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L.A Noire: Hollywood come in, your time is up

The best movie you've never played

"This is a sick town, detective. You sure you want to know?"

In truth, no. We're not even sure we want to know half as much as we already do, ma'am.

In one virtual Hollywood morning, we've swallowed enough wanton squalor and outright deviousness to discolour our faith in the human condition for good.

We've seen a 15-year-old sparrow of a girl, Jessica Hamilton, tremble in her hospital bed as she attempts to divert our enquiries away from details of her harrowing sexual abuse.

We've witnessed her auntie, B-movie strumpet June Ballard, dismiss Jessica's torn underwear and the noxious levels of chloral hydrate in her blood as mere teenage folly.

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And we've heard the same, gut-churning name over and over again: Mark Bishop.

Throughout this deluge of wretchedness and subterfuge, we've watched L.A Noire's quick-thinking protagonist, Cole Phelps, dismiss the apocryphal and amplify the authentic with the sort of decisiveness and gallantry rarely found outside of his decorated ilk.

A World War II vet, Cole was awarded the Silver Star for bravery on his return to the US. His final turn of service was the most tortuous: The 1945 Battle Of Okinawa - the largest, bloodiest and most ferocious campaign of the entire conflict.

He emerged not only alive, but a hero. He also emerged with the sort of dead-eyed, glacial demeanour usually carried by those with a deep, dark secret.

But here in Hollywood, 1947, where dreams are made - yet nightmares flourish - Cole is exactly the man you need in the LAPD. Unlike most of the anxious, gibbering mannikins in this unscrupulous town, he's not gunning for fame, wealth or status - just evidence and clarity.

And, now, standing in Mark Bishop's apartment, having artfully petted and pummelled the truth from this untrustworthy movie producer's wife, he's about to get a bellyful of both.

"This is a sick town, detective. You sure you want to know? The thing is, my husband likes them young..."

It doesn't take long in the stunningly detailed world of Rockstar's L.A Noire to realise that this ain't a place for wimps. Quite the opposite; you have to plan, react and think just like Cole.

Fallen Angel, the mission we take in, begins with a cut-scene showing the inky figure of a man clamping tight the accelerator of his Chevy under moonlight. We watch the car career over an escarpment and into a giant billboard above one of Hollywood's iconic roadsides; and we note the shadowy, slumped silhouette of two dozing passengers inside.

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The next morning, Cole and his good guy partner Stefan Bekowsky - working on the PD's Traffic desk - receive the case and head out to study the scene. Initially adopting a similar third-person control system to Red Dead or GTA, we, as Cole, are encouraged to peruse the grassy embankment around the now crumpled Chevy for clues.

The dormant figures from the night before have now been recognised as Jessica and June - and they have both, thankfully, survived.

The former has been whisked to a nearby hospital. The latter is perched coquettishly on the bumper of a police car behind us. Despite her dishevelled state, she's obviously made something of a rushed effort to recover her usually preened appearance. Little wonder - the local paps are everywhere, carnivorous for a bit of glamour to make up for the lack of bloodshed.

It's here that L.A Noire's first sleuth indicator kicks in - and to those expecting Niko-Bellic-does-Tinseltown, it's a delightfully light surprise. Whenever we wander near something that constitutes evidence, the oddly eerie jazz music playing in the background comes to the fore, garnished by a delicate two-note piano motif.

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