L.A. Noire screenshot
L.A. Noire screenshot

Some say that the face is the window to the soul. If that's the case, then L.A. Noire is going to have hoards of people gawping into its spiritual essence - fogging up the glass with their slack-jawed admiration. This is an enticing project from any number of angles - it's a 1940s-set detective game, and a Rockstar-published, open-world one to boot - but make no mistake, it's the faces that are going to set people talking.

The phenomenal phizogs / exemplary expressions themselves are the product of something called MotionScan, a performance capture procedure that works in a similar way to the tech used for Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain. Without delving too deeply into chin-stroking detail, MotionScan allows for the complete recording of an actor's facial performance - every twitch, snarl and grimace. But where Heavy Rain's digital cast existed within a relatively controlled environment, Noire's virtual actors operate within the potential chaos of a sandbox world - a highly detailed recreation of post-WW2 Los Angeles.

It's swiftly apparent that Noire will be something of a departure from Rockstar's previous open world titles. For starters, Rockstar is only the publisher here; the developer is Team Bondi, a Sydney-based studio formed in 2005. Then there's the protagonist, Cole Phelps - played by Mad Men's Aaron Stanton: he's a war veteran, a gifted detective, and appears to actually be quite nice. Sure, John Marston and Niko Bellic had their kinder moments - but Phelps appears to be a thoroughly decent chap. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for all the people around him; while Hollywood is booming, post-war LA sits atop a swelling undercurrent of violence and corruption. The game finds Phelps starting out on the Patrol desk and then sequentially moving through Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson. Within each of these departments you'll work through a set of cases, each of which takes the form of an extended quest. And while there will certainly be plenty of the action we've come to expect from open world games - shootouts, melee brawls and car chases - the meat of the game will take a more thoughtful, slow-burn approach.

You see, it turns out that L.A. Noire's faces are more than just graphical icing on the open world cake; they're an integral part of the gameplay. Phelps is a detective, and much of your play time will be spent conducting proper detective work. You'll arrive at a scene, search the area for clues, and perhaps consult with the local coroner. Then, crucially, you'll move on to interview witnesses and any other suspects who may have come to light as a result of the evidence you've unearthed. But here's the thing: where most adventures would use these conversations for plot exposition, as a bridge to the next helping of action, here the interrogation is the game. You pick apart your subject's statements, suss out their motives, cut through their lies. It's a verbal fencing match. And the best part of all this? You can actually see when someone is lying to you; their darting eyes and nervous ticks tell the whole story.

The conversation system in L.A. Noire seems to have parallels with the setup we'll see next year in Square Enix's Deus Ex: Human Revolution. When you reach a branching point in the chatter - usually just after a suspect has made a distinctly dodgy claim - you'll be given a choice of three reactions, each linked to a separate face button. Believe/Coax makes Phelps react in a gentle fashion, trusting the interview subject and encouraging them to say more; Doubt/Force takes a much harsher approach, pressing the interviewee to come clean and to abandon any lies or pretences they might be making. Finally, we have Disbelieve/Accuse, the harshest verbal approach in Phelps' arsenal. Here he'll directly confront the speaker over some kind of perceived infraction - whether it be something they've done, a lie they've told, or a piece of information they're still holding back.

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User Comments

Deetsitmeister's Avatar


Nice read ;), the new video that is up on the site, Red Dead had video exactly in the same style and that turned out to be one of the best games ever

On a side note, I hope the change multiplayer if its is in there because I still dont like Rockstars direction to multiplayer it did not capture me for long enough
Posted 18:44 on 09 February 2011
altaranga's Avatar


Interesting. Very interesting.

(Can't believe it's taken me this long to read it).
Posted 21:52 on 05 January 2011
draytone's Avatar


Knocking up a list of games that I'll definitely preorder and this is pretty high up. Really looking forward to more news being released on it.
Posted 09:36 on 04 January 2011
ThePhantomKnight's Avatar


I REALLY like the idea of your partner giving you subtle hints at which approach would be best to take in certain situations. Makes you feel like you actually have someone watching over your back,instead of some useless A.I. I hope they have this much usefullness in combat.
Posted 22:01 on 03 January 2011
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ draytone

Aye really important we knew what engine the game had so I can enjoy it more.
Posted 16:56 on 23 November 2010
draytone's Avatar


Glad we got it sorted as to what physics engine it's using, had a couple of sleepless nights there.
Posted 15:29 on 23 November 2010
chelskiboy247's Avatar


I had literally no interest in this game before reading this, great preview Neon!
Posted 09:29 on 23 November 2010
batik89's Avatar

batik89@ Neon-Soldier32

Basically I don't care with the game engine, apart from the MotionScan technology. I just feel Euphoria is the best physics engine I've ever seen. So if I know they'll be using Euphoria in this game, it will boost my mood while waiting the game. That's it :)
Posted 13:46 on 20 November 2010

Neon-Soldier32@ batik89

Curiosity here, but why do you care so much what engine it is using?
Posted 13:37 on 20 November 2010
batik89's Avatar


Euphoria can be combined with another game engine. For example, "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" has its own engine, but the devs combine it with Euphoria. FYI, Euphoria isn't a game engine, it's a physics engine, separate from the core game engine. So I need Neon to contact R* and make sure whether L.A. Noire still using NaturalMotion Euphoria or not. Thanks :)
Posted 13:30 on 20 November 2010
mydeaddog's Avatar


Ah, well there we go. Nice work!
Posted 13:13 on 20 November 2010
rbevanx's Avatar


Well apparently it won't from what I have just found out.

"Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire is one of the most ambitious Rockstar titles to date, featuring a massive open world and a groundbreaking animation system. It’s also one of the first Rockstar titles in some time that doesn’t use Rockstar’s RAGE engine, rather Team Bondi’s proprietary engine. Today, we unveil a few more L.A. Noire screens that weren’t featured in our cover story. The new images show cops preparing to storm a building, investigating a crime scene, and cruising the streets of 1940s Los Angeles, Check the L.A. Noire homepage for more extra content in the coming weeks. From what we’ve seen this is one of the most exciting upcoming games of 2010."


"Euphoria works within RAGE as a middle-ware animations engine"

Posted 13:03 on 20 November 2010
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog@ draytone

Give me a few days and I'll look into this ;)
Posted 12:50 on 20 November 2010
CheekyLee's Avatar


Phoenix Wright : Lie To Me! Overall, this sounds excellent.
Posted 09:20 on 20 November 2010
p0rtalthinker's Avatar

p0rtalthinker@ tvr77

You're not the only one; hadn't heard about it till the trailer either. don't know how this slipped by my radar... I love Rockstar games.
Posted 19:45 on 19 November 2010

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Release Date: 20/05/2011
Developer: Team Bondi
Publisher: Rockstar
Genre: Third-person shooter
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 727 136
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