Reviews – L.A. Noire Review

Platform: PS3
Also available on: XBox 360
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Team Bondi
Release date: May 17, 2011

Rockstar Games is mainly known for their Grand Theft Auto series, which popularized the open-world sandbox experience that can be found in many games today. With L.A. Noire, Rockstar Games got with Team Bondi to bring a whole new experience with the open-world formula. Instead of playing as a criminal who rules the streets, the player is put into the shoes of Cole Phelps, an L.A.P.D. detective, to clean up the streets and solve the crimes.

Rather than this game being GTA in 1947, it falls more in line with games of the Adventure Genre, such as Heavy Rain, the Ace Attorney series, and the Sam and Max games. The missions are broken up into cases, which act similar to episodes of a detective noire series, which even has an introduction and title screen for the mystery. The player will visit the crime scene, and investigate the crime by searching for clues and questioning witnesses, suspects, or other people of interest. While looking for clues, the player can search dead bodies or pick up items and then manipulate them to see if anything can be learned from it. While this is going on, music will be playing in the background, once all the clues of a scene have been found, an audio cue will play and the music ends. This helps the player know whether they should keep searching for clues or not.

Other than searching for clues, the other big gameplay mechanic used for solving crimes is interviews and interrogations. Cole Phelps will have many conversations throughout the game. The player will have a list of questions to ask, and by judging through the facial expressions of the character, the player will have to decide “Truth”, “Doubt”, and “Lie”. If “Lie” has been chosen, then the player is prompted to present the evidence to prove that the character is lying, and if there is no solid evidence that exists, then the player is to choose “Doubt” to call out the character on their bluff or that they are hiding something. Poor police work will not result to failure, rather it will just prolong the case and the evidence will likely come up later on in a different form. The player will always be able to progress, and Cole Phelps’s partner will even give you hints on what to do next if you are completely stuck and need help, but performing poorly on interviews and not finding all the clues will result to a lower score at the end of the case.

There are some action sequences, such as hand-to-hand combat, shooting, and driving sequences. These parts take a minor role in the game, and failing at them several times in a row will even give the player the choice to skip these sections. Skipping an action sequence will not change the outcome of the case. There are also side missions, that usually involve one of these types of action sequences, but other than these side missions and some collectable items, L.A. Noire plays like a linear game, especially with the given option of skipping the driving between locations.

The graphics of L.A. Noire are one of the highlights of this experience. While the city itself looks fairly good, and the bodies of the people don’t look too great, the faces of every single character look outstanding. Team Bondi uses a new technology that they developed to capture the actors’ faces, that provides facial details and animations like no other game out in the market today. The lip syncing, eye twitching, cheek movement, and the brows all look great, and express the characters’ emotions amazingly well. No other game has a character go from happy to angry and look so naturally at the same time.

Along with the visuals, the audio is also great. The music helps set the tone for a 1947 detective adventure. The voice acting is also top notch, providing not only great performances, but performances that capture that era of early 20th Century America. Of course some performances do feel exaggerated, but most of the actors look and sound convincing enough to immerse the player into the experience.

L.A. Noire has a very lengthy and solid single player campaign. Outside of the tutorial stages and DLC cases, there are 17 case missions, and each can take around an hour or two to complete. There are a few shortcomings to the game, such some glitches while exploring the open world, and I was under whelmed by the ending of the game, but I feel that these short comings are just nitpicking and don’t ruin the overall package of this game. If you are expecting a GTA-style action game, this is not it and you might even find this game slow and boring. Though, if the idea of solving mysteries in a 1940’s setting intrigues you, or if you’re a fan of Adventure games, I would definitely recommend checking out this game, even at full retail price. L.A. Noire is a complete package with a unique feel that definitely delivers the experience that it’s trying to go for.

5 out of 5 stars

-“The Don” Stafa