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Team Bondi

Whore of the Orient photo
Smacking folk around in Shanghai
Leaked footage of Team Bondi's Whore of the Orient recently surfaced on VideoGamer.com, courtesy of a "trusted source." The gameplay video reveals some awkward fighting, some brisk running, and a lot of hiding behind bo...

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L.A. Noire developer's follow-up is slated for next-gen


Aug 30
// Allistair Pinsof
Whore of the Orient, Team Bondi's anticipated follow-up to L.A. Noire, will be published on next-gen consoles and PC by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Set in 1930's Shangai, during a time of political unrest, Whore o...

The grand adventure: Making a comeback

Mar 30 // Fraser Brown
I was something of a late adopter when it came to digital distribution. I clung to my boxes and physical media for as long as the world let me. Everybody has a price, though. It turned out that my price was the complete Space Quest collection on Steam. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that it was far from the only example of a classic adventure game on the platform, indeed, there were plenty of new ones as well. Steam already had a massive user base and it offered a great space for promotion.  Telltale Games is no stranger to digital distribution; its games can be found on all manner of digital platforms, including those of the console variety. CEO Dan Connors explained, "Digital distribution allows independent publishers to reach the customers without taking on the costs associated with building and marketing a retail title." Telltale sells directly to their customers via their own site, as well. "We're going to be relaunching that soon, because we've learned a ton and we're really going to start making that a big part of our mission again, to get a community there and get people excited and offering them things they can't get in other places. It's a way you can test experiences, try new things, message however you want, position product however you want, provide information on products, and let people participate." Along with Steam, indie bundles have been a massive boon to smaller adventure game developers. The first three titles in the Blackwell series and Gemini Rue were both featured in indie bundles, last year. Those games were the work of Dave Gilbert and Josh Nuernberger, respectively. Dave told me, "It was like launching the games all over again. I think more people have played Blackwell in the [week since it featured on the bundle] than they have in the last five years. My inbox and forums have exploded since the Indie Royale launch, and the association also gave Blackwell the final push it needed for Steam to accept it. We’ve been trying to get the series on Steam for two years but they always said no. So we’re very grateful for that." One of the largest problems for adventure game developers in the years since the golden age of the genre was publishers' lack of faith in the products. When they were willing to invest in such a game, it was lazily marketed and rarely got the support it needed. With promotion and direct access to players, developers have been able to show that there's a healthy audience out there, which will hopefully lead to more publishers investing in these types of titles. Better tools have also made it easier for small developers to make a finished product. Adventure game studio (AGS) is a free development kit inspired by Sierra's interface for its adventure titles and it's been used to create a vast number of games, including many commercial ones. Most of Wadjet Eye's catalog used AGS. "The creation of third-party tools like AGS enable idiots like me to make these games, so more of them are being made every day." Although AGS games frequently favor a retro aesthetic, that's a design choice rather than limitations imposed by the software. Dave explained, "It’s a big misconception that AGS can only handle low-res games. It can actually go as high as you want, just most people prefer not to. So the decision to use AGS has nothing to do with aesthetic choice, but it has everything to do with money and time. Right out of the box, it has everything you need to make a point-and-click adventure game. Not having the experience or knowledge to make an engine of my own, it was the most logical choice." Dave's own games have a distinctly retro look and thematically they are similar to the much-beloved Gabriel Knight series. Playing the Blackwell series instantly transported me back in time to the days when Sierra were still blowing my mind with new adventures. It's a wonderful feeling. "Blackwell is very much me trying to do Gabriel Knight. The story of Joe Gould and Joseph Mitchell was my Jensenian attempt at merging real-life historical people with supernatural events." As Al Lowe reminded me, these smaller teams using AGS are a lot like the teams that developed adventure games in the '80s and early '90s. "I think that's great because it brings back the small team concept of one or two people working closely together on a project and actually putting their own personalities into it. I think