for the case, Stefan Bekowsky. Once he gets there, he swiftly discovers signs of foul play: the vehicle had clearly been rigged by an unknown third party, and Ms Ballard claims that she and Hamiton were drugged.
Right from the initial chat with the bruised actress, it's clear that things are going to get messy. During questioning, Ballard looks furtive and keeps biting her lip in a way that suggests she's perhaps not as good an actress as she thinks she is; confronting her with evidence from the crash, Phelps and Bekowsky extract hints that the perpetrator may be one of Ballard's Hollywood associates. The pair then head to the city hospital to question the younger of the two victims, and at this point the plot starts to take on a much darker tone, with the mystery leading deeper into the seedier side of the LA film scene. I won't spoil things by saying too much more, but as the story unravels the case takes us to a variety of seedy locations, dripping with noir imagery. One particular highlight finds our detectives visiting a gloomy prop house, guarded by a giant stuffed bear and several other dusty toys.
Geographically-speaking, Team Bondi's world isn't a 100 per cent recreation of '40s Los Angeles, but it's pretty damned close - and if you've been to the city you'll instantly recognise different parts of town. The world is packed with detail too, from the slick suits and art deco architecture right down to the traffic lights, with their little stop/go signs protruding on pivoted arms. Many of these little touches feed directly into the gameplay: when driving from location to location you'll hear radio chatter that may relate to your current case, or indeed to optional events that effectively act as sidequests; you might be on your way to interview someone when you hear about a minor crime occurring in your area - and if you so wish, you can then head off to deal with that before getting on with your primary business.