L.A Noire is a hard game to describe, is it an action/thriller or is it an interactive movie? In all honesty both these statements would be correct. One thing is for sure, never before will you have seen acting captured in a video game which looks so incredibly close to the real thing, and while the characters are still not 100 percent perfect, they look far from hideous.
At the beginning of the game you would be forgiven for thinking L.A Noire is yet another Rockstar clone, it certainly has the influence of the publisher all over it. Team Bondi has been clever here, this developer knows that you can’t go far wrong with a formula such as Grand Theft Auto’s, therefore everything has a familiar feel, be it the way you drive the car or control your character. This is certainly no bad thing as it results in an expansive landscape and a level of depth that only usually comes from the Rockstar stable of games.
So what is different about L.A Noire then if the above is so familiar? Answer: everything. Although this looks like another Gran Theft Auto game with a 1940’s skin that couldn’t really be any further from the truth. L.A Noire is most certainly its own game and what a game it is.
Playing the role of Cole Phelps, your mission is to clean the city streets and bring justice to L.A. The problem is that 1940’s L.A is full of murder, drugs and plenty of people who want to lie, cheat and deceive their way out of anything, especially when the police become involved. In this respect your first task sees you don a uniform and take to the streets to solve lesser crime, before working your way through the ranks and taking on the big boys.
Being a member of the force you do have some pretty handy tools at your disposal. The most crucial of these is your notebook. The notebook is everything you need to interview suspects, deceiver clues and convict anyone who has a shifty looking in their eye. The notebook keeps track of all your clues, the locations you need to visit and the people you have met. As you gather clues they will all be noted down, therefore once you come to interview a suspect you have all the evidence you have found in front of you, meaning if you are having a hard time convincing them to cough up, the answer is a page turn away.
Interviewing suspects is probably one of the most important aspects of L.A Noire. When you talk to anyone in the game you will have to listen to their answers and watch their expressions and body movements very carefully as this generally gives the game away. When someone gives you an answer the option to choose whether they are telling the truth or lying will appear on the screen, along with another button which suggests doubt. When you choose an option you can then grill them further, and if you think you have chosen the wrong line of questioning you can then back out and try again (although occasionally this is not possible).
It’s not always easy to find clues or tell if a suspect is lying or telling the truth, so Team Bondi has implemented an intuition feature which allows you to remove an answer, show all the clues in any one area or see which way the community has voted via the integration of Rockstar Social Club. Intuition is gained by ranking up, which in turn is gained by discovering landmarks, finding hidden objects, solving crimes and getting the correct responses in interrogations.
One of the major parts of being a detective is finding clues, and as mentioned previously this is not always easy. Generally when you enter a scene looking for clues is one of the first things you do and thankfully Team Bondi has made things that much easier thanks to its clever use of music. When there are clues to find in an area, music will play, when you are close to a clue you will hear a chime. Not all clues are relevant to the investigation, while some are more relevant than others. If you find a general clue it will be noted, however sometimes you will be required to look into it more, allowing you to find new locations or people whom you need to speak to. You also have a partner who can give you advise should you need it, while he is also pretty handy with a weapon.
During the main investigations you will generally come across a few types of gameplay. First up is the interrogated and clue finding part where you will turn up at a house, get the suspect to sit down, before combing the house for clues and then interviewing them. This happens quite a few times during the game and does become quite repetitive, which if I am being honest is quite disappointing. Other areas of the investigation will see you tail suspects in your car or have a spectacular car chase before either losing them and starting the mission again or catching up to them and making them spin out in a spectacular crash. Finally you have the runners, who catch a glimpse of you and then dart for the streets or the rooftops, resulting in your character giving chase.
Cases in L.A Noire are classed as episodes, therefore at the start of each investigation you will be greeted with the name of the case and also a short movie giving you a rough idea as to what happened. The murders are particularly gruesome as you will see when you examine the body. So if you are of a squeamish nature perhaps you will need to close your eyes at these bits.
Given the repetitive nature of the main missions it can be a nice break to take on some of the side missions included in the game. When you are driving through the streets of L.A you will generally hear crime taking place over your radio, if you are close by (or not) you can easily accept the call, throw your sirens on and speed to the scene. Street crimes take on all sorts of guises, be it a bank robbery, an old man going on a shooting spree or any other manner of situations that you will find yourself in. Solving a street crime is a lot easier than a main case and generally just requires you to chase someone or gun them down.
If you are the type who would rather just fly through the game then you will be pleased to know that you can. Since you have a partner you have the option to ask him to drive, this results in a quick trip to your destination and also negates the need (if you even have the need) to respond to street crimes. It’s certainly a faster way to get through the game, although perhaps not as much fun. You will get to miss out on driving all those classic cars after all.
Aside from the crime investigation and your car driving antics, there is also a back-story intertwined into the main game which takes the form of cutscenes. These sections look into Cole’s past in the army, which is generally a subject he is a bit touchy about. This may seem out of place but it really lets you get to know the man behind the uniform (or suit).
L.A Noire is probably one of the best looking games out there. As mentioned it has a real GTA feel to it, however it’s the facial capture and lip syncing that are the real stars. You really will have to look twice sometimes to make sure you are not watching a movie. In addition the script is fantastic, I’ve no idea how many lines of dialogue are included in the game, but it’s a lot. There really is nothing to touch L.A Noire in this respect, personally I was very impressed by Heavy Rain’s storytelling, however L.A Noire takes things up a notch.
Buying L.A Noire is a no brainer, it’s got a fantastic story, wonderful graphics and enough twists and turns to keep even the staunchest of crime fanatics happy. The only thing that really lets L.A Noire down is its repetitive nature, however if you can look beyond that then you will have a unbelievable experience playing this game.
Rating: Excellent Review policy
If you haven’t bought L.A Noire, then you can order it here.