: Team Bondi, Rockstar Games
: Rockstar Games
: Playstation 3, XBOX 360
: Open-World, Action-Adventure, (Thriller, Crime, Suspense)
: May 17, 2011
From the developers of the Grand Theft Auto series, and the Game of the Year winner, Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games presents its next hit, L.A. Noire. L.A. Noire is a game that captures the essence of the black & white detective films that were popular many decades ago. L.A. Noire is a unique experience that all gamers should try, well mature gamers anyway. Letís break down L.A. Noire for an in-depth review.
The year is 1947, youíre in the city of dreams, Los Angeles, and you take the role of Officer Cole Phelps. Phelps, as we see in a series of flashbacks in his life, was a World War II veteran turned L.A. cop who continues to beat himself for the wrongs he believes he committed during the war. Phelps is clearly a distinguished authority figure, ever watchful for the line that lies between what is right and what is wrong. Yet Phelps has a longing for something more, to make a name for himself within a diluted and desecrated world, and heís willing to put all he has on the line to clean up the city of L.A.
Phelpsí claim to fame comes sooner than even he expected. Starting off as a mere patrol officer, Phelps' first case busts a murderer, with enough respect garnered from his precinct, the Captain of the police force promotes him to a detective, to take on special cases that require more attention to detail. It turns out that Phelps has got quite a knack for the detective job.
L.A. Noire takes on themes that were real travesties during 1940s America, such as racism, sexism, drug abuse, and sexual assault, all of which are explored in the game and more. It all boils down to you and Phelps, because you really are one in the same. Go into these cases with an open mind, and track down the many elusive criminals through the game. Welcome to L.A. Noire.
Having spent many years in development, L.A. Noire made a reputation for itself. Now that itís released I can say without a doubt that itís one of the best looking games Iíve had the pleasure of playing. The layout of L.A. during the 1940s is wonderfully recreated to fit everything from buildings, automobiles, advertisements, housing , and clothing is captured with great attention to detail, a true testament to a popular era. Even the antique cars have their original logos when you look closely. You can even play the game in black & white for a true noire theme experience.
What L.A. Noire should be best known for in graphics is the revolutionary facial expression capturing technology. Actors were recorded in real time, with over 30 cameras surrounding them as they delivered their performance. The result was facial animations unlike any Iíve seen in a video game before. This is a game that requires you to pay attention to how a person expresses themselves, and of the many expressions youíll see are eye twitching, eyelids flapping repeatedly, cheek bones moving from side to side, lip biting, and more. Itís spectacular to see how realistic it looks, so life-like. The facial animations also transfer to actual gameplay, so while youíre walking around you can swivel the camera into Phelpsí face while heís having a conversation and still see that animation looking great.
The only problem with graphics was some minor frame rate issues. From time to time the detail on a road, or side of a building, for instance, would appear to be blurry for a moment, and then comes into focus all of a sudden. Thankfully, it didnít happen often.
L.A. Noire has a phenomenal voice cast, but really, when you take a look at it, the actors that appear in the game are digital representations of their actual selves. So youíll find yourselves saying, ďOh hey! Thatís the guy from Heroes
! Thatís the guy who appeared on Lost
! Oh and isnít that the actor whose on Fringe
?Ē (All true by the way) If you canít identify the great cast by the way they look, you should be able to by the way they sound. L.A. Noire is story driven within each case that Phelps investigates, and the cast does well in carrying the story forward. Their vocal performances are spot on and deserve recognition in their own right.
Another neat thing I noticed in the game is that when youíre driving around the city in your car, every now and then some good stuff is going to play on the radio, some of the best are advertisements in the style of the 40s era, which were a delight to listen to.
