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Review: L.A Noire

Rockstar surprises us again with a unique game bringing something completely different to the table. L.A Noire is set in 1947 when crime was everywhere in L.A. You play Cole Phelps, a war veteran who works his way up from patrol cop to a detective in the LAPD. As you progress from case to case, getting promoted to different desks in Cole’s career, Rockstar still had a story to tell. L.A Noire is a great take on actual police work and the facial expressions in this game gives a convincing performance never before seen in a video game. It has its flaws but it’s definitely a world worth experiencing.

Story

Rockstar has always had high quality story-telling. L.A Noire was no different, and with their impressive facial expressions seen in their characters, it makes the story more satisfying.

Cole Phelps has a deep past. You are shown flashbacks of what happened he experienced during the war. As you progress in the game, you get a bigger picture of who Cole was and what he aims to be joining the LAPD. As you get closer and closer to the end, everything comes together leaving you shocked. It’s a great story, it shows a great pace that leaves you hooked and anxious to find out what happens next.

What’s amazing about L.A Noire is that along with the main story, each case you encounter has its own story to tell. The first few cases come out short and obvious but as you hit the homicide desk you are treated with good cases. This is what makes the detective work interesting. You get involved in the story and at the same time shape what happens in the end. You might send the wrong guy to jail or get a lucky hunch and bring out a confession out of a suspect. Each case plays out differently and in the end your left jaw dropped or disgusted about the case.

Gameplay

Its main focus is actual detective work. You interview witnesses, find clues, and interrogate suspects. If you’re worried about mostly going from place to place just talking and finding clues, don’t be. Gun fights, brawls and chases are everywhere in the game. Each case has some sort of brawl of gun fights in between conversations and looking for clues. It’s part of the story which is why it works. It doesn’t feel like a filler to keep things exciting. When you’re about to interview a new point of interest, they shock you with the witness running away and a chase sequence happens out of the blue.

Chases can happen either on foot or with a car. It’s different every time. Even how you capture your running witness/suspect. On foot, some chases gives you the option to fire a warning shot stopping the suspect from feeling, some lets you catch up and tackle the guy. Car chases go differently too, some chases have your partner shoot the tires or you simply bump him off the road. It’s simple gameplay but is necessary for this kind of game. It might come out boring from afar, but if you’re playing the case from start to finish you don’t feel it. Brawls had the similar effects but it isn’t much of a problem since they end in like a min or so unless you get beat.

Gun fights for me is the biggest negative for L.A Noire. Knowing Rockstar for games like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead redemption, you’d think they would give you a decent gun play. It was just dull for me. Your default pistol comes as unlimited ammo, which makes no sense picking up any other gun. Auto aim also doesn’t help; I suggest turning it off because it destroys the gameplay.

I don’t know. I feel that Rockstar could have invested a little bit more in giving a better experience in the gun play. Yes, this isn’t the focus but I wasn’t expecting something this simple and dull. I’m not expecting crazy shootouts similar to other third person shooters but just a decent gunfight that would keep you on your toes.

With amazing facial capture, they not only provide a better story but also better gameplay. Interviews and interrogations are important in L.A Noire, and calling if the suspect/witness is lying or telling the truth is key to reveal new leads and clues for the case. During an interview/interrogation, you have a list of questions to ask your suspect/witness. They answer your question, and thanks to the amazing emotions shown in the characters faces, you use that to determine if he’s telling the truth, lying, or if  you doubt his answer. If their lying, they roll their eyes or never make eye contact. Some swallow, looking nervous. Some also look straight at you showing you that he has nothing to hide. It’s pretty amazing actually.

If you notice someone is lying, you must provide evidence from all the clues collected for the case. If you don’t have it you may doubt his answer. It’s a great approach on how interviews and interrogations go but one element ruins this experience.

You give them a question, they answer, and you either pick Truth, Lie or Doubt. If you get it wrong, you hear this sound hinting you that you picked the wrong choice. A different sound comes out if you called it right. This effect takes you out of the experience. I prefer making the mistake since it should be part of the game, hinting it should have not been included. They should have included it maybe as an extra after finishing the game but not during your first time. Imagine Heavy rain with a wrong sound or a correct sound affecting your game.

