L.A. Noire: Hands-on with Rockstar's super sleuth 'em-up

This is our first attempt at questioning an individual. The transition to suddenly interrogatingsomeone is very slick and soon Phelps and Galloway are ready to begin. Ms Lapenti is the landlady of the house and we're hoping she can help with our enquiries. After the Ms. Lapenti finishes her chatter, a set of three options appear - Truth, Doubt andLie. This is where that MotionScan comes into its own. You've all seen those signs of lying - whether it's amate who giggles when you inquire whether he's just farted or asking your partnerif they know why your favourite white t-shirt is now a pale pink after a washing mishap - the signals are all here in the characters faces and Ms Lapenti looks a little worried here.

We pressDoubt when she says she doesn't know where Antoniawas onthe night of her death. She soon 'fesses up that she might have been at the El Dorado Bar.Ms Lapenti doesn't appear to be lying when she mentions that her awful husband, Angel, might have had something to do with it too, so we Believe her. But it's not always clear cut as we find outwhen we accuse her of lying about whether she knows more aboutthe night of her death. Pah! So close to perfection. But at least we have enough evidence to follow a lead onthe victim's husband.

Not-so super punch out

Above:We're really not sure that the fist fightswork well in L.A. Noire. Only time will tell, we guess

As L.A. Noire allows branchingstorylines to be investigatedwhen you like, you can eitherdrive to the El DoradoBar here or Angel Maldonado's house. We head to the suspects house, kick thedoor in and engage in a spot of fisticuffs. This is the sole part of L.A. Noire we're unsure about at present. Granted, we've only had one fight, but currently it feels like it breaks the rhythm of the plot and detective bits. Don't get us wrong, as Cole finishes off Angel and his brother it does feel meaty but we just hope these are kept to a minimum throughout the game.

Once we've cuffed Angel and his brother, another interrogationtakes place (which we won't spoil, but let's just say Angel is surprised to find his wife has been off-ed) and Phelps and Galloway comb the apartment for evidence. There's amatchbox from the El Dorado Bar in there, a cratefrom the Just Picked Fruit, which is full of alcohol and, hold on, what's this? A shirt covered in blood. Case closed. Or so we think.We walk door to door in the apartment block asking theneighbours whether they heard anything the night of the murder and one nosy old woman confirms shesaw Angel chase Antonia out of the building. It's not looking good for Mr Maldonado.

Above: We didn't get to do any shooting :(

As we head over to the bar a call comes over the radio to tell us to head back to the station. Donnelly is there to tell us that the Black Dahlia murderer has sent another letter. It's a poem and adds more fuel to Phelp's hunch that it's one man killing these women and not a bunch of copycats that Galloway seems intent on believing. We head to the interrogation room to turn the screw on Angel.

Just as it seems we have our man, Angel confesses that he has indeed had a rough time withAntonia recently but he'd never kill her. The bloodied shirt?Mr Maldonado is adamant that the blood is of his brotherwho he punched the night Antonia was whacked. He also spills the beans on a fruit market owner, Clem Feeney,from the Just Picked Fruit company who had an eye for his murdered missus.All of this interrogation is played out with Intuition Points.This system is sort of like a 50/50 option in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire whereone interrogation option is removed, which makes it easier to work outyour line of questioning. You earn said points by increasing your rank by nailing a case 100% or finding all the evidence at a crime scene.At it's most basic, it helps idiots to solve a case, which we guess is a nice touch to include everyone.

The final chase

Cole and Galloway head to the El Dorado Bar where Antonia went that fateful night. The bartender explains that she was drunk and was yelling about how she was going to divorce her husband. The bartender also said how he advised Antonia to get a cab home and pointed her to the Just Picked Fruit market across the street, where she could call onefrom their phone.

In the market they meet Clem Feeney, the man who Angel said fancied his now murdered wife. He's uneasy about us snooping around - and with good reason. After booting open a locked door they poke around and find bottles of booze in crates, a bloodied scalpel and a jewellery box belonging to Mrs Maldonado. Clem legs it, hops into a car and a chase ensues.

Above: Chase sequences are a frantic affair as the perps try to throw you off by ducking down tight alleyways

It's a classic GTA-style chase across the city, with Galloway instructing you to get closer so he can shoot out the tyres of the escaping car. It doesn't last very long, because either a) the car slowed on purpose or b) we're instantly amazing at driving in L.A. Noire but we attempt a T-stop and manage to flip Clem's motor. He's put in cuffs, and sent off to the police station and that's where our demo ends.

The Rockstar PRs are then keen to explain that all may not be as it seems, which we're kind of thrilled about seeing as though Clem suddenly being the murderer felt too abrupt. What connection could he have with the murders, if he isn't the one doing them? Does he know who the Black Dahlia killer is? Why didn't he just ditch the incriminating evidence far from his store, the fool?

Onthe whole, L.A. Noire is a breath of fresh air in this FPS filled world, and finally getting to grips with the game has heightened our anticipation for the game even more. We're hoping that there will be enough variety throughout the story to keep things ticking along nicely, and that the game won't just devolve into talky bit, drivey bit, punchy bit, case closed formula too much. But for now, Team Bondi and Rockstar seem to be onto a winner with this crime-thriller.

March 1st 2011