L.A. Noire PC/3D Impressions -- The City of Angels Seen Through New EyesBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Sep 29, 2011
Of all the titles in Rockstar Games’ library, Team Bondi’s detective simulator L.A. Noire is the perfect choice to mark Rockstar's first foray into the third dimension (and not the kind that made Grand Theft Auto III such a watershed moment). We’re talking the ubiquitous glasses-based 3D that has quickly become a standard feature in games, and entertainment in general, in a staggeringly short time.
One of the problems with so many companies giving their titles the 3D treatment is that, most of the time, it just feels like it was included simply for the sake of it. Either that, or the genre of game (high-intensity shooters like Killzone 3 and Crysis 2, or blistering action racing games like Motorstorm Apocalypse) makes for a fatiguing and sensory overloading experience that your eyes and brain can’t handle for more than an hour at a time. Enter the methodically paced, investigation-dominated, and tirelessly detailed L.A. Noire.
When the game boots up to the menu screen, the subtly of the 3D is instantly apparent. Watching a shadowy Cole strolling down the dark alleyway before selecting our mission is packed with eye-pleasing details. Cole’s long shadow extending the entire length of the alley, the slow running stream of water running down the center of the street, shimmering in the moonlight; the steam wafting photorealistically from nearby pipes. All of this, and I haven’t even started the case.
For my hands-on session, I played through the downloadable arson desk case, “Nicholson Electroplating,” which finds detective Cole Phelps and Herschel Biggs on the hunt to uncover the cause behind a devastating factory explosion that has leveled a couple city blocks and killed dozens of people. Before they know it, the duo discovers that eventual loon/billionaire industrialist Howard Hughes might somehow involved, and they must unravel the tangled web of deceit to get to the truth.
Jumping into the game, it’s clear that Rockstar Leeds has done a lot of work to not only polish the already sharp visuals to a pristine shine but to ensure the 3D effect doesn’t feel intrusive but rather subtly enhances the overall experience. When Phelps and Biggs hop into their car to race towards the massive explosion that opens the case, 1947 Los Angeles really comes to life. Panning around the car shows off the fantastic depth of field effects that extend from the car to the pedestrians to the store fronts to the houses and to the mountains on the horizon, helping to take an already stunning game world to a perfectly suited next level.
The crime scene offers up a couple more great demonstrations of the 3D at work. As you’d expect from the site of an industrial explosions, smoke and ash waft and linger before your eyes convincingly and the undulating rubble and various investigators maneuvering through the scene all pop off the screen with a wonderful fluidity. One of the first mechanics that crossed my mind when I heard about the 3D integration was evidence examination (followed immediately by dead body examination, which ended up being just as disturbing as I had thought it would be), and so I picked up a nearby severed arm and twisted it around in front my eyes to make sure I took in all of the entirely useless details because I figured it would be the only time in my life I’d be able to do such a thing so convincingly (at least, I hope so).
While you can play the game with a mouse and keyboard, you can also plug in a Games for Windows controller too. The PC controls worked just fine, aside from making the decoding disc puzzle a bit more frustrating that it was with a console controller, but aiming with the mouse obviously offered more precision during shootouts. Speaking of which, L.A. Noire’s methodically paced action is again perfectly suited for 3D, especially when you’re hiding behind cover (i.e. all the time) as bullets ricochet and kick up cement and dust into your face. I actually ducked a couple times during my session, but more out of respect for the game than cowardice…
Car chases and reckless driving are also great showcases for the game’s use of 3D. Swerving in between cars and racing through intersections to avoid collisions is just that much more nerve-wracking when you can see exactly where your fender is in relation to other cars on the road/people on the sidewalks. By the end of my demo, I had become obsessed with running over every streetlight, mailbox, and bench I could find, just to watch the glass and metal come flying out of the screen and seemingly over my head. I’m not terribly proud of it, but it was a hell of a lot of fun.
I might not be quite ready to sit down and play a full eight-10 hour game entirely in 3D, but from what I saw on display in L.A. Noire, it certainly makes a strong case for why I should reconsider. L.A. Noire will hit PC, complete with all the DLC and pre-order bonus material, later this year.