VR Spotlight: Immerse Yourself in L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files on the HTC Vive
When L.A. Noire first released, reviewers praised the game for its moody 1940’s atmosphere, gritty plot, and MotionScan technology that captured vivid performances of famous actors. In fact, the acting was so believable and intricate, you could detect facial movements to decipher emotions and unravel lies—a first in the world of gaming. On top of that, L.A. Noire contained riveting car chases, memorable fights, and deep detective work. And now, HTC Vive owners can experience all those thrills and more in full VR, with seven self-contained cases tailored specifically for the platform. As Games Radar states in their preview: “L.A. Noire feels like an entirely new game in virtual reality, and the juxtaposition of physical improvisation and po-faced crime noir ensures everyone should have a fun experience.”
L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files transports you back to Los Angeles in 1947. However, far from the idealized American spirit normally associated with that era, the setting instead fosters a dark, gritty, and violent tone. Additionally, Rockstar Games took special care in recreating 1940’s post-war Los Angeles, right down to the buildings, businesses, automobiles, clothing styles, housing developments, and jazz clubs.
After putting on your HTC Vive headset and picking up the motion controllers, you’ll step into the shoes of young and idealistic officer Cole Phelps, as he navigates seven self-contained cases from across the five “Desks” of the original game (Patrol, Traffic, Homicide, Arson, and Vice), each selected specifically for their suitability for virtual reality, including Upon Reflection, Armed and Dangerous, Buyer Beware, The Consul’s Car, The Silk Stocking Murder, Reefer Madness, and A Different Kind of War.
Each case delivers an unprecedented sense of realism and authenticity, further strengthened by a strong cast of characters and topnotch acting.
Before starting any of the cases though, you’ll find yourself in Cole’s office, which acts as a kind of pre-mission hub. While there, you can interact with myriads of objects. You can pick up and smoke cigars, take records out of their sleeves and place them on a nearby turntable, change outfits by peering at a mirror, pick up your desk phone, and lots more. This serves as a both a playground and a primer for the gameplay ahead, as much of your time will be spent handling and examining various items during investigations (there are over 500 unique objects to manipulate).
Once you’re involved in a case, you’ll need to complete a set of objectives to solve the crime. In addition to collecting and analyzing physical evidence, you’ll also question suspects or witnesses directly; paying close attention to their physical reactions and how they respond emotionally is vital. The interrogation aspect is even more engrossing thanks to VR, where it feels like you’re actually next to the person, seeing first-hand how they conduct themselves. This is further boosted by the game’s graphical overhaul—characters and locations now look better than ever. Whenever you talk to a suspect or witness, you can choose Good Cop, Bad Cop, or Accuse, depending on how you’d like to handle the situation (each of the three choices creates different dialogs, with varying outcomes depending on the perp). But you’ll need to be careful; if some of your conclusions are way off the mark, a case can take a turn for the worse. This is especially true if a person was actually trying to cooperate, and you accuse them otherwise.
Grilling suspects and gathering evidence, while important, is only a part of the action. Chases and fist fights await as well. And with the advantage of VR, you’ll now have enhanced tools to tackle these situations. Using actual motions with your arms, hands, head, and body, you’ll search around crime scenes and interact with the environment to a diverse degree. You can move bodies around, rummage through clothes, unfold notes, and pick up interesting items (or seemingly mundane ones) to examine them further. You’ll also have a notepad on-hand, and you can use it to jot down or draw anything that comes to mind, which can be incredibly helpful during interrogations and investigations.
Movement is handled by either focusing on a spot and teleporting to it, or by swinging your arms back and forth to incrementally gain ground (which feels particularly appropriate when running after a fleeing suspect). And speaking of chasing down less-than-savory individuals, many of them won’t give up without a fight once you’ve caught up. Throwing punches, dodging, and blocking hits works by moving your arms and hands just like you would in real life. Toss a right hook, and you can expect to see it articulated identically inside the game. And don’t be afraid to improvise: hitting foes from under their guard, or darting around to their flanks is a good way to surprise them.
Cars are also integral to LA Noire: The VR Case Files, and when you climb into a vintage 1940’s sedan, you’ll be treated to a cool new first-person perspective; much like an actual car, you’ll have to push the key into the ignition and give it a turn to get the engine rumbling. For driving, the motion-controllers’ finger triggers are used for acceleration and braking, and you’ll mimic holding a steering wheel for turning corners and keeping the car on the road. But remember: these cars are pure 1940’s—power steering isn’t available, so if you want to avoid careening into a salon or pancaking innocent pedestrians, you’ll need to circle your arms back to their starting position after you take a sharp curve.