Review: L.A. Noire

by on May 19, 2011 >> PS3ReviewsXbox

Games like this don’t come along very often and when they do a real gamer will take notice. is the child of a partnership between and and what they’ve fathered together is something truly special. You, the player take the role of Cole Phelps, a rookie police officer and war hero. The year is 1947 and Los Angeles is a pit of murder, arson and despair. As you play the game you’ll go through several different police jobs including Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson. There are 21 cases contained in the game at launch and each plays out like a self contained story, each with it’s own opening credits and ending with a rating of how well you did. But is that enough to make it a must play?

The mechanics of the game involve getting the case, going to the crime scene to find evidence and then interviewing several people of interest. The interviews are where this game truly breaks the mold. Each character is the capture performance of an real actor. Every wrinkle, subtle look or grimace of the face is something that some one deliberately put into their performance and it really can help you as a detective to figure out if they’re lying or telling the truth. Each interview or interrogation you asking the person of interest or suspect a series of questions. They give you their response and it’s up to you to figure out if they’re telling the truth, holding something back or straight up lying. You do this with a combination of the evidence and reading their facial ticks. Sometimes it can be really hard to know when to hit the doubt button or the lying button, but no matter what your decisions are you can always get to the end of a case, just with a lower rating.

While having an incredibly linear story, L.A. Noire is an open world game. It doesn’t have the freedoms of a game like Grand Theft Auto but there are still reasons to explore and find your way around classic L.A. After each set of missions at a desk you’re able to initiate a free roam mode with your partner for that desk. Hidden through out L.A. are several cars, news papers that flesh out the story even more, as well as film reels for classic noir films that clearly inspired the game. There are also 30 land marks to be found and 40 cases that come in over the radio. These smaller cases are usually short lived shoot outs and chases. I found that it was a good idea to break up the game play of the main cases with these more action oriented bursts or the game would start to feel a little repetitive.

Navigating around L.A. can feel a little wonky from time to time. The entire driving system feels looser than it should with these giant steel monstrous cars and Phelps can be a little floaty when he’s running or moving around. That having been said, some cars are amazingly fun to drive, especially the sports cars you can find hidden around the city, and Phelps is a champion in a gun fight. Using the same cover mechanics as GTA4, Phelps can be incredibly deadly with his pistol. Just never forget to look in the back of a police car for a shotgun or Thompson machine gun. Phelps can also wear different suits that augment his abilities in brawling or shooting and even change them mid combat.

As far as the main story is concerned, I never felt like I got a good idea of who Phelps was. There are flash backs to his time served in the military but outside of the opening credits of the game I never really knew much about him. When he casually mentions that he has kids to his partner on the homicide desk it came as a surprise to me. You only see his wife once and never get an idea of what his home life is like. He feels like half a character. If capturing actors is the next evolutionary step in game performances then the makers of these games should try to flesh them out a little bit more and make them feel even more like real people.

The real captured performances are a little creepy at first, but now going back to any other game will make the look of the characters feel wooden and out dated. This is the future of gameplay and it really is cool to watch. There’s also an immersive black and white mode that makes the game feel like an old movie. It can be a little tough to tell what’s going on at night when it’s on, but during the day, it’s really gorgeous.

With 21 fully fleshed out cases with several different possibilities each, all the hidden items to find and a great set of mysteries, there’s a lot to like about L.A. Noire. My only problem would be that it doesn’t have the replayability of a game like Red Dead Redemption. It’s free roam mode becomes rather pointless once you’ve found everything and after the 40 short cases are up. It’s not a game I’d ever trade in, but once I’ve completed it to 100% I don’t see myself coming back to it. There’s also no multiplayer to speak of, which is a real shame since you happen to have a partner through every mission. Even some co-op shoot outs would have been a nice touch. L.A. Noire offers an interesting experience unlike any other currently on the market and for that it earns 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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