We've already had one Game of the Week this week so can't give it out twice, but LA Noire (out tomorrow) is deserving of much bigger accolades.
Sam Spade was cool. As was Philip Marlowe. Humphrey Bogart, playing these iconic Forties detectives, doubly so. These are established truths. As a kid watching The Big Sleep, I always wanted to be Bogie putting the squeeze on some lowlife, trying to make headway in a case. Even now, when Spade smacks the sinister Peter Lorre around in The Maltese Falcon (delivering the immortal line “When you’re slapped you’ll take it and like it!”), I want to throw down a whiskey, adjust the brim on my fedora and light a Chesterfield. So, God bless Rockstar. Recognising this tough investigative fantasy in most red-blooded males, it has created the superb LA Noire.
Set in a polished post-war, jazz-soaked Los Angeles, you are Cole Phelps (ably acted by Mad Men’s Aaron Staton) starting out as rookie beat cop, rising through the ranks of the LAPD. And, for the Bogie die-hards, you can even choose to play in black and white – a clever addition.
But if you think this is going to be just a time-traveller cop version of Grand Theft Auto, where the biggest gun always wins, not so fast, tough guy. The genius addition to gameplay in LA Noire is that you have to do actual detective work — searching for clues, following trails and, best of all, interrogating suspects.
And here is the real test. Knowing exactly when some perp is telling porkies is one skill you’ll have to hone. Far from the days when characters had blank expressions and gaping fish mouths, LA Noire’s revolutionary new motion-capture technology allows it to reveal subtle flickers of guilt on a felon’s face — but only if you ask the right questions and apply pressure at the right time. Telltale beads of sweat and nervous tics will give eagle-eyed detectives the green light for a judicious spot of “bad cop” heavy tactics. Dust off your macs, gentlemen. We’ve got work to do. Jeremy White
La Noire is out on 20 May on PS3 and Xbox 360 www.rockstargames.com/lanoire