that so much of what we see that's wrong with games today, that there is no key personality that comes through." While cost is obviously a concern, I do think that there's a tendency for adventure game fans and developers to be incredibly nostalgic and thus gravitate more towards retro design. I'm guilty of this, myself. My love of the genre classics means that I'm immediately more interested in titles which are inspired by those particular art styles or certain mechanics. In Telltale's case, Dan defends nostalgia, believing that older franchises still have much to offer. "Well I think that for us, with having Sam & Max as our flagship, we looked at the content as being so rich and relevant in the modern day... [It] needed to be brought up now. Having Sam & Max in 2004, and 2010 and all the times we've been able to use them as characters ... I mean they're just great characters and it's a great franchise. So for us introducing that content to a new audience was a huge thing." Expanding into new markets such as consoles and handhelds has also increased the userbase. Adventure games used to be pretty much a PC only affair, with the occasional shoddy console port. While PC is still the focal platform, titles like Phoenix Wright, Ghost Trick, and 999 made the DS a must for lovers of strange adventures and interactive stories. PSN and XBLA have also seen their share of adventure ports, most of Telltale's games can be found there, for instance. Fans of the genre can even get their adventure on with their phone or tablet. Machinarium on iOS is fantastic and might be even better than it was on PC, thanks to it becoming a more tactile experience. Dan seemed to be willing to embrace new platforms and technology. "It can bring more imagination to how you interact with the characters in the world and how you experience the story." He acknowledges the risk of doing that when it comes to traditionalist fans, though. "It moves away from traditional stuff and is a bit risky. So you have to be pure adventure game or you're in this vanguard story game type of place." When I recall playing most of my favorite adventure games, I remember pouring countless hours into them. Getting stuck on a puzzle meant that I was going to be doing a lot of trial-and-error experimentation, exploring loads of areas, doing a lot of pixel hunting and then finally leaving the computer to go and contemplate it elsewhere -- maybe in a dojo or on top of a mountain. Failing that, I'd pester my friends. Now there's a strong temptation to just go online and find a walkthrough, even if you've only just been stuck for a couple of minutes. It can ruin the pacing of the game and rob the player of their satisfaction at being able to think of a solution. In an effort to keep gamers immersed, or at the very least to stop them alt-tabing every time they get stumped, many modern adventures contain an in game hint system or simply less taxing puzzles. This can certainly frustrate old fashioned players, like myself, but one cannot deny it has lowered the bar for entry and possibly increased the genre's fanbase. Dave doesn't think this is really anything new, however. "You often hear that gamers are less patient these days. I’m not sure if that's true. Back in the '80s, I would spend several months playing the latest Infocom game and never think of ordering the hint book unless I was desperate. But then I got the game Enchanter, which mysteriously shipped with the hint book. I finished that game in less than a week. If I got stuck for maybe ten minutes I'd reach for the hint book, because it was so accessible. The only thing that has changed since those days is that we all have instant access to that hint book via Google. There's no reason to force hard puzzles on people, because everyone can solve them. So the trend has moved away from difficult puzzles and more towards making the experience of playing an adventure game more enjoyable. It's a very hard balance to strike." The importance of story in adventure games cannot be overstated. It's what drives the exploration forward and it's the motivation for completing the puzzles. One of the positive aspects on these titles not relying merely on head-scratchers is that there's even more effort put into the narrative. Josh Nuernberger's Gemini Rue contains one of my favorite stories in the genre of late. It's a tale of loss and identity set in a bleak neo-noir future. Even though it's an understated adventure built using AGS, it's gained a lot of attention and you'd be crazy for not checking it out.  