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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draytone's Avatar

draytone

Yeah go on Neon. Do it!
Posted 17:15 on 19 November 2010
batik89's Avatar

batik89@ mydeaddog

Glad to hear that, Neon. Yeah, I hope Team Bondi still using Euphoria. Maybe they mix it up with their own engine, and that would be great. Btw, to ensure whether Euphoria is still using in L.A. Noire or not, could you contact Rockstar's representative and ask about it? Thanks, Neon.
Posted 16:30 on 19 November 2010
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog@ batik89

Team Bondi are using their own engine, but I think it's still using Euphoria: there's certainly a very hefty physics engine backing up the action. As I mentioned in the preview, Phelps can even lose his hat when he gets into a punch-up!
Posted 10:18 on 19 November 2010
clangod's Avatar

clangod

This is looking very interesting indeed. I love a good cop show myself so it isn't a hard sell to get me into something like this.

Looking good. Another release purchase maybe?
Posted 09:25 on 19 November 2010
batik89's Avatar

batik89

Hey Neon, I'm still curious, whether L.A. Noire still using NaturalMotion Euphoria or not? Thanks.
Posted 03:26 on 19 November 2010
El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev

I'm interested in seeing how this handles the more mundane activities of being a detective, having lots of shooting and fights is all well and good, but there needs to be something more to interest me. Sounds like they are doing a good job with it. Will be keeping an eye on this.
Posted 23:13 on 18 November 2010
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Awesome read Neon. LA Noire definitely sounds like my cup of tea with two sugars. I do like my action-oriented sequences, and I hope the game offer's a lot of suspense a long the way. The impression you have gave me sounds like it will, and the facial capturing is to captivate on how it would be like in real life when interrogating someone to find more leads on the case.

I do hope you get some shoot-outs and unexpected shoot outs as well. Like drive bys when you are close on the suspect or suspects whilst at bar or something like that.

Looking forward to this game. Any possible hint when this game comes out next year by any chance?
Posted 23:06 on 18 November 2010
Get2DaChoppa's Avatar

Get2DaChoppa

Fantastic preview Neon, decided to skip over the mission part, but very intriguing look. I loved L.A. Confidential and this looks to be the gaming equivalent, looking forward to the interrogations and also the "levelling up" too, from Street Cop to Detective, very interesting.

Is there any cause to worry about Team Bondis' involvement? What else have they worked on?
Posted 21:19 on 18 November 2010
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams

Can't believe we're at a point where, through facial expressions, we're expected to make decisions in videogames. This truly is a massive leap forward.
If more games were to use this new facial capturing technology then we'd be in for quite an amazing step towards crossing the uncanny valley.

Just out of curiosity, Rockstar haven't bought the rights to this facial capturing technology from Team Bondi? I do hope not.
Posted 20:28 on 18 November 2010
dudester's Avatar

dudester

I wasn't that impressed the other day but Neons words on interviewing suspects etc sounds like something I would definitely want to do! Seems theres a bit more to it then usual shoot em up aspect of most open world games.
Posted 19:42 on 18 November 2010
tvr77's Avatar

tvr77@ rbevanx

i know yeah since i noticed that trailer the other day i did a bit of research, it must have slipped through the cracks, i think its because the name might not have appealled to me much
Posted 18:16 on 18 November 2010
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ tvr77

It's been in the making for ages fella :)

I remember the teaser with just a car driving around the streets in the night. I think that was 2004 or 2005?
Posted 17:55 on 18 November 2010
tvr77's Avatar

tvr77

when the trailer came up on here the other day it was the first iv heard of this game and iv gotta say its got me real excited cant wait for the release next spring
Posted 17:52 on 18 November 2010
rbevanx's Avatar

rbevanx@ mydeaddog

Thats good then as at first with Red Dead I was going from point a to b (mainly as I thought the game was just stunning and felt like a real breathing world I wanted to explore) but as time went on I just got fed up of having to go back and for, esspecially as I had done a lot of the side missions while traveling on the roads.

Cheers for the quick reply Neon, I might get this tbh.
Posted 17:42 on 18 November 2010
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog

Yeah, you can get your partner to drive you from place to place. I'd expect you to be able to "trip skip", though i'm not 100 per cent sure, as things do happen on your way from points A to B (unexpected chases, for example, or news from dispatch relayed over the radio).
Posted 17:37 on 18 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: 361
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