L.A. Noire - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Fraser Brown)

lavr

Rockstar s first foray into the uneven world of virtual reality isn t a GTA spin-off, or a brand new game, but instead VR version of Rockstar and Team Bondi’s 2011 detective romp, L.A. Noire [official site]. While the current generation of consoles are getting the whole game with added 4K support and the like, over on PC we’re in for a trimmed-down version redone as a Vive exclusive. (more…)

L.A. Noire

In a surprise announcement, Rockstar has announced L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files—an incoming virtual reality game for the HTC Vive. 

Due November 14, The VR Case Files marks the Grand Theft Auto developer's "first steps into virtual reality" with seven "select" case from the original game. As you might expect, these have been rebuilt with VR in mind, however Rockstar doesn't detail the specifics in this news wire post

Here's Rockstar with the skinny:

"L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files for HTC Vive delivers seven of the original engrossing, self-contained cases from L.A. Noire rebuilt specifically for virtual reality, blending breathtaking action with true detective work to deliver an unprecedented interactive experience."

Alongside The VR Case Files, Rockstar has also revealed enhanced editions of the base game are en route to both Xbox One and PS4. These will come with all additional DLC inclusive, as well as a "range of technical enhancements for greater visual fidelity and authenticity, including enhanced lighting and clouds, new cinematic camera angles, high resolution textures and more." 

PS4 Pro and Xbox One X owners can look forward to 4K support—however there's no mention of anything beyond the HTC Vive exclusive starring on PC.

L.A. Noire

Every week, we ask our panel of PC Gamer writers a question about PC gaming. This week: what game would you recommend to a complete non-gamer? We also welcome your answers in the comments. 

Samuel Roberts: Rocket League

What if football, but with cars? Rocket League took off precisely because it's so easy to pick up and play, with fast matchmaking, intuitive controls and short matches. Within one game, any player of any skill will get it. 

And then the obsession begins. Cars fly overhead in your dreams. You wander through the streets imagining what would happen if that BMW over there did a backflip to score a goal. You haven't spoken to your parents in weeks because you're trying to climb the ladder in ranked. You started playing in January, but now it's August and you've played nothing else, and you've had Prey sat on your hard-drive for months. Maybe you should stop? "I think we should see other people," your partner says. "No problem." you reply. But did you say that, or were you merely selecting a quick chat option in yet another game of Rocket League? You're 80 years old and dead, and you only ever reached Gold II rank.  

Anyway, yeah, Rocket League. Great game, regardless of skill level. 

Phil Savage: Kerbal Space Program

Technically Kerbal Space Program is a very difficult game. Just ask the many Kerbals who are stuck endlessly orbiting the various moons and planets I have tried to visit. But, while hard, its difficulty isn't abstract. Kerbal Space Program is difficult because going to space is difficult. By basing itself on real-world, observable concepts, its challenge makes sense. That makes it an incredibly effective starter game. Also the fact that, if in doubt, you can usually just add more rockets.

It's also good because its success is scalable. In sandbox mode, you're never punished for failure. Instead, you're given an opportunity to learn, tweak and reassess. It's a great teacher, not just of the physics of rocket science, but also of how games can support experimentation and play on the path to a greater goal.

Andy Kelly: L.A. Noire

Basically prestige TV in game form. A compelling series of mysteries to solve, proper actors bringing the characters to life, and a larger narrative of corruption and scandal to get swept up in. You don't even have to drive anywhere: just get your partner to do it for you. And if you're having trouble with the action sequences—gunfights, car chases, and so on—the game lets you just skip them. It has some problems, sure, but if you don't 'get' games, L.A. Noire will immediately make sense. Everyone loves a good detective mystery, and Rockstar's game presents its varied, mostly well-constructed cases with the lavish feel of a US TV drama.

Tim Clark: Hearthstone

I know, I know, but probably Hearthstone. I've been teaching my nephew on holiday and they've done a ton of work to make the new player experience more friendly. Until you start getting serious about trying to climb ladder, it's also a free-to-play game that you can genuinely have fun goofing around in without having to drop dollars. Tavern Brawls, Arena Runs, even just administering kickings to the Innkeeper AI are all a fine way to spend a few hours on your PC when you're supposed to be working. I should know.

Tom Senior: Her Story

You don't need any knowledge of game genres or complicated control schemes to play through this fascinating mystery. If you can Google, you can play Her Story. The game is a database of videoclips showing police interviews with a woman—is she a suspect, a witness, a victim? You search for key phrases to bring up new clips containing fresh clues to search for. The format is surprisingly good at delivering twists, and the game is particularly fun if you have friends around to help put the pieces together.