Josh advocates the importance of telling the story through gameplay. "What I'd really like to see is games that make these complex stories your experience in the game -- e.g. you are hunted by a mysterious oppressor, or you must face your alternate personality in physical form. Many games today are unfortunately sequences of simplified gameplay strung together by cut-scenes that provide context for your actions (see many first or third-person-shooters). Great games tell stories through their gameplay -- you understand the world and the story by the way you interact with them as a player." Gemini Rue also has several action sequences: cover-based gun fights. "Although in adventure games you can't always go the route of totally removing all cut-scenes, you can at least integrate other aspects of gameplay so they don't just turn into quick time events. I knew when incorporating combat I wanted it to be meaningful and to work on its own as a mechanic. The ultimate goal is to give players a unique experience and a quick time event doesn't really capture a gunfight in the same way that a developed combat system does." I personally think that the integration of interesting mechanics is something the adventure genre desperately needed to continue expanding its audience and I think we're starting to see a lot more of that. A great example of a game that does this is Double Fine's Stacking. It was built around the delightful premise of controlling a matryoshka doll and jumping inside larger ones to gain their abilities and overcome puzzles and obstacles. It was incredibly inventive and its unique gameplay mechanic really made it stand out. Double Fine seems to have had more success with the downloadable market than it did with Psychonauts or Brutal Legend. Their use of Kickstarter to fund their latest project seems to have paid off, as well, with fans almost throwing money at the company. It will be interesting to see the long-term impact of Kickstarter on independent developers as more start to use it to secure funding. Along with shorter downloadable titles like Stacking, episodic adventures have become increasingly common in recent years. It has always struck me as a perfect fit for the genre. Most classic adventure games can be completed rather quickly if you know the solutions to the puzzles. The games' lengths were augmented by the challenge of solving the puzzles yourself. It also meant that each episode could fund the next one, making it financially more viable. It's far from an automatic route to success, however, according to Dave Gilbert. The Blackwell series has been going since 2006 and contains four games, but not all episodic series are so fortunate. "The most obvious thing that can go wrong is that the game flops. What then? Do you forge on ahead and finish the series, knowing that the first one didn’t do well? If you do, then you run a much greater risk of the sequel doing just as badly. If you don’t, then you lose a lot of faith and goodwill and that is hard to get back." Episodic games require a big investment from players as well as developers. Dave continues: "The main problem with episodic games is that isn’t a lot of faith in the format yet. Only Telltale has managed to pull it off successfully and gained the trust of the consumers. While opinions on their games vary, nobody doubts they will finish what they start. By this point, the gaming public probably has a bit more faith in my ability to deliver than most, but I still get a lot of emails from people saying they don't want to get invested in Blackwell not knowing if it will ever be finished. I can totally understand that." It's not just independent developers and publishers working to bring adventure games to a new audience, though. Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain, an interactive thriller that reminded me a lot of FMV titles from the '90s, made some big waves a couple of years ago. While it enjoyed both commercial and critical success, it also got criticized for being more movie than videogame. Our own Jim Sterling is far from a fan. However, its success may lead more publishers to take risks on games with such a strong focus on story. The now-defunct Team Bondi made quite the impression last year with their investigative adventure (and driving simulator,) L.A. Noire. It made an even bigger impression with its implosion, some might say. The game itself, if not the treatment of the people that worked on it, still deserves praise, however. Before the genre started to have problems, it was ahead of the curve when it came to animation, so it's good to see so much effort being put into making believable game worlds and characters again. If you'd asked me, back in 2005, if I ever thought big studios would be designing AAA adventure games again, I would have laughed. Now it doesn't seem nearly as absurd. I'm not going to be dramatic and suggest that we're seeing an adventure game renaissance. I wish I could, but it's simply not true. We're definitely seeing it making something of a comeback, though. There's a lot more faith in them, both from publishers and players and that's gone a long way to start bringing them back into the mainstream. The fact that the market is growing at all is a massive step forward and looking back just five or six years, we can see how far the genre has come. There are a lot of talented developers out there bringing us more and more experiences to enjoy. It might not be a renaissance yet, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.
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Check out the first part of the feature, here! The last few years have been an interesting time for the adventure game genre. After a decade of disappointment, fans finally started to see more and more titles appear and most ...


