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

The best movie you've never played

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"I didn't want that... I wanted to be a star. Juney told me I had to toughen up."

It's a shocking admission, and one which twists the deftly scripted story back on Jessica's relative - and the dirty Hollywood machine she yearns to seduce.

What follows offers revelation after revelation, Noire's sophisticated narrative untangling with confident patience.

Hidden behind our newspaper in a greasy diner, we witness June tell her boyfriend on a public phone that she has "the film"; we see a mermaid statue - the only concrete memory Jessica has from her living horror - in a photo of the props shop owned by Mark Bishop's best friend, Marlon Hopgood. And we hear Bishop's wife utter those chilling words: "My husband likes them young..."

At his store, the suspiciously cheery Hopgood eventually cracks under questioning when presented with a cheque found at Bishop's flat. It's made out to Hopgood's wife - and it's for a cool £20,000.

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Investigating Hopgood's lot, we discover paraphernalia every bit as creepy as it is enlightening: A two-way mirror, a movie camera pointing towards a grubby 'casting couch' and an empty film reel labelled 'Mark Bishop & Jessica' - the contents, no doubt, in June's hands. On a nearby shelf, a half-empty bottle of chloral hydrate lies on its side.

We're not sure which is more sickening: Hopgood and Bishop's debauched complicity, or Jessica's aunt June - willing to sacrifice her niece's virtue and happiness to blackmail the producer that spurned her.

But this is no time to ponder. Hopgood has given us Bishop's location - the busted up, crumbling movie set of his own engorged, vulgar cinematic period epic 'Jungle Drums'.

We jump into our car and speed off towards the hideout. Each of Noire's travel sections utilise a HUD map in the bottom left corner of the screen - a near-carbon copy of Red Dead's. You have the choice of taking the wheel yourself, or offering Bekowsky the chance to drive - which acts as a teleport (a GTA Taxi or John Marston campfire for Rockstar veterans).

On this occasion, Cole drives - and it's just as well. Within seconds, Guy McAffey's goons are steaming aggressively along the road next to us. They too want to catch up with Bishop - but for revenge, rather than legality.

This rivalry tips over into an all-out gun fight on a Hollywood boulevard - Cole and Bekowsky using their vehicle as cover as the familiar, reliable Rockstar shooting mechanics are injected into proceedings.

But this isn't a letdown; indeed, in amongst all of L.A Noire's novelty and restraint, it's nice to let rip in a faithful style. More importantly, it's a refreshing acceleration of pace from the considered investigation that's come before.

First wave of crims disposed of, we chase down a clammy, chubby, Bishop on foot - up ladders and over decaying remnants of his hammy production. He's petrified of June's man finding him, and begs us for protection. But with what we've got planned, he'd do well not to count on the law.

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Sadly, that's where our sneak preview comes to an end - before the story spoilers can really kick in.

We've been well and truly enchanted by L.A Noire, from its lugubrious jazz hall 'feel' to its stunningly evocative, wonderfully authentic and impressively motley locales. We can't wait to take on cases from other LAPD departments - especially Rockstar's specialist 'desks', Homicide and Vice.

But it's the game's personalities that leave us with the feeling that this could represent a new dawn for entertainment as a whole.

The uncanny valley has been demolished. The faces of Noire's excellent cast (including Mad Men's Aaron Staton as Cole) are represented with such accuracy, they create a world in which NPCs not only appear, react and lie as real people - but carry with them a human presence and intimacy never before seen in video gaming.

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