It feels like ages since LA Noire was announced. It went quiet for so long, we even agreed in the office that it would never see the light of day. But suddenly, Team Bondi's crime thriller has emerged blinking into the light (probably due to all the time it's spent in darkened rooms with only slits of Venetian blind light for illumination) and details are everywhere like scattered cigarette ash on a pulled-low Trilby.
So let's get you up to speed, detective. We've sifted through the evidence in Game Informer magazine's exclusive first-look and now present it to you in an easily-read dossier. Probably written on a proper typewriter. Um… try to imagine us silhouetted against a grimy, misty street while you do, OK?
1) You play as a good guy for once
The primary gameplay will see you solving crimes as Cole Phelps. You will go to people's houses, invite yourself in, interview them and then move on to your next witness/suspect. These encounters will range from well-mannered house visits to car chases, shootouts and rooftop pursuits. Sweet.
2) LA is rockstar's biggest environment yet
The city has been rendered almost 100% accurately to its 1940s layout. Using hand-drawn maps from the time and early aerial photography, Team Bondi has recreated the city right down to 3D shop fronts, but simultaneously making this a bigger environment than anything yet seen. And in this pre-freeway era, you'll even drive down streets that don't exist any more, which sounds kinda spooky to us.
Above: The atmosphere is typical film noir. Odd, that
3) It's got new facial animation tech
NPCs all converse with you in real-time, thanks to a 2,000 page script and new technology that allows dialogue and motion to be captured at the same time. The result is an ultra-fast process for Team Bondi's sister company Depth Analysis, who can record around 20 minutes of final footage a day, as opposed to the usual timeframe of two animators taking a month over one minute. The results are reportedly spectacular, with faces so realistic you can lip-read them and even tell if they're lying just from watching them.
4) The team is paying extreme attention to detail
Everything in the game, from the soundtrack to the prices of food on café menus has been researched extensively to make sure this is a believable environment. There are some 140 interiors in the game, many with multiple rooms, and each one will be full of lovingly-rendered items. Some of the clothes have even been modelled on loaned items from the wardrobes of Saving Private Ryan and King Kong.
5) Cole's character will change
In movies or literature, it's uncommon for a lead character to end as the same person they were in the beginning. Videogame characters, on the other hand, are much more likely to remain the same. Cole is a complex character, with regrets about his past (and particularly his actions during WWII), but who has the strength of his convictions. He's an ambitious man, too…
Above: Why don't gentlemen wear hats like that these days?