Music in the game is stellar, of course, in consideration of the times, jazz was very popular then and itís a rich component in L.A. Noire. You should know that like classic noire films, jazz is used for sequences of suspense, which was always a match made in heaven for great black & white detective films, and thatís something L.A. Noire gets down nicely. With all the nods to the films and reality of the 40s era, itís a breath of fresh air to see and hear it all in the complete package. That isnít to say that jazz is all youíll hear. No, there is some artistís music included in the game, all of which can be found on the gameís soundtrack. These artists include the likes of Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. If youíre a music enthusiast like I am, especially of an aged genre such as this, L.A. Noireís soundtrack is a musical treat.
L.A. Noire is divided into a few styles of gameplay and usually donít fluctuate from case to case. First youíll be given an assignment, a crime scene to investigate. At the crime scene you will have to gather clues to aid you when the time for questioning suspects comes. Donít just go for the obvious seen clues, but think like a detective and search for the unseen clues. For example, if you see a trail of blood leading away from the crime scene, follow it. Does the scene of the crime happen to be on a sidewalk or in an alleyway? Then check the garbage cans or dumpsters to see if a suspect may have disposed of any evidence. Also be sure to receive eye witness accounts, if possible, their testimonies will help your investigation. Hereís a hint: your controller will vibrate and youíll hear a subtle musical cue when you approach a clue, when this happens, investigate the item of interest to add it to your log book. When you feel you have gathered as many clues as possible, the time for interviewing your suspects will be next.
Note, at times before you interview a suspect you can investigate further for additional clues. Youíll know this is possible if you hear Phelps or his partner say ďWait here while we take a look aroundĒ, which means you donít have to jump into an interview immediately. Remember that, because you may come across a major clue that will help you in your investigation, details matter in this game. Interviewing suspects is the name of the game for each case youíre tasked to solve, and the interactions you have with your suspects can either make you or break you. Basically, youíll have to judge whether your suspect is telling the truth, you doubt them, or theyíre lying according to what they have to say. There are a number of things to consider before choosing an option to respond (Truth, Doubt, or Lie). You should consider the clues that you found, which serves as evidence if you claim that a suspect is lying to you. Theyíll ask you for proof in return and youíll have to select the corresponding clue to be successful. The real crux of interviewing is facial expressions. You can tell a lot by how your suspect reacts to your questions. Should their eyes start moving from side to side, cheeks quiver, and all other mannerisms of nervousness become apparent, theyíre either lying or you can doubt their claim. An easy way to spot the difference between a Lie and Doubt is to take your evidence into account. Remember, you can only claim your suspect is lying if you have the appropriate evidence to do so. If you fear youíve forgotten what your suspect has said since you started questioning them, just push the Start button and youíll see notes on your active interview, so you can refer to these notes to cross reference with your clues. Youíll have access to your notes and clues at any time during an interview. Case in point, the more prolific you are with your interviews, the more clues youíll get in return from your suspects. Selecting the wrong option will hurt you because the suspect will close up and become unwilling to give you more information.
If youíre still having a hard time, you can use Intuition points to assist you during interviews. Firstly, Intuition points are accumulated by doing well in each of your assigned cases and answering calls on your car radio to stop active crimes on the streets of L.A. Intuition points can be spent during an interview to eliminate an answer from the three options, or you can ask the community for help. Choosing to ask the community for help will display a percentage rate of what other L.A. Noire players chose as their answer during their interviews. You can only hold 5 Intuition points at a time, so choose wisely when you want to use them. Intuition points can also be used when youíre investigating a crime scene. Choosing to do so will point out clues that may easily be overlooked on your first play through of the given case.
Other parts of gameplay include shootouts and chases. In some cases you will be involved in public shootouts with a group of thugs, all of which youíll need to take down. Youíll start off with a handgun, but you can equip rifles, shotguns, and other weapons either by passing a police car that carries them in the trunk, or you can pick up weapons from fallen enemies to use as your own. Though you should know, unlike Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, Phelps canít just pull out his sidearm in public since heís a man of the law, and can only do so in these action sequences. So if you like wreaking havoc on the defenseless citizens of a city, you canít do that here, well not with a gun you canít. Chases usually involve a suspect attempting to flee from you arresting them. These can happen in the streets, on rooftops, and even car chases too.
