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We go hands-on with the PC version of LA Noire in stereoscopic 3D...
Rockstar PC games may be late to the party but they don't half arrive in style. They might bowl up at half-past-midnight when all the boring people have left, most of the booze has been drunk, and the iPod deck has been commandeered by some turd playing his Bob Dylan collection, but they're also the kind of guest who'll reignite the dying embers of that party and give it a second wind; they'll come brandishing a bottle of absinthe, flanked by groupies from the Friendly Fires gig they were just at in Shoreditch, and with enough 'Smarties' for everyone. Compared to most publishers' PC ports these days, which arrive around about the party's specified starting time on Facebook wearing a T-shirt that says 'F.B.I. - Female Body Inspector', the Rockstar PC game is infinitely preferable even if you are a bit frustrated that it ignored your texts inviting it to come over five hours beforehand.
So, LA Noire will arrive in Europe on November 11th around half a year after its console brethren, but it'll come stacked with features dedicated to the discerning PC gamer. When Rockstar promises ramped-up visuals and higher resolution textures, it delivers; when the publisher says that it's packing-in content specifically designed for the platform, it means it. GTA IV's PC edition proves these points, with visuals that go a fair whack above and beyond the console builds and a powerful video editing suite that's inspired some quite superb Machinima productions from fans over the last few years. LA Noire, then, comes with support for all the ludicrously high resolutions your swanky PC monitor and graphics card can handle; it comes with polished-up textures to do these higher-resolutions justice, DX10 compatibility, and full support for Nvidia's 3D Vision tech to push the point home. Value for money has been considered too as Rockstar will be bundling all the additional DLC from the console versions into the boxed copy of this complete PC edition – all that and at the lower retail value of £40 for a PC game.
Convinced yet? If not, then we were fortunate enough to go hands- and eyes-on with the stereoscopic 3D experience down at Rockstar's London HQ recently and the early signs were positive. Rockstar Leeds' PC port boasted visuals that were that bit sharper, due more to the higher resolution than anything else – it gave the game's existing textures the chance to shine at their sharpest and most vibrant. When we went hands-on with the PC edition of GTA IV three years ago, it was the finer details that struck us and suddenly became more apparent like the heat strips in the rear windows of cars, or the bluey-orange glow of sparks from subway train tracks, and that's similarly the case with LA Noire. Our hands-on was with the Nicholson Electroplating case (released as post-release DLC on consoles) – where there's a massive explosion in downtown LA and Cole Phelps is the first on the scene – and it worked as a superb test-bed for the PC build.
Again, it's the subtler details that stood out as Phelps turned up at the flattened Nicholson Electroplating facility: residual flames from the burnt-out husks of cars, which flapped in the wind like a flag on consoles, now lashed at the air with the sharpness of a dragon's forked tongue at 2560x1600 resolution. Similarly, gamers who've played the case will recall that ash falls from the sky in the aftermath of the explosion. It's a touch eerie on consoles, a bit like snowflakes falling on a beaming summer's day, but on PC with Nvidia's 3D specs the floating ash transports '50s LA into a Narnia-esque ethereal wonderland of unicorns and leprechauns (except replace the unicorns with LAPD detectives, and leprechauns with severed limbs from the explosion). Stereoscopic 3D does add a lot to the experience, although not necessarily in the ways you'd initially expect.
There's not much of the pseudo-holographic effect seen in other 3D games, where objects appear to leave the screen and float about in your living room for a moment. Instead, the effect in LA Noire has been rolled back and feels a little more refined. It's one of depth more than anything else and actually comes across in a surprisingly cinematic way – not cinematic in the action sequence sense, but cinematic in the aged celluloid sense. Whether by luck or judgement in Rockstar Leeds' case, LA Noire in glorious 3D Technicolor feels like a dedication to the Noir medium, almost as if you're walking about in a 1950s film rather than 1950s LA. Those of you who've played Nicholson Electroplating will know that it goes on to develop into one of the strongest cases in LA Noire, and returning to it for the sake of this demo left us even more amazed by some of the attention to detail. Beyond all of the higher resolution and 3D gubbins, it's worth remembering that LA Noire is a superb game when all's said and done. PC gamers will get what they want from it in the sense that it's the superior version, but they'll also get what they want in the sense that it's a great game which is coming to their platform.
On returning to Nicholson Electroplating at the second time of asking, the levels of research on show become more apparent. Yes, it's based on an explosion that actually happened at the O'Connor Electroplating facility in LA during 1947, and yes, LA Noire's rendition of the case goes on to visit the hanger of Howard Hughes' Hercules (a.k.a. the 'Spruce Goose'). These are impressive historical nods to have, but it's in the fine print that you can see how far LA Noire dedicates itself to the source material. You may not want to read on here if you're trying to avoid spoilers, but there's a moment where the case relies on key evidence in the form of a type of linseed oil that's used to line the inside of each propeller head on the Hercules. It's just delivered in a way that you know the game's writers have trawled through engineering blueprints of the aircraft to add this level of detail to the story, and it makes you that bit more willing to invest yourself in it.
In short then, one of the best games of this year is coming to PC and it's coming with all the added attention to the platform that you can rely on Rockstar to provide: better visuals and higher resolutions, check; stereoscopic 3D, check; a complete edition shipping with all previously released DLC, check. Now, if only they could get around to doing the same thing for Red Dead Redemption...
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