L.A. Noire Review
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On 05/25/2011 at 01:05 PM by Jon Lewis
Storytelling takes the front seat in this new crime drama that despite some flaws, shines above the rest.
For those looking for a great story and compelling characters, this game is for you.
There is no game out right now that is exactly like L.A. Noire. From the moment players dip into the crime infested 1940’s Los Angeles, they are greeted with an aura that sets this game apart from most. As a game, L.A. Noire isn’t without its problems, however its gripping narrative, compelling characters, and fantastic animations make it a must play, and one of the best titles to come out this year.
L.A. Noire puts you into the shoes of Cole Phelps, a praised war hero turned rookie beat cop in order to combat the rising crimes in 1940’s Los Angeles. As the game progresses, Cole’s intellect helps him rise through the ranks of the L.A.P.D., taking cases from patrol, traffic, homicide, vice, and arson desks respectively. Each desk comprises of small cases, however in each case, there is a lot more than meets the eye. The cases are often a part of a grand scheme and are cleverly used to add to the story. Early on in the game, these cases do tend to drag on, and it can get boring at times. That said when the story picks up and you find that the cases are a lot more important than they seem, it all makes sense and is very satisfying.
As Cole rises through each desk, he is often partnered up with someone. These partners don’t do much, but they are all well developed with their own distinctive personalities, and they each show different sides of the police force. From crooked cops, to tired veterans, the partners that you work with greatly add to the experience. Most important is Cole himself. Cole is a do-good cop that fights for what’s right, which is an interesting turn compared to other Rockstar games' protagonists. His character is greatly developed as the game goes on, and like the rest of the world around him, everything isn’t always how it seems.
One of the biggest catches about L.A. Noire is its detective style gameplay. Players will be challenged to find clues and use the evidence to not only gain more leads, but convict criminals. The game uses an interesting conversation system when interrogating suspects, for you can claim they are telling the truth, doubting their claims, or state they are just plain lying. Using the game's top-notch facial animations, players have to use their real life intuition to determine whether people are putting up a front or really telling the truth. While it can be challenging at first, it becomes easier as the game progresses. The game also uses something called intuition points that can be spent on hints that help you out with your deductions. However it is always unsettling when you are wrong, and always satisfying when you are right, which adds a sense of immersion to the game.
Aside from the clue and interrogation mechanics, L.A. Noire is at its roots an open world game. Players have access to a gigantic world map and many different cars and landmarks. As great as this all is, the driving can be cumbersome and it becomes a lot easier to let your partner do the driving. In turn for that, you miss out on a lot of the scenery but it can always be revisited. Even by the end when I got a hang of the driving, in the middle of a suspenseful case it was always the better option to just jump to the next location.
The last of the major gameplay elements comes in the form of gunplay. This is one of the game's shortcomings. While the gunplay is solid, it never quite works as smooth as other third person shooters. Coming in and out of cover is always awkward, however the snap-aim assistance is much appreciated, and makes for a smoother experience. Gunplay is obviously not the forefront of the game, so for what it provides it does an okay job, but it could have been a lot better.
As stated before, the game hosts some fantastic facial animations, and pretty graphics overall. The whole city is detailed and lively. Landmarks are faithfully recreated and characters come to life with some of the best face capture gaming has ever seen. Using brand new technology, every detail on a person’s face is captured and used to provide outstanding performances and lifelike reactions. The game uses real life actors to portray the characters so expect to recognize a few faces. This is definitely one of the standout areas of the game.
In the end, L.A. Noire is a game that is sold by its story, and in that area it succeeds. While it does take a while to pick up, L.A. Noire constantly introduces you to different characters that all play some sort of major role in the grand scheme of the game. By the end of the game, your opinions of certain characters are bound to change, and you feel greatly attached to the situations at hand. The story is not only told through the cases, but through newspaper collectibles and flashback sequences. These especially add to the final moments of the game which ends on a pretty powerful note.
Overall, L.A. Noire is a fantastic package. With about 15 solid hours of gameplay, the game hosts some great technology and one of the most interesting narratives to date. It took some risks with the gameplay, and while in some areas it succeeded, with things like interrogations, it left a little to be desired with its driving and gunplay. With that, I think most gamers would be doing themselves a favor by picking up L.A. Noire.
While the game's quality is generally the same on both consoles, the Playstation 3 offers up the whole game on one disk, while providing smoother graphics and some exclusive content. I'd recommend picking up the PS3 version if possible.