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Rockstar: 'Don't count out' another L.A. Noire game


Feb 14
// Samit Sarkar
The years-long L.A. Noire saga had a sad ending last year, but fans of the game may yet have a reason for optimism. In the latest edition of its "Asked & Answered" series, a Q&A with fans, Rockstar Games responded to ...
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Team Bondi staff, others owed more than AUD 1.4 million


Oct 07
// Jim Sterling
Team Bondi creative staff are among a slew of other creditors owed big amounts of money following the destruction of the L.A. Noire studio. Over forty people are owed more than $1.4 million (Australian) in collective deb...
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Team Bondi officially closing its doors


Oct 05
// Jim Sterling
It's official folks -- the studio behind one of the biggest games of 2011 has officially begun the process of dying. You usually hear of a studio closing after they release a flop, but it would seem that not even L.A. Noire c...

Hands-on with L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition on PC

Sep 29 // Robert Fooks
L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition (PC)Developer: Team Bondi / PC port by Rockstar LeedsPublisher: Rockstar GamesRelease Date: November 8, 2011 (US) / November 11, 2011 (EU) Not too long ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rockstar Games to put L.A. Noire through the paces on their seriously beefed up PC. Given that the system I was able to play the game on could most likely be used as a down payment on a mortgage, the game ran smooth and stutter free -- but how will it run on a PC which exists in the realm of reality? If Rockstar's recently released system requirements are to be believed, it should run quite well provided your graphics card meets or exceeds the minimum of a Geforce 8600 GT 512MB, Radeon HD 3000 512MB or better. If you still need some extra incentive, L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition will come complete with a multi-use code which will unlock all previous downloadable content for the game at no cost to you. The case which was available to me, entitled "Nicholson Electroplating," started off with a bang. Literally, with a bang followed by a large mushroom cloud in the distance. After stealing a fire engine, I raced to the scene of the disturbance with my partner who continuously reminded me of how idiotic we looked cruising the streets of Los Angeles in a giant red fire truck. Upon arrival, a scene of chaos and carnage would herald the beginning of my first investigation sequence. As if I had never missed a beat, that familiar L.A. Noire jingle brought out the super sleuth in me. With that, I was ready to make a fool of both my self and Cole Phelps by failing every interrogation from here on out. Visually, the experience is just as engaging as the game's console counterparts, though the lips and ears did, at times, have a slightly blurred appearance to them. I would normally pass this off as a minor nuisance were it not for the fact that the clarity of facial expressions is so paramount to the gameplay. Those of you with access to a 3D-enabled monitor are in for a special treat as L.A. Noire not only supports 3D, but it implements it beautifully in a manner which succeeds in the subtle application of 3D imagery in nearly every scene without shoving it down your throat. The 3D visuals truly shine, especially during your time at the arson desk where the smoke spewing ashes of every crime scene jump out at you quite brilliantly. When I first begin a game which has been ported to PC, I generally begin my journey in the options -- specifically, in the settings menu. If I find myself staring at a picture of an Xbox 360 controller and it boldly informs me that my left mouse button is in fact a pressure sensitive trigger, I often take it as a portent of the not so good times which likely await me beyond. In short, does the I/O scheme properly represent that of a PC, can I customize my keys, and will it inform me that my PC's subscription to Xbox Live has expired (I'm looking at you Modern Warfare 2)? After initially inspecting L.A. Noire, I nearly launched myself from my seat in raucous revelry as my concerns were not only abated but downright obliterated when it became apparent that Rockstar had scrubbed nearly all heretical references to the dark console origins. It's not that consoles are bad, there's just been this almost lazy habit where console versions are influencing the UI design of their PC counterparts with limiting results. If you have had the pleasure of groping dead people on either the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, your first hour or so on PC will most likely be spent familiarizing yourself, yet again, with the ins and outs of the controls. Admittedly, I had a rough time coping, especially in regards to the cover system and driving, with the new keyboard and mouse control scheme. Once that obstacle had been defeated, I fell back into the role of Cole Phelps as if it were a perfectly fit glove. For many PC gamers, the gun play will have improved with this version since you are no longer required to free aim with your thumbs. Conversely driving using the WASD keys has always been limiting; keen maneuvers requires the precision offered by a standard controller. All in all, if your preferred method of gaming is by PC you will be pleased with the final outcome of Rockstar's lone toiling. Regardless of your individual feelings for L.A. Noire, the game represents a milestone in facial performance for videogaming which will contribute tremendously towards mainstream recognition of games as more than the products of the musings of men who sell electronic toys to adult children. It's breakthroughs such as these which help cement modern gaming's claims as this generation's great art form.
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When Team Bondi and Rockstar Games set out to make the great undertaking that was L.A. Noire, they chose to explore many gray areas of gaming which are most often hidden away from the all-consuming hype and limitless budgets ...

