As far as I can tell, the most common way video games have players deal with bad guys is usually violence and/or death; gunfights, swordfights, fistfights, stabbing, explosives, poisons, magic, and the list goes on. The idea of going after criminals as a police detective does not sound like a very exciting experience; walking around aimlessly looking for clues, lots of talking, but not much in terms of action. Well, L.A. Noire is here to try and convince you otherwise. Read more for the full review of L.A. Noire.
The story takes place in 1947 Los Angeles. You play as Cole Phelps, a young World War II hero who joined the Los Angeles Police Department. A rather ambitious fellow, Phelps begins as a regular patrol officer but aspires to be a top detective. Cole’s performance in solving a couple murder cases quickly lands him a job as a detective. As the story continues, Cole quickly climbs the career ladder, and begins to discover evidence of corruption and a massive drug trade; things that will tremble post-war-boom-era Los Angeles to the core.
The story concept and execution are well done. It is styled to resemble 1940s crime-solving films, and the game does a good job in that respect. Likewise, the dialogue stays consistent to the 1940s theme, and the voice acting is good. Pacing, on the other hand, could use some help. The story starts off good, but about a third of the way through, the story slows to a tedious crawl, as it and the gameplay become repetitive. The story does slowly pick itself back up as the hours go by and delivers a decent, but not really notable, ending.
Rockstar went quite a way in their promotional content on how L.A. Noire uses “innovative” technology for the graphics, most notably in the facial movement and expressions. The facial movement is very impressive. Through motion capturing, the faces in L.A Noire have incredibly fluent animation and the game does not suffer from a single same set of facial expressions. Outside of the facial tech, the art style and graphics do an adequate job of creating a late 1940’s big city feel. All the vehicles in the game are created after their real-life counterparts, and the modeling is alright. However, the city has somewhat of a depressing gray coloring to it. The sound all-around is good. In addition to the good voice acting and dialogue, the sound effects perform that small, but important part in keeping with the ‘40s atmosphere. The music has a heavy emphasis on jazz, taking you back to the days before rock ‘n roll.
As a police detective, crashing a place with guns blazing is not part of the job description. Rather, you have to find evidence of wrong-doing before you can pursue and arrest your suspect…and maybe go in guns blazing if things really do go downhill. Clue searching around a crime scene is self-explanatory. It isn’t too difficult, and the game helps you out with the use of the controller’s rumble feature. When it is time to question witnesses or suspects, it is like Q & A. Thing is, Detective Phelps needs to determine if each response is the truth, they are holding something back, or they are lying. If you determine wrong, the case still continues, but you won’t get the exceptional rating at the end. When it is time to pursue a suspect, a car/foot chase or gunfight usually ensues, bringing some action to the job. During the first third of the story, the game does an excellent job creating a crime-investigation feeling similar to the shows on real-world TV. However, just after that, the story stalls and the game descends into a pit of repetition and dullness. You find yourself doing the same things over and over; find clues, question people, drive, find more clues, question more people, occasional chase or gunfight, arrest suspect, case closed, repeat. Thankfully, after a few hours, the game slowly picks itself back up, and while you are mostly doing the same four or five things during the rest of the game, there is enough variety to keep you from falling off the chair. Overall, case-solving in L.A Noire, along with 1940’s setting, provides for a unique and mostly enjoyable gameplay experience. There are two other major problems, though. The driving in this game somewhat spoils the 1940’s immersion; the cars handle like go-karts. Lastly, outside of solving cases, there isn’t much else to do. You have solving street crimes, collecting golden film reels, find all cars and such, but they are really just tasks for achievement/trophy completionists. The story lasts about 20-30 hours, with some replay value if you like to 5-star your cases.
What we have here is a rather unique game. Instead of dealing with bad guys with the typical explosion, you deal with them through the use of intuition and forensics. Coupled with a good story and 1940’s atmosphere, L.A. Noire provides a unique and rather suspenseful game. The game’s downfalls mainly are due to uneven pacing and lack of things to do outside of case solving. Besides that, L.A. Noire is worth checking out for those seeking a unique experience.
Final Score: 8/10