Reviewers by nature are known for hyperbole. It seems like every game, movie and album is “fantastic” and the “best thing ever.” As a personal rule, I try not to use these words very often. I say this not as some weird form of bravado, but to make sure you know that I mean this next statement whole heartedly.
L.A. Noire is one of the most impressive gaming experiences I’ve ever encountered. Rockstar’s latest combines cutting edge technology with a new and novel gameplay system to create a truly memorable and thrilling experience. Does it have its fair share of problems? Sure, but throughout my time with the game, these problems weren’t enough to take away from what made L.A. Noire so memorable in the first place. Simply put – there’s absolutely nothing like L.A. Noire.
It’s 1947 in Los Angeles, and you’re Officer Cole Phelps, just back from World War II. It’s your job to police the city, be it via chasing down random street crime perps, or investigating gruesome murders. As a Rockstar game, you probably already expecting that this process involves stealing cars, speeding down the streets and gun fights. Sure, all of that stuff is in there (note: you never actually steal a car, you borrow it for “police business”), it’s a lot less than you’d think. L.A. Noire asks players to use the brain and think not as gamers, but as detectives in order to advance through the game.
Here’s how your standard case works in L.A. Noire, you get a briefing from your department superior (sections are broken up into traffic, homicide, arson and vice desks), travel to the scene and investigate. From there, you’re pretty much free to solve the case anyway you want. Do you search the crime scene for evidence? Question the witness? Finding different leads and clues is incredibly fun, (if not too easy, but a bit more on that later) It’s all up to you, and the result is incredibly rewarding and immersive. To put it into perspective, while playing Red Dead Redemption, I never lost sight of the fact that I’m a guy playing as a cowboy, in L.A. Noire, I actually felt like a detective.
Undoubtedly, the first thing anyone will notice when checking out L.A. Noire is the amazing facial animations sported throughout the game. Using a revolutionary technology called Motion Scan, L.A. Noire features undoubtedly the most impressive and realistic faces ever to grace a video game, and goes a long way in making the world of L.A. Noire believable. It’s not all for looks though, as the new technology plays a major role in the way L.A. Noire plays out. A major part of solving the crimes in L.A. Noire is the interrogation process. Essentially, you’ll question everyone from witnesses, to suspects of persons of interest by listening to their story and judging if you think they’re telling the truth, if you doubt them or if they’re straight up lying. Every movement, from not being able to look you in the eye to how they’re sitting needs to be observed, and if you guess wrong, it could have a huge impact on just how the case plays out. Granted, you’ll still end up at the same point at the end of the case regardless, but its how you get there that’s important.
While solving cases will take up the majority of your time in L.A. Noire, there’s also unassigned street cases you’ll be able to solve, these pretty much all involve catching purse snatchers or bank robbers (or in one case, a guy in his underwear wearing a metal pan on his head). These unassigned cases are where the game most resembles a traditional Rockstar game, you’ll weave in and out of traffic to chase down a suspect. The major issue with these cases though is that they’ll continuously pop up, and once you’ve done a number of them, you’ll often find yourself repeating them. There’s also a number of hidden cars to collect (which interestingly enough, the game doesn’t have a garage feature, so you’ll just find the car, and can’t keep it anywhere for easy access) and newspapers and film reels to collect. Much like previous Rockstar games, L.A. Noire is a completionsist’s heaven.
Possibly the most impressive aspect of L.A. Noire, above all else is the attention to detail in recreating 40s era Hollywood. The development team combed archives, interviewed experts and did a ton of research to get even the smallest details perfect, and the result isn’t a game, but a time machine that acts as a love letter to an era by-gone. Don’t want to solve any crimes? Take a cruise down Sunset Boulevard and take in the sights. If you really want an interesting ride, switch the game over to black and white to give it that extra old time Hollywood charm.
The Blast Factor: With L.A. Noire, Rockstar cements its place not only as a definitive game maker, but as a story teller. L.A. Noire is a risky, daring and novel approach to a game that pays off in spades. By focusing the experience on the police work, the result is a truly immersive thrill ride of a game that everyone should play. The tech is incredibly cool, and the entire experience is one that cements Rockstar as one of this generation’s premier story tellers. Simply put – there’s absolutely nothing like L.A. Noire.