LA Noire

 

18 cert, Rockstar, Xbox 360 (also PS3) *****

The opening credits for LA Noireset the circa-1947 scene: young men buying their dream home, shiny automobiles promising a new kind of freedom, queues of doe-eyed women lining up for open auditions. But we know that there’s more to the city than tall buildings and big dreams. From the first instant, it’s clear that the game will be as ambitious as anything Rockstar has done before, including Grand Theft Auto IVand Red Dead Redemption.

There’s violence, casual racism and a real sense of sleaze and danger in the city at night. LA Noire’sgraphics and music are both gorgeous and cinematic, and the detail is astounding; this brand-new LA of diners and art deco offices feels like a real city, and the inhabitants, from barflies to starlets to politicians, feel authentic.

You play the idealistic, ambitious Cole Phelps (voiced by Aaron Staton from Mad Men), a newly minted detective. Your tasks (in a familiar third-person, open- world scenario) involve finding clues, interviewing witnesses and taking in suspects.

For this gamer, the interrogations are the highlights. Reading body language, facial expressions and checking their answers against evidence, you must decide whether or not they’re telling the truth. Although there’s plenty of walking and searching, it never feels leaden – the pace is good and the gameplay intuitive.

The action involves punch- ups, shoot-outs, car chases and (my least favourite) tail- jobs. Thankfully, if you mess up an action scene a few times you’re given the option to skip to the next scene.

The most appealing characteristic of LA Noireis its tone. Phelps is refreshingly noble for a modern game hero, but he’s not without depth, and the game takes its plot and characters seriously. It all adds up to rich, engrossing narrative with compulsive gameplay.