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The DTOID Show: Serious Sam, Skyrim Bugs, and CoD: XP


Sep 02
// Max Scoville
Good evening, Destuctikids! As it's a Friday, we shot today's Destructoid Show in front of a LIVE internet audience. In case you missed it, here it is. Today, in addition to giving away some Assassin's Creed Revelations...
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Team Bondi closes its doors and enters administration


Sep 01
// David Rayfield
The Sydney-based developer of L.A. Noire hasn't had the best of times since its 1940s-era crime epic was released in May. Despite strong sales and positive reviews, Team Bondi's troubles extended to employees' lack of proper ...
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Team Bondi assets and IP reportedly sold to KMM


Aug 09
// Jim Sterling
Following allegations of unfair working conditions and rumors of bankruptcy, it's been reported that L.A. Noire developer Team Bondi has sold its assets and intellectual property to KMM, with Bondi employees given the choice ...
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Team Bondi not done yet


Aug 06
// Victoria Medina
After the Team Bondi scandal first came up in June, and continued to be a thing through July, the future of the studio became unclear. With all the bad press surrounding the team, doubt of their survival became an issue as ev...
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Epic thinks crediting staff doesn't cost a thing


Jul 27
// Jim Sterling
Epic Games president Mike Capps has commented on the ongoing "Did Team Bondi act like a gigantic cock?" debate by adding his own thoughts when it comes to giving staff the credit they deserve. He thinks it's "really f*cking c...
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Pachter: Overworked devs need to find another job


Jul 26
// Jim Sterling
Industry analyst Michael "Slippery Bullet" Pachter has weighed in on the "crunch period" debate reignited by recent Team Bondi controversies. According to Pacther, working long hours is an obligation, and anybody who dislikes...
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Team Bondi: Ex-staff members want to 'destroy' studio


Jul 14
// Jim Sterling
L.A. Noire lead programmer Dave Heironymus has addressed the controversy surrounding his studio's working conditions, firmly taking the side of his employers. Addressing the former staff members who have accused Team Bon...
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More L.A. Noire content on the way, 'game isn't complete'


Jul 13
// Nick Chester
The recently released "Reefer Madness" downloadable content for L.A. Noire may not be the last we see of detective Cole Phelps. "The game isn't complete yet," Rockstar told Kotaku when asked if there was more to come."Reefer ...
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L.A. Noire gets 'Reefer Madness' next week, trailer now


Jul 07
// Jordan Devore
Another add-on case for L.A. Noire, another quick trailer involving fleeing suspects, yelling, and accusing people of hiding something. This one is called "Reefer Madness," appropriately enough. It's a Vice case, so you'll h...
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Rumor: Rockstar has 'disdain' for Team Bondi


Jul 05
// Jim Sterling
According to supposedly leaked emails, Rockstar will not work with Team Bondi again, despite the success of L.A. Noire, due to "disdain" for the Australian developer.  "It's pretty well reported now that the working cond...
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L.A. Noire missing 130 staff credits, developers upset


