The Roosevelt Hotel
I got a phone call out of the blue on Monday April 4th from Rockstar Games asking me if I'd like to attend a fansite event in Los Angeles on the weekend of the 14th-17th of April for LA Noire. Not exactly a lot of notice! Unfortunately I was supposed to be in Germany that weekend with some of my friends, however when Rockstar Games invite you to a fansite event in a city you've never visited, for a game you're dying to play, it's not really a hard decision to make. The UK fansite guys were scheduled to fly out on Thursday the 14th because it was at least an 11 hour flight, plus connections, so we needed an extra day to get there and get settled. The rest of the USA and Canada fansite guys were scheduled to arrive throughout the day on Friday the 15th. We would be staying in the world famous Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
You can check out plenty more photos of the trip at facebook. View the photo gallery here.
Thursday 14 April 2011
Flight To Heathrow
I was up early to go to the airport for my flight to London Heathrow. My dad dropped me off at Newcastle Airport then I got checked in and had to sit around for an hour or so before my flight. The flight to London was decent - pretty short at around 50 minutes or so I think although there was a bit of drama when the plane was coming in to land. Must have been 300 feet from the runway when the pilot suddenly pulled up and slammed the engines into full power. We eventually found out there was a plane in front of us that had landed and didn't clear the runway quick enough, so we had to circle for 20 minutes then come in and land second time around. Once I got into the airport I went to the gate and waited for the flight to LA. Again I waited about an hour then got on the plane. I sat next to the window at the back of the middle section of the plane on both flights. No one was behind to kick my seat, which is always a good thing.
On the 11 hour flight over to LAX Airport I watched 'The Way Back' on the plane along with an episode of the US Office (not as good as the original UK version) and Smithy's Comic Relief.
I also read a bit of Bear Grylls' book and listened to a few hours of Ricky Gervais' podcasts which never get old. Eventually I arrived in LA but had to wait over an hour to get through passport control, get my bags then for some stupid reason, go through passport control again to get out of the airport.
I got picked up by one of Rockstar's drivers. Traffic was pretty bad though because it was around rush hour so he took me through the streets rather than along the freeway. Eventually got to the hotel and met the main Rockstar guys responsible for the trip. I went to my room and got settled. It was a really nice room with a packed mini-bar, an HDTV on the wall and a balcony overlooking the pool. At least according to the girl at reception. In reality the view was nearly completely blocked by trees but never mind. I had a shower and met the Rockstar guys at the pool with fansite guys Adam and Jevon from GTANet. We had a few drinks by the pool then went out for some food. I had a big cheese burger with lettuce which was nice. After the food we went for a walk around and checked out the mall nearby but we were all tired from travelling and the time difference so went to bed at 10:30 PM ish local time.
More Photos Of The Room...
Friday 15 April 2011
Because of a combination of jet-lag and timezone issues, I woke up at 3 AM and went online on my iPhone to chat to a few people. I went back to sleep at 5 till 8 then ordered breakfast. I got an 'American' which was basically sausage and eggs with tea, and a berry smoothie. Met the Rockstar guys at 10 and they gave us a demo of LA Noire showing part of the Red Lipstick case. While we were being shown it we had PS3's put into our rooms so we could play the game at our leisure. I went back to the room and played for about 3 hours then we all met by the pool and got some food.
View From The Pool
Myself, Jevon and Adam decided to go to the beach while we were waiting for the American fansite guys to get in but Andy (also GTANet) arrived from Canada just in time so he came with us. We went to Santa Monica pier and had a splash about in the water.
It was cold but the sun was pretty warm. I bought some sunglasses from a shop on the pier and walked along taking some photos. Unfortunately one of the Rockstar guys spent most of his time on the pier trying to get an inch long splinter out of his foot. Strongly reccommend shoes if you're going to walk along that pier...
Once we got back to the hotel I got showered and changed and we went to the hotel restaurant for food. Rockstar had a custom menu with random starters and a few choices for the main course. I got the chicken which was pretty good. Later we had a few drinks then I went back to the room and played LA Noire for another couple of hours before I fell asleep.
More Photos From Friday...
Saturday 16 April 2011
I woke up at 7 and played a few hours more of LA Noire then got breakfast (the nicest blueberry pancakes EVER) and chilled at the pool with the guys. At 10:30 we went into downtown LA for a bus tour of the Black Dahlia murder case. It was almost 4 hours long and took us all over LA to see various crime scenes and points of interest from 1947 and that case in particular. It was really informative but perhaps a bit too in depth. I got lost after about an hour and didn't really know what was going on anymore, although it was still interesting to see all of the locations around LA with history which relates to the game.
LA At Night
Once the tour was over we headed back to the hotel, stopping at Cole's diner for food on the way. Back at the hotel some of the recently arrived fansite guys played LA Noire for the first time but a few of the others (Jevon, myself and the two LA Noire Sweepstakes contest winners) went up to the observatory near the Hollywood sign to see the sunset. The sun went down and we saw the city with all the flickering lights stretching to the horizon in all directions. It was amazing. I can't actually believe how big the city is.
We went back to the hotel and hung by the pool chilling out with a few drinks as more groups of random people started arriving to party. A few of us stayed out pretty late chatting to the other guys and drinking at the party by the pool which got pretty busy. We got chatting to a guy who claimed to be a music video producer from Canada, although whether you can believe a word anyone says in Hollywood is another matter. I ended up going to bed at around 3 AM to play LA Noire but paused the game and fell asleep instantly.