This is also present during a crime scene. A very creepy sound is played during a crime scene. When you’ve collected all the clues, that’s when the sound goes away hinting there’s nothing left to find. This again wrecks it. Let us make the mistake of missing a clue. Let us revisit the crime scene to check if we missed anything else. From what I understand, that’s part of detective work. They provide too many hints to help in the investigation and I think they should have toned down in that area. Oh and another thing, I don’t know if it was present in 1947, but you touch evidence and bodies with your bare hands contaminating evidence. There are no gloves worn by the cops putting their fingerprints everywhere. Maybe it’s a bit too extreme to point that out but i thought i should just point that out since this is about actual police work.

Don’t get me wrong, even with these hints that game still comes out challenging. As you progress it gets harder to read people faces if their lying or telling the truth and during my play through I’ve convicted the wrong suspect. You can still make mistakes in this game so you will be tested with those big decisions.

Graphics and Sound

Graphics in this game is all about the facial expressions added in their character models. This is the first time we get a very realistic character emotion in a game. This was the highlight of L.A Noire and the key element in their core gameplay. With that kind of technology, real actors can not only lend their voices to bring the character to life but to even act them out as well. It’s an amazing accomplishment to the point that people in the movie industry also took notice.

They also did an amazing job at re-creating LA back in 1947. They focused highly on quality and you can see it as you drive around the city. It takes 30 minutes to go through the whole map, it’s huge and the city looks alive. People walking in streets are very much alive since it’s really hard to hit them with cars. They sure can dodge a speeding car. The game is still GTA-ish but with hats, and even though were cops in this game, going off the road can still be fun.

It’s 1947, and the sound effects and music heard in L.A Noire brings that year to life. The shootouts straight down to the interrogations, the sound effects and music really carry the game very well. It really feels like you’re experiencing 1947 for yourself. Rockstar did their homework. You can feel the amount of research they did to get that time right in every detail. Down from the clothes they wear, the cars in that time to even how they talked, they made sure they got everything right and I believe they nailed it.

Overall

Games as unique as this are coming out more often and we should be open to them. It’s nice to see new triple A titles taking risks at giving us something different for a change. An amazing take on how it is to be a detective back in the day with a great story to back it up. I never thought I’d have that much fun solving cases, finding clues and interrogating people. You’ll get lost in this world and when it’s over you will be asking for more. It has its issues but overall it’s a great first attempt and hopefully Rockstar revisits this franchise giving us more in the future.

Score: 90/100

Pros:

+Great Story

+ Amazing facial expressions in characters

+ detective work is actually fun

Cons:

Gun gameplay is pretty dull

Sounds hinting if your wrong or not during a conversation can ruin the game

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  1. Vagie
    June 16, 2011 at 3:37 am

    I hope you guys review Duke Nukem Forever, I wanna know the good and the bad. Kudos guys!

  2. June 18, 2011 at 4:45 am

    Damn! gun gameplay is a big factor! I dont want my bullets to be unlimited, I’ll be like on a god mode! thanks for the heads up Quash ain’t getting this game anymore

    • June 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      Your welcome Faisal. If your looking for an action packed third person shooter, L.A Noire isn’t the best game for that. It provides something completely different.

  3. Vagie
    June 24, 2011 at 3:10 am

    Also have the game. Is it just me? or the sound is just really too low no matter how much I increase the volume of the TV? I’m having problems with the game volume

    • June 24, 2011 at 10:45 am

      Come to think of it, i remember increasing the volume for L.A Noire but that’s about it. it’s not as bad as Dragon Age 2 though. During battles, the volume would be perfect, but when you hit the conversations i had to pump up the volume to near max, then lower it for the battles cause it would be too loud.

  4. Pnoy
    June 25, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Hey guys, just wanted to share my opinion. I have this game on both PS3 and 360 since I want to do a comparison. I played it the whole week last week, the 360 had better control than the PS3, but the PS3 have better graphics, well the 360’s graphics looks blurry looks like a little stretched. Its a matter of gameplay vs graphics

  5. Pnoy
    June 25, 2011 at 8:24 am

    I forgot to mention that the 360 performs slightly better than the PS3, I observed some lags on the PS3 on some part of the chase scenes of the game. Haven’t finished the game yet. BTW im not a fanboy, It just happens that I own 3 current gen. consoles, I just want to express my opinions ^_^

    • June 25, 2011 at 9:00 am

      Hey, that’s all good man thanks for sharing. If that’s the case, then Rockstar did well at porting L.A Noire to the 360.

  6. Mendoza
    June 27, 2011 at 4:01 am

    Perverts would love this game, there are missions where full frontal nudity is shown

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