LA Noire PC Hands-On29 Sep 2011
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It’s feels bizarre to be previewing a game that we (I, in fact) already reviewed a few months back. And yet, in this instance, it feels right. The PC audience have been clamouring to get their hands on Rockstar/Team Bondi’s investigate ‘em up since before the game’s console release and the critical acclaim that accompanied it ( for a full run down of gameplay mechanics etc). Unlike many, Rockstar tend to go out of their way to please their audience no matter which system they may belong to.
Well, the time has almost arrived. Rockstar announced yesterday that the PC/Steam/OnLive edition will be coming to North America and Europe on 8 and 11 of November respectively. Being the jammy old sods we are, we managed to wangle entry into Rockstar’s abode to get an early look at the transition from control pad to mouse pad.
My initial reaction upon entering the world of Los Angeles circa-1947 was one of suspicion, and not because of the cops ‘n’ corruption that weaves its way through the game’s plot, character and aesthetic. I don’t do console games on PC, they just don’t ‘feel’ right. Unfortunately, there’s no subtle way to put this: L.A. Noire is not best suited to a mouse and keyboard. At least, I failed to get to grips with it properly in the short time I had.
That’s not so much to do with the way you interact with the world, through protagonist Cole Phelps, as it is about the general ‘vibe’ of the game. L.A. Noire is a game designed to be played at a leisurely, relaxed (almost passive) pace. Hunching over a monitor with a mouse in one hand while the other worries about whether it’s resting properly on WASD is not how I want to play something that is as much interactive novel/movie as it is videogame.
While the whole desktop ‘feel’ emphasises the game’s point-and-click inspired gameplay to an extent, it doesn’t translate as well as you might hope. Controls and Phelps’ movements are directly interpreted from the console versions, so playing like you would Monkey Island or Broken Sword isn’t an option (and it probably wouldn’t work anyway given the open world setting and action sequences).
L.A. Noire needs to be played sitting spread out on a couch with the curtains closed, the volume up and a constant supply of coffee/Coca-Cola/Red Bull (or however you prefer to achieve your caffeine fix) at the ready – preferably served by a Marilyn Monroe lookey-likey.
Thankfully then, the game comes packed with full gamepad support. After 15 minutes or so of struggling with the keyboard/mouse I moved onto the pad (in this case a 360 controller) and allowed the tweaks and additions of the PC edition to flow over me in a wave of joy punctuated by the sun and sand-blasted landscape of ‘Golden Era’ Hollywoodland.
What sets this version most obviously apart from its console forerunners is the support for NVIDIA’s ‘3D Vision’. L.A. Noire’s use of 3D is understated and in keeping with the classy visual nature of the rest of the game’s approach to pleasing the eye. Its inclusion is primarily used to improve the depth of field, a tactic that will be familiar to anyone who saw the Tron remake in 3D.
The team responsible for this port, Rockstar Leeds, have resisted the temptation to use 3D to throw objects at you at every opportunity (a la Killzone 3 and Resistance 3). It’s a smart move and one that further enhances the game’s reputation as a grown-up, immersive, slow-paced piece of entertainment in an industry awash with fist-pumping gore fests.
Plus, how can Ms. Monroe properly serve my espresso while I’m frantically trying to avoid an onslaught of virtual tyres and bullets streaming towards my eyes?
Noire’s visuals have been improved slightly from those on consoles. Edges seem smoother and the city pop-up that occurred regularly on the 360 edition (and occasionally on PS3) were nowhere to be seen in our demo. Fire and smoke coming from a burning building also looked rather fancy given the graphical upgrade/3D support. However, this hands-on session was based around the ‘Nicholson Electroplating’ case – a DLC add-on that I’d not consumed prior to this so it’s impossible to directly compare the smouldering building of the PC version to that of the consoles.
Of course, this being the PC, the quality of graphics you’ll experience will be directly related to the performance of your machine. The game supports systems packing anywhere from 2GB to 8GB of RAM, make of that what you will…
Alongside the Nicholson Electroplating case, L.A. Noire PC comes packed with all of the additional content already released. This includes the Reefer Madness, Naked City and Slip of the Tongue cases alongside extra outfits and weapons for Phelps.
Whatever the technical make-up of the game, the fact remains that LA Noire is a game that deserves to be played by as many people as possible. Releasing it on PC is not so much a matter of ‘making it better’ or ‘making it different’, it’s a matter of getting it into your hands.
Full PC specs for L.A. Noire can be found
Click for a full PC screenshot gallery.