A face is no more than an unmoving mask in games. Some game characters would talk, but only their mouths move and the rest of their head just stays as it is like a slab of porcelain. More and more developers have been trying to change this, but none nailed it quite like Team Bondi and their MotionScan Technology.
Have you tried L.A. Noire? This noir-detective game is the first I’ve played of its kind, and thankfully it is a wonderful memory.
(*Spoiler Alert: The next paragraph will contain spoilers*)
The story is very interesting and the characters are very well imagined. Cole Phelps seems like a good man with a vision, a likeable man until you get into the middle of the game where his career just goes downhill because of some stupid mistakes. He was a good cop, and a great detective too (thanks to the player), but he committed adultery and this caused him to get demoted. Not many people liked him from the start because he could be a show-off sometimes, but he did solve cases that other cops just gave up on. Parts of the story are told through cutscenes and also through newspapers. The ending? It’s bad. I mean the ending was okay but the delivery was bad. Cole Phelps dies, and I would have felt a bit of grief even though he isn’t exactly a saint, but you play as a different character during the last missions in the game, and this made me shift my focus from Phelps to the new guy, and because of that the impact of his death became non-existent.
Gameplay is fun and gives you the “I feel smart” feeling. Each case you have to solve are scored so you may want to repeat them to get a perfect rating. There are evidence at the crime scenes and you’ll know which one is important and which one is trash once you examine them. There will be a lot of junk so it could take you some time if you pick each item up, but after a few cases you’ll know which items are only meant to consume your time and which ones are needed to solve the case
You will also be interrogating the witnesses and the suspects. Here enters the MotionScan Technology, used to capture the voice actors’ facial expressions and emotion. The game wouldn’t have been known if not for its realistic character expressions, and the matching voice acting made it even better. I haven’t seen a game that shows emotion better than L.A. Noire, and this is definitely why the interrogations are so fun to go through. You’ll be able to tell the lies from the truths, you’ll hear the doubts in their voice, you can see the honesty in their eyes, bluffing won’t work on you any more.
If you can’t tell if someone is lying or if you can’t find the necessary evidence, you can always use the hints that you acquire as you level up. Levelling up will also unlock costumes and other items for you so try to solve each case with a perfect rating.
Aside from the main cases, there will also be some side-crimes that you can take on by responding to radio calls. Robberies can become quite an exciting chase, and you’ll also be brawling from time to time.
The graphics are great, and I think the game’s recreation of 40’s L.A. is accurate. You’ll be travelling the sandbox city in your beetle-style car but you can skip to locations by letting your partner drive, although I suggest that you drive by yourself during your first playthrough because the sights are just beautiful especially during the day.
Real-life companies that are already up at 1947 can be seen in-game like Campbell’s, and a lot of others that I forgot. There are also landmarks that you’ll pass as you cruise around, and you can look at them through birds’ eye view if it’s your first visit. By the way you can play the game in black and white to give that old movie feel.
Sound design and music are both great too. Each car engine sounds subtly different from each other, the guns give off a distinct boom, crashing into the wall or into another car sounds right, the voice acting is perfect (which is crucial for a narrative-heavy game like L.A. Noire), and Jazz is now something that I love listening to. I should have gotten headphones with SurroundSound before playing this game.
There won’t be any sequel to L.A. Noire, but I hear we’ll see MotionScan on Team Bondi’s next game “Whore of the Orient” which is another crime drama(?). I sure hope they lend the technology to Rockstar so we get better emotions on GTA games too.