PC Gamer

Why I Love

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Andy walks the beat in Los Angeles.

I ve been to Los Angeles, and I didn t like it much. It s hot, it s crowded, it s filthy, and you can t walk anywhere. But as a setting for a work of fiction, it s one of my favourite places. From Raymond Chandler s Philip Marlowe novels to Ridley Scott s Blade Runner, the City of Angels is a resonant setting for a story. A lot of games are set there, but only one captures the dark, romantic urban sprawl found in the best LA fiction: Rockstar s ambitious, flawed detective adventure L.A. Noire.

Compared to Grand Theft Auto V s dense parody of the city, L.A. Noire s setting doesn t look all that impressive, at least not technically. But what has endured is its almost perverse attention to detail. Developer Team Bondi s reported budget for the game was $50 million, and you can see it in every lovingly detailed street corner, costume, prop, and licensed, period-appropriate vehicle. Playing L.A. Noire is like time travel, and it makes me wish more developers would squander obscene amounts of money creating authentic historical settings like this.

There are dozens of famous landmarks to visit, from Grauman s Chinese Theatre to the Bradbury building, but the impressive detail in L.A. Noire goes much deeper. I spent a good ten minutes just studying a breakfast table in a suspect s house. There are two plates with the remnants of toast and maybe beans. A salt and pepper shaker. A coffee pot. Some unopened mail. I imagined someone at Team Bondi researching, modelling, and texturing this stuff, and realised just how much love was poured into these environments. This kind of absurd, granular realism will be missed by most players, but even if you don t notice it, it s what makes L.A. Noire s settings so convincing.

You visit a lot of people s houses in L.A. Noire, from crummy one-room apartments to the palatial homes of the rich and famous. Every item of furniture, kitchen appliance, and food wrapper has been painstakingly researched and replicated. The interiors are cluttered and lived-in, and environmental clues will often subtly hint at the truth behind a case. Those plates, for example. The woman in the house says she s been alone all morning, so why are there two recently-eaten breakfasts on the table? The game doesn t point this little detail out, but leaves you to discover it for yourself.

Nosing around these cluttered interiors is encouraged as you search for clues and details to grill suspects about. An insurance policy, a photo torn in half, a love letter. But in the city itself, the detail is just there, and you re never forced to look at it. You can even skip the driving sections, forcing your partner to drive between crime scenes. But it s driving around where you really get a feel for the game s vivid urban landscape: the architecture, the cars, the fashion, the light, the mood. You ll drive past a diner and see people inside, eating hamburgers and reading newspapers. Drive to the top end of the map and you ll see the old Hollywoodland sign perched in the hills that loom over the city.

The music only adds to the powerful feeling of stepping into history.

One of my favourite details is the music that leaks through the windows of passing cars. L.A. Noire s radio station, KTI, enforces the period setting, and there s some really great music playing on there: Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters Pistol Packin Mama , T-Bone Walker s Bobby Sox Blues , Hank Williams Move It On Over . Anyone who s finished the game will have these tracks permanently etched into their brains. Combined with the visuals—and other touches such as advertising billboards and radio commercials—the music only adds to the game s powerful feeling of stepping into history.

It s a shame L.A. Noire came out in 2011, because just imagine how its period city would look recreated by today s technology. I really doubt Rockstar will ever return to it, especially now that Team Bondi is no more, but I hope they do. Not only do I want to see a version of 1940s Los Angeles with the visual fidelity of GTA s Los Santos, but I feel that the detective elements could be fl eshed out more. L.A. Noire is an enjoyable police procedural, but it still feels to me like a proof of concept for something much grander. Reviews were mixed, and many people look back on the game as a failed experiment, but I ll always love it and its remarkable city. I won t be returning to the real place any time soon, though.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Every Sunday, we reach deep into Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s 141-year history to pull out one of the best moments from the archive. This week, Adam’s 2012 article singing the praises of videogame cities which are more than mere reconstruction, but are built from the bricks and mortar of ideas.>

I’ve been visiting various cities recently, which always fill me with confusion and wonder, then Dishonored made me think about how much I miss Looking Glass. Put the two together and this happens. Join me in a meandering word-search for cohesion and theme in the use of the city across Thief, and the selected works of Rockstar and Charles Dickens. Be warned, there are spoilers for all three Thief games.

… [visit site to read more]

Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 75% on L.A. Noire!*

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

*Offer ends Tuesday at 10AM Pacific Time
Announcement - Valve
The Rockstar Publisher Weekend starts today with great deals on Rockstar titles! From now through Monday* pick up titles up to 80% off!

Today's Daily Deal features the LA Noire up to 75% off!

*All discounts end Monday, March 17th at 10AM Pacific Time.

Announcement - Valve
Save 75% on L.A. Noire during this week's Midweek Madness*!

Amid the post-war boom of Hollywood's Golden Age, Cole Phelps is an LAPD detective thrown headfirst into a city drowning in its own success. Corruption is rampant, the drug trade is exploding, and murder rates are at an all-time high. In his fight to climb the ranks and do what's right, Phelps must unravel the truth behind a string of arson attacks, racketeering conspiracies and brutal murders, battling the L.A. underworld and even members of his own department to uncover a secret that could shake the city to its rotten core.

*Offer ends Friday at 10AM Pacific Time
Announcement - Valve
Day 1 of the Rockstar Publisher Weekend has kicked off today. The Daily Deal for today is L.A. Noire at 75% off! Be sure to check back each day for new deals.

During the weekend, titles in the Rockstar catalog are on sale for 50% to 67% off. Plus, check out the Rockstar Hit Collection, which contains a selection of Rockstar's greatest hits!

PC Gamer

Midnight on the beat, and I could tell this city has an old heart. Homicide watch wasn't an exciting job—murder stopped becoming a punchline for me long ago—but it kept me on the streets, and that's where you go if you want both a lesson in personality and how to avoid a fender-bender when the garbage man's drunk again.

Me? I came from some spitball of a town further upstate. Figured I'd join the force. Make a difference. Honor, valor, and all that. Everyone I met then were total strangers. Funny—they still seem like strangers now.

This place runs and breathes on oil drills, both a paradise for a man with black blood in his veins and a curse for the schmuck with blood painted on his face. Things were a mess for the longest time. The outside world felt like it didn't exist sometimes, and the city's own problems almost drove the boys and girls down at city hall into a panic. I guess it got to me—I came here for the big-time life, not a tug of war with reality.

I remember a buddy of mine, Calvin Chan, telling me to just "slow it down and look closer to see the more beautiful things in life." It's been a good anchor during dark times. It's a city with warts, after all—but it's my city.
Announcement - Valve
Today's Deal: Save 75% on L.A. Noire!

Look for the deals each day on the front page of Steam. Or follow us on twitter or Facebook for instant notifications wherever you are!

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Mad, man

Here’s something I never thought of when playing LA Noire. Whatever its other merits and failings, the stuff it does with facial animation and performance capture was amazing, and something the whole industry can benefit from presuming it’s not drowning in a thousand million unbreakable patents (which it probably is). However, all it was being used for was to, essentially, just achieve a slightly better version of something games and especially their cutscenes already did. We can find rehearsed, scripted dialogue and, to wildly varying degrees, attendant facial emotion and animation, all over the place. What we can’t find is naturalistic, unrehearsed performances – people being people, as opposed to be people being videogame characters. Take a look at this to see how big the difference can be. (more…)

Product Update - Valve
This patch addresses the following:
• Compatibility fixes for Windows 8
• Other minor fixes


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