My opinion of L.A. Noire has been on an upswing lately. The more I see of it, the more I realize Team Bondi and Rockstar are genuinely trying something different. So for that, respect knuckles. Yet for some reason, there is a bit of worry in the back of my mind. Like Red Dead Redemption before, I thought L.A. Noire was going to slap on a coat of 1947 to Grand Theft Auto 4 and call it a day. After previewing a good chunk of gameplay, I am now assured that this is not the case, in fact it's almost the complete opposite. What appears to be a greatly detailed story is accompanied by investigation and interrogation gameplay, with action taking a back seat.
Fans of the CSI will love this stuff. You arrive at the crime scene, and survey the area, doing everything from questioning beat cops and coroners, shooing off pesky journalists, and inspecting evidence for clues to cracking the case. Relevant information such as case notes are stored in your journal, which acts as a menu screen, where you can assign active objectives and keep log of all records to track back to in the event that you have any questions about any case you've undertaken, past or present.
The journal is handy when interrogating suspects, whom you pepper with questions and must judge whether their responses are truth, lie, or if they're not giving it to you straight. Of course, the MotionScan technology allows characters to show truly honest emotion with incredibly detail, making it a joy to try to read your suspect's expressions and habits while trying to catch them in a lie. Of course, this is detective work. You can't just point your finger, call them a liar, and have them locked up and sent to Alcatraz. You need evidence! How do you know the man across from you hired someone to kill his wife? A quick look to you journal reminds you of the ominous sounding note written by the man, found in his apartment. Book 'em, Danno.
I was told the game's action -- fist fighting, and shooting -- is a reward of sorts for good investigative work. I was shown a scene where after successfully accusing a man of the crimes committed, he jumped up and started throwing punches at our newly promoted homicide detective, Cole Phelps. The brawling was in typical GTA fashion it seemed, nothing really special to note. Which is one of the reasons why I hope it's held to a minimum. The demo didn't show any gunplay, which is said to be a "last resort" but I can't imagine it being done differently at all, or playing a prominent role in the game. Fingers crossed for a Private Eye mode, where time slows and you can paint your targets before unleashing a hail of hot lead. That's some Red Dead sarcasm, folks.
With that said, will L.A. Noire appeal to the average gamer, or will it be a conflict of interest for generation kill? Heavy Rain tried to make a game feel more like a movie, and while it did well critically, it lacked commercial middle ground, with gamers either loving or hating it. While not nearly as dramatic a departure from typical gaming as Heavy Rain, L.A, Noire is putting the focus on something other than running, shooting, flying, slashing, jumping, or anything like that. Rockstar has faith that gamers are ready to explore the life of a homicide detective by questioning suspects, following leads, and inspecting evidence. While I was once skeptical of throwing $60 on another Grand Theft Auto clone, I'm actually convinced that it's different enough to warrant a buy. Now my eyebrow is arched toward you, gamers, and whether or not you're ready to accept a game like L.A. Noire.