Sunday 17 April 2011
Elephants At The Mall
Woke up feeling slightly worse for wear, finding out I'd passed out with LA Noire paused on the screen and all of the lights and stuff left on in my room... I played it for an hour but wasn't really in the right mood to solve cases so I had a shower and went down to see Drew (RockstarNetwork) who was playing through LA Noire and pulling some crazy car stunts.
I went out to the pool and saw one of the Rockstar guys, then decided to have a quick swim in the pool. No one else brought shorts (or speedos, thank god!) so it was just me and him who experienced the pool for a short while. I jumped out and got changed and a few of us went to the shops for some souvenirs. Didn't find much though, but I did find out that Liverpool scored a 101st minute penalty to draw 1-1 against Arsenal (thanks to Sheep). Good stuff!
Once we got back to the hotel the US and Canadian fansite guys were starting to leave so we said goodbye then got our bags packed. Rockstar gave us some LA Noire t-shirts, then we hung out by the pool while they got all their stuff packed. Myself and the other UK fansite guys went to In-N-Out Burger for some lunch which was awesome. One of the nicest burgers I've ever had. Once that was done we went back to the hotel and sat by the pool while we waited to be driven to the airport and eventually checked in and boarded the flight.
Monday 18 April 2011
The flight from LA to London Heathrow wasn't too bad. I think I slept for most of it, but I recall repositioning myself at least 30 times trying to get comfortable so I probably didn't sleep that much. All I did was listen to the Ricky Gervais podcasts all the way back and attempt to eat the horrible aeroplane food. From there it was a quick flight from London to Newcastle and then home to empty my suitcase of all the stuff I grabbed from the mini-bar!
LA Noire Impressions
I'm very impressed with LA Noire. Although I can't claim to know much about Los Angeles in 1947, the game does feel like it's set in that time period and a number of the cases are inspired by real life cases from the time, particularly the Black Dahlia murder which we got to learn more about on the bus tour.
The graphics are more or less similar to GTA4 and Red Dead Redemption, possibly with minor tweaks but the engine looks and feels the same as those games. I must stress however, that LA Noire is NOT a GTA game set in the 1940's. It's a totally different genre and a number of the features you'd expect to see in GTA aren't available. For a start, you can't just whip out a gun when walking down the street and shoot innocent people. The game is set up in such a way that weapons are only available when they're required in a mission, for example when you come under fire. You can hit people with your car, but hitting too many can cause you to fail a case, which brings me onto another point.
Crime Scene Investigation
The game is not free-roam mission based like GTA. You don't choose which mission you want to do or who you want to work for. The game starts you off on your first case, and as you complete them, you move instantly onto the next case. While working on a case you're free to go off and do free roaming however you want, but because you're still on a case and you're playing as a cop/detective, you need to be careful. I think this is good because the whole aim of the game is to solve crimes, not cause them and I'd find it hard to see how anyone could dislike the game for that reason.
Another good feature which I used a lot is the ability to let your partner drive. You'll regularly need to head back and forth across town in order to collect evidence and question people, so the ability to skip the trip via your partner is very useful and can speed up the game. You are of course free to drive yourself and can take part in solving street crimes which are side missions whenever you hear an announcement on the radio - if you want. The game also autosaves very regularly and you won't have to replay big parts of missions if you fail.
Trailing A Suspect
Searching for evidence is quite fun and I spent a lot of time trying to make sure I picked up and examined every object within a few hundred yards of the crime scene. Not a great idea though because it's pretty time consuming, but worth it for the additional questions you'll unlock which can help to solve the case in a quicker and more professional manner. Questioning witnesses or suspects is also fun and actually quite difficult to tell what they're thinking. Even if their facial expressions show they're lying, if you don't have the evidence to back it up, your accusations are as good as nothing.
Overall I think LA Noire is a great game with a lot of replay value. It doesn't feature any multiplayer, but it's the kind of game a group of people could sit around and shout out at the one who's playing telling them to check different areas for clues, or giving their own opinions on whether a suspect is lying. It's definitely something different, but it's something that's extremely enjoyable to play and each case can go down a number of different routes depending on the evidence you find, the questions you ask and the reponses you give and receive. GTA fans won't be disappointed and I'm pretty confident a lot of new Rockstar gamers will be brought in with this game. In fact I know of three very close people to myself who are all looking forward to this game as much as I am, and all 3 of those were never big on GTA because of the crime and violence you caused. This time you're a good guy and I think a lot of people will like being on this side of the tracks.
Rockstar were kind enough to send us an exclusive screenshot of LA Noire - find it below.
iGTA Exclusive LA Noire Screenshot
I'd just like to thank Rockstar Games for their amazing event once again. This is the fourth year we've had the opportunity to get together and there aren't many friendlier guys than those from Rockstar Games. I'd even go as far to say this was possibly the best event we've attended so far and it was a shame we all had to leave so soon but the time we got to spend with the game was incredible and the sights around LA which we got to experience will not be easily forgotten, neither will the individuals we were lucky enough to meet. Specifically I'd like to thank;
Jordan, Mike, Bill, Katherine, Mario and Scotty and Brian from (or associated with) Rockstar Games.
Also a shout out to the other webmasters at the event;