Jun 21
// Jim Sterling
[Jim's Note: Nick wrote this better] L.A. Noire developer Team Bondi has been accused of a year-long crunch period that led to a number of developers leaving the company -- at the cost of their credit for whatever work they p...
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L.A. Noire Rockstar Pass, pre-order DLC launches


May 31
// Jim Sterling
L.A. Noire's Rockstar Pass has launched on Xbox Live today, giving customers access to a range of downloadable content. The extra stuff starts today, and is expected to continue for several months to come.  For 800 Moon ...
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58% of L.A. Noire sales on Xbox 360, 42% on PS3


May 23
// Jim Sterling
L.A. Noire has sold 58% of its British copies on Xbox 360, as opposed to 42% on PS3, according to Chart Track. Although the sales figures are quite even -- moreso than Brink's 69% landslide -- it would seem that the addition ...
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L.A. Noire becomes fastest selling new IP in UK


May 23
// Jim Sterling
Team Bondi's L.A. Noire has, quite unsurprisingly, broken a sales record to become the fastest selling new property in British history. In addition, it's become the 15th fastest selling game on Xbox 360 and the 11th fastest o...
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The Question: So what do you think of L.A. Noire?


May 20
// Jim Sterling
[Every Friday, Destructoid will pose topical a question to the community. Answer it if you want!] We've got a pretty easy question this week -- L.A. Noire, yay or nay? The game released in North America this Tuesday, and in B...
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Team Bondi: L.A. Noire is very appealing to women


May 20
// Jim Sterling
According to developer Team Bondi, the superior female brain finds L.A. Noire a very rewarding experience. Moreso than Duke Nukem Forever? Crazy talk! "We think it appeals to a really broad church," said director Brendan McNa...
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Far Cry 2 dev: L.A. Noire derivative, uninspiring


May 20
// Jim Sterling
Far Cry 2's creative director, Clint Hocking, has slammed L.A. Noire six ways to Sunday, tearing the game apart as a piece of kitsch entertainment, and declaring that it has nothing to say for itself. Man, and sometimes I fee...
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Rockstar & Sony: L.A. Noire NOT causing PS3s to overheat


May 19
// Jim Sterling
Rockstar and Sony have issues a joint statement regarding the issue of L.A. Noire and overheating PS3 systems. Yesteday, Rockstar blamed PS3 Firmware 3.61. Today, Sony blamed L.A. Noire. Now? both companies have said it'...
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L.A. Noire gets new DLC June 21


May 19
// Jim Sterling
Rockstar has revealed that the first downloadable mission for L.A. Noire, the Nicholson Electroplating Arson Case, is scheduled to launch on June 21.  The content was first outed by Best Buy, when codes for the case were...
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L.A. Noire overheats Xbox 360s as well as PS3s (Update)


May 19
// Jim Sterling
[Update: Both companies claim this is a coincidence. We're staying on top of this story.] Yesterday, Rockstar had suggested that PS3 Firmware 3.61 was causing L.A. Noire to cook people's systems. Now it's become apparent that...
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L.A. Noire causing PS3s with latest Firmware to overheat?


May 18
// Jim Sterling
It seems poor Sony just cannot catch a break. The critically acclaimed PS3 Firmware 3.61 may be the cause of Sony consoles overheating when trying to play L.A. Noire. That is, if Rockstar's customer support warning is true.&n...
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Shipping error delays L.A. Noire for Amazon customers


May 17
// Jim Sterling
A significant number of Amazon customers are reporting that their copy of L.A. Noire has been delayed due to a mechanical fault with a UPS plane. The plane carried copies for North American customers, many of whom have Tweete...
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L.A. Noire once needed up to six discs on Xbox 360


May 17
// Jim Sterling
There's been some discussion about L.A. Noire requiring three discs on the Xbox 360 -- as there is when any game requires three discs on the Xbox 360 -- but things could have been a lot more controversial. According to Team B...

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