Almost exactly one year after the previous event, I received another phone call from Rockstar Games, inviting me to a new fan-site event. I assumed it would be just like all the others, however this event was for Rockstar's upcoming crime/detective game LA Noire, and instead of being held in New York City, we were heading to Los Angeles.
My layover landed Detroit, where I met Kyle at the gate of our flight to California. When we landed in LA, we found someone by baggage claim holding a gigantic yellow Rockstar logo sticker. Skeptical at first, we took our chances and assumed this was our ride to the hotel.
After fighting through traffic and observing gas prices which weren't as astronomical as I had expected, we arrived at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which is located directly on Hollywood Boulevard and has lodged many famous people including Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, and Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, just to name a few.
All of the webmasters were booked poolside cabana rooms. After getting situated, myself and Kyle went up to the third floor of the hotel tower to be given a quick demo of the basic mechanics of LA Noire. The first thing that really shined was the new facial expression technology. Another difference on this trip was that we would be playing the game on our own time, in the privacy of our rooms, instead of in one large area with everyone else. While this was kind of a bummer - half the fun of the other events was playing in the company of all the other webmasters - it made sense in that LA Noire really requires the player to pay attention to visual and audible cues, so focus is key. Also, there's no multiplayer. It was a welcome change of pace, as it made raiding the minibar for snacks that much easier.
I spent some time hanging out by the pool with Kyle, then we were eventually greeted by a Rockstar rep who informed us that our rooms had now been outfitted with Playstation3 consoles. We were left to play the game for a few hours until dinner. The subtlety with which the game alerts you to your surroundings is incredible. When searching a crime scene for clues, a piano chime can be heard, and, if enabled, your controller will vibrate, when you are in arms reach of something you can examine. When you've found all the clues pertinent to the case, the background music stops. Touches like these are a great way for the game to communicate with the player without flashing textual prompts at the bottom of the screen.
After enjoying the game and the hotel for a little while, it was time for dinner, which was set for 8:00pm in the hotel's restaurant Public Kitchen & Bar by Tim Goodell. The restaurant had created a custom menu for us, adorned with the Rockstar logo. It was at dinner where I met another new member of the webmaster group, Drew from RockstarNetwork. Halfway through the meal we noticed hurricane-like winds ripping through the palm trees outside, so of course where did we go after dinner? Outside. I hung out with everybody by the pool for about half an hour before going back to my room to play more of the game.
The next four to five hours were spent diving deeper into LA Noire. This game will definitely take some time to complete, which I see as a plus, so you feel as though you are thoroughly getting your money's worth. You could spend 30+ minutes on a single case because you need to find the right clues in order to ask the right questions to the right people in order to get the answers you need to solve the case. Think about watching an episode of CSI from the 1940's. LA Noire makes you work for your goal and I like that. What clues you find, who you interrogate, what you ask them, where you go, and in what order you do them, all affect how the case plays out. You will always eventually solve the case, but they can take varying lengths of time depending on how you decide to investigate. This makes the replay value of LA Noire skyrocket and opens up the potential for previously unheard dialogue and unseen cutscenes with each new game.
Day two in Los Angeles was mostly consumed by the Black Dahlia Murder Mystery Tour. We retraced the last steps of Elizabeth Short's life on the night she was murdered, starting at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, and concluding at the spot where her body was found, cut in half, on what is now somebody's front lawn. On the way back to the Biltmore, we stopped for a late lunch at Cole's French Dip for some amazing sandwiches and atomic pickles.
Back to the Roosevelt for night number two of LA Noire indulgence. For those of you expecting this game to be Grand Theft Auto: Los Angeles 1947, you will be sorely disappointed. Yeah, you can drive around a huge open map (8 square miles if I am not mistaken) and shoot people (sometimes, and only bad guys), but that's about all LA Noire and GTA have in common. You will be penalized for causing mayhem, and you can't put rims on your 1946 Ford Super DeLuxe. LA Noire is a completely different animal.
The next morning, after an intense breakfast compliments of room service, the PS3 was evicted from my room and the trip was winding down. Everyone gathered outside by the valet at 10:30am. Since none of us checked a bag and had no room in our carry-ons, we were just given some t-shirts as parting gifts. All that was left to look forward to were the TSA agents at LAX. That, and when LA Noire releases in North America on May 17th.
US Bank Tower (Maze Bank in GTAV).
Fried egg sandwich and apple cinnamon French toast, $80 after tax & tip.
I gotta get me one of these beds.
The iconic rooftop sign.
Swag was limited due to air travel.