Chris Livingston: Plants Vs Zombies

It's bright, it's colorful, it's amusing, and there's just about the most perfect learning curve in a game I can think of, where you're given just enough time to figure how to best use a new plant when a new zombie shows up, and you're just about on the brink of having your home invaded when the final zombie falls. There's also plenty of extra modes and activities that are fun to play around with. It's also addictive as hell, so even if it's their first game it won't be their last.

Grand Theft Auto IV - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

The modding project creating a tool to import Liberty City from Grand Theft Auto IV into GTA V has, sadly, shut down. It was the work of the team behind unofficial modding tool OpenIV [official site] but, after the fuss which saw the owners of GTA briefly shut down OpenIV with legal threats before making peace, they now say they can’t make it. Such a tool would be against the new Rockstar modding policy, see. But hey, at least OpenIV is back and its development will continue. … [visit site to read more]

Grand Theft Auto IV - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Take-Two’s lawyers have allegedly shut down OpenIV, one of the main tools for modding Grand Theft Auto IV and V. The OpenIV team say they’ve received a ‘cease and desist’ letter from The Suits saying that OpenIV lets people bypass security features and modify the game, which violates Take-Two’s rights and must be stopped. And so, the team have announced they’ll stop distributing the tool. I’m sure it’ll still float around the Internet unofficially, but this is a terrible loss. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Nintendo’s new console, the Swapsie, isn’t even out but word has already leaked of a PC port for flagship game Super Mario Odyssey. A new cut of Odyssey’s trailer shows the PC version, which naturally boasts higher-fidelity graphics and — goodness me! — Nintendo have embraced the ‘mature’ nature of PC gaming. When toonman Mario ventures into the real world on PC, he sparks fisticuffs with pedestrians, gets chased by armed police, visits strip clubs, and suffers terrible accidents. Oh, Mario! Sadly, the PC version also renames New Donk City (the best place name in any video game) to Liberty City. Here, wrap your peepers around this trailer: … [visit site to read more]

Announcement - Valve
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*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Decoding is a regular column about the games we love, and the tricks and traditions that make them tick.>

Oh shit, I pressed the wrong button and killed that guy.

It happens to the best of us. You could play Watch Dogs 2 [official site] for days without firing a gun, or causing a fatal traffic accident, or beating someone to death with a billiard ball. Lead character Marcus Holloway doesn’t seem like the kind of person who’d leave bodies in his wake, and the ease with which he can become a killer is jarring. Like so many of our protagonists, he walks through life with the safety off and his finger on the trigger.

Open world games, particularly those of the urban variety, have a violence problem, and it’s mechanical rather than philosophical.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

A new Grand Theft Auto 5 [official site] mod will add the whole flipping city from GTA 4, the developers of GTA modding tool OpenIV have announced. Liberty City will be added to GTA 5’s world, rather than replacing it, appearing just across the sea. Crumbs! Given Rockstar are seemingly more interested in expanding 5’s multiplayer than its singleplayer, it’ll certainly be nice to have a huge new world to play in with GTA V’s toys. … [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Of the three Max Payne games released so far, Max Payne 3 is the odd one out. But that’s only because Remedy is so good at imprinting its games with its own idiosyncratic personality. The third game may share a lot of the same DNA, and may also feature a metaphor-loving ex-cop killing gangsters in slow-motion, but it’s a very different experience. Over the years I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the risks Rockstar took in breaking Remedy’s established, and beloved, mould. 

It’s a Rockstar game through and through, with lavish production values, gorgeous world-building, and confident, cinematic direction. Max is still depressed, still haunted by the death of his family, and still selfmedicating with painkillers and booze. But after a deadly run-in with the hot-headed son of a local mob boss, he leaves the mean streets of New York behind and moves to São Paulo—the largest city in Brazil—to work as private security for the wealthy Branco family. It’s a bold change of scenery. 

The dark, snowbound streets of New York and New Jersey are a big part of Max Payne’s visual identity. And although there are a few flashback chapters in Max Payne 3 that take us back there, replacing that iconic setting with Brazil’s sunshine and palm trees was a brave move. The first two games are set entirely at night, while much of this game takes place during the day, giving it a very different atmosphere. São Paulo is as rough, violent, and run-down as New York in places—particularly the Nova Esperança favela—but the overall tone is much less gloomy. 

