Rockstar didn't spare us the gory details either. We not only saw the body up close and personal, but we were asked to slowly and meticulously inspect it for clues and cause of death.
We'll have to wait until the retail release to find out exactly what happened in this grotesque murder, but we were treated to 30 minutes or so of the build up. Along the way, we followed a trail of clues that smacked of an old adventure game like Broken Sword.
In the park by the body, we found a globe about the size of Phelp's palm. After solving a quick throwaway puzzle of lining up the continents, it popped open and was revealed to be a lighter from a local nightclub. As for how on Earth the killer managed to lose an object of that size and sophistication, we're not really sure.
The cut-scene that preceded, showing the woman being murdered by a silhouetted man, had her being yanked out of the car, so it could have fallen out of the car then. L.A. Noire didn't seem to burden the player with the specifics of where clues came from. Hopefully, the clues won't all be so heavy-handed. That said, it would be very interesting if some of these obvious clues turned out to be red herrings.
The clue started us on a path of growing intrigue as the story wound its way between new characters and crime scenes. It would be a waste of time to recount the entire story we were shown, since it didn't have a conclusion of any kind. We were left with our lingering suspicions and doubts. Each character we met seemed to tighten our grip on the killer. The most interesting aspect of the experience was the interview system we used to engage these personalities.
Team Bondi's amazing animation was on full display here, actually succeeding in turning facial animations into gameplay. When you ask people questions, they'll react in a certain way. Sometimes it's obvious that they're lying, since they won't look you in the eye after their response. Other times, you might just notice a subtle tic that tips you off. You'll have to read their voices and expressions in order to figure out where they stand. Are they trying to hide something? Or are they just deeply saddened by the news of the murder?
L.A. Noire isn't just about slow interrogations and clue-gathering: there's a fair amount of action to balance things out. Our particular case was much slower-paced and included just one fist fight just as the demo closed. However, other press materials have shown Phelps blasting through bank robbers that just wouldn't give in, and smashing into cars on the streets of Hollywood.
The time for L.A. Noire's extremely long development – over five years, by some accounts – to come to an end has almost arrived. On 20th May – 17th May in North America – Rockstar and Team Bondi will find out if this expensive labour has been worth the trouble. On this evidence, it could well have been.