For people who enjoy open world games, L.A. Noire wonít disappoint. Los Angeles is a huge area to explore, so thereís plenty to do if you like taking your car and driving around. Though for people who just want to stick to the main story, you can always choose to let your partner drive to your designated destination, and avoid the travel time needed to get from one part of the city to the other.
By the end of each case youíll be given a results screen that will tally how many clues you found, for example showing that you got 13 out of 16 clues, this also includes the number of questions you got right when you interviewed your suspects. The greater your numbers are, the greater your score will be and the more points you receive to raise your level, of which there are twenty levels. Each time you level up youíll be given a reward, such as a new suit or more Intuition points, so a good case solved is really worth it. Your score is expressed in terms of stars. The results screen is also generous to give you some tips on what to do the next time you try the case, so as to improve your score on your next attempt.
L.A. Noire has 21 cases in total, and each of these cases has the potential to run you anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour to complete. Depending on how you progress, your time with L.A. Noire, should you play the story alone, will last you between 15 to 20 hours to complete. Yet for gamers who enjoy the open-world video game genre, thereís more to do even after finishing the game.
First of all, you may find yourself wanting to revisit cases to improve on where you went wrong on your first play through, this means that different outcomes can be made possible in a given case. Perhaps you neglected to visit a site for more information and went straight to the interrogation room to book your suspect. Trust me, getting every clue and every question right can be challenging, but itís worth it when you get an excellent score by the end of the case.
Spread throughout Los Angeles are landmarks, and there are many of them. Coming across famous landmarks gives you some information regarding the venue along with giving you more experience points. This is a perfect addition for those who really enjoy exploring an open-world environment. The same goes for automobiles. Although you canít forcibly hijack a car from a citizen, you do it the nicer way as a cop. There are dozens and dozens of what we now refer to as antique cars; itís enough for gamers who like earning trophies or achievements to go out in search of every last one of them.
L.A. Noire is like a movie within a game sometimes, what I mean by this is that Phelps will occasionally come across newspapers, special newspapers that is. Picking up newspapers with a noteworthy headline allows you to watch a short story on that headline. It serves as a nice distraction from the main game, and the stories are dramatic and engaging at times. Theyíre worth taking a look at if you can find these newspapers in each case you investigate.
Should you choose to explore L.A. in the comfort of your car, then from time to time youíll receive calls on your radio from police headquarters to address public disturbances. Think of these calls as mini cases. Some of these calls will involve Phelps stopping bank robberies, chasing down thugs before they cause harm, or even stop people with suicidal tendencies. There are forty cases like these that will come to you by radio, and should you choose to respond to the call, the area youíll need to drive to will be highlighted on your map.
L.A. Noire is a fantastic game. Sure it deviates from your typical open-world Rockstar developed game, such as not being able to fire your gun in public like a lunatic. What L.A. Noire manages to do very well is make you a part of the story. Itís your judgment that determines the outcome of your investigations and it really does make you feel like a detective at times. Itís such a great experience when you read people correctly and call them out for it, not to mention show them proof that they're lying to you. L.A. Noire is an experience, itís that good. Though I had to break up the graphics and sound/music part of the review, I have to say that the actors within the game arenít just giving their voice and face to the story, but their performances too. Itís a drama and suspense driven story, and one that I enjoyed, especially with my appreciation for the noire genre. Itís like a video game and noire feature film rolled into one, and itís stellar. So here it is, if you have the choice of picking L.A. Noire up for PS3 or XBOX 360, go with the PS3 version. Sure you get one blu ray disc compared to the XBOXís three DVDs, but the PS3 version comes with some exclusive content such as a downloadable suit and an extra full length case for you to solve. Donít neglect L.A. Noire, itís worth the price. Add it to your gaming library as soon as possible.