It’s a radical departure, but it works. It’s always interesting to see a familiar character thrust into an unfamiliar situation, and Max is hilariously out of place in Brazil. As if being a white American in a favela didn’t draw enough unwanted attention, he makes his life even more difficult by wearing the loudest Hawaiian shirt imaginable. He was comfortable in New York, but here he’s an outsider, and the game plays up to it brilliantly. “Here I was,” he grumbles in one of his monologues. “Some hopped-up gringo a long way from home, causing trouble the only way I know how.”

That way, of course, being balletic slow-motion combat. Max Payne 3 is an incredibly simple, pared-down shooter. All you can do is jump and shoot, using bullet-time to slow the action down for a limited period. Kill the last guy in a group and the camera will zoom-in on his bloody, bullet-peppered body, and you can keep firing you if like, you sicko. It’s an extremely limited toolset for a ten-hour game, but the good variety of locations and situations manages to keep things varied and interesting. 

Highlights include a rooftop nightclub where throbbing music and flashing lights provide an intense backdrop for a firefight. Nova Esperança is a narrow, twisting meat-grinder with gunmen emerging suddenly from blind spots and firing at you from rooftops. And the airport is host to a series of brilliantly frenetic, challenging battles with a small army of heavily-armed, and heavily-armoured, corrupt cops. The set-pieces are all wonderfully constructed and choreographed, but occasionally you do wish there was more variation and depth.

I love the way it transitions seamlessly between locations and times of day by artfully hiding the loading screens with stylish, hyperactive cutscenes.

The pace is breakneck, and I love the way it transitions seamlessly between locations and times of day by artfully hiding the loading screens with stylish, hyperactive cutscenes. There are far too many of them, though. Approach a door and instead of just opening it yourself, a shaky, over-stylised cutscene will play showing Max opening it. It wrestles the controls away from you far too often, for stuff you could easily have done yourself. 

Much of the game’s power lies in its soundtrack. In a genius move, Rockstar hired Los Angeles noiserock band Health to write the score. It’s an unusual and inspired choice that sets the music apart from pretty much every other game. It’s all pounding percussion, distorted, reverby guitars, and icy synths, and nothing else sounds like it. It’s dynamic too, with musical elements fading in and out to mirror the action. I get goosebumps every time I play the airport level and “Tears” starts thundering on the soundtrack. More developers should recruit bands to compose their scores.

Flashback chapters give us a taste of what happened before. These are set in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the wintry streets stand in stark contrast to sun-soaked São Paulo. An altercation in a bar leads to Max and Passos, his contact in Brazil, being chased by an army of camel-coatwearing wiseguy mobsters straight out of Goodfellas. Through the bullet trails of a rooftop gunfight you see the Manhattan skyline in the distance, lit up against the night sky, which is a wonderful moment of scene-setting. These visits to New Jersey are brief, but they feature some of the game’s best shootouts.

One of the strongest pieces of connective tissue between Max Payne 3 and its predecessors is the presence of James McCaffrey, who’s been the voice of Max since the first game in 2001. His performance is a highlight, delivering the ex-cop’s tortured metaphors and hard-boiled film noir monologues with a likeable weariness. And his face is even in there too. In the first Max Payne it was Remedy’s Sam Lake; in the sequel it was actor Timothy Gibbs; and in the third game it’s McCaffrey. I’m glad Rockstar didn’t recast, because I can’t imagine anyone else playing Max. 

My biggest gripe with Max Payne 3 is its lack of humour. Sam Lake’s writing in the first two games is a lot more colourful and tongue-in-cheek—especially in the heavily selfreferential second game. Rockstar’s writers, however, play it much straighter, and there’s nothing to compare to the surreal Address Unknown theme park or the absurd Dick Justice TV show. It’s a pretty dry revenge story and, for the most part, grimly self-serious. The first two games also had an esoteric, mythical quality, with their references to Norse paganism, and there’s none of that here either. Remedy’s off-key quirkiness is a big part of Max Payne’s success, and I wish Rockstar had gone more in that direction. 

That aside, Max Payne 3 is a worthy, if overly earnest, sequel. I admire Rockstar for taking a chance with a new setting, because while I’d love another Max Payne game set in New York City, it’s been done twice before. It’s a pretty basic third-person shooter, but one constructed with an enormous budget, keen attention to detail, a flair for the cinematic, and a lot of talent. And, honestly, it doesn’t matter where in the world Max is. If he has a gun, a bottle of whisky, and a few dozen metaphors, he can do his thing anywhere, the only way he knows how.   

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