It should be said first; that L.A. Noire is not a traditional Rockstar game that some may believe or want it to be. I’ll only say it once; it is not Grand Theft Auto from the view of a cop. You can’t go on a shooting rampage or mow down hundreds of civilians, although you may hit one or two throughout the game. L.A. Noire is a detective story with action sequences and should be treated as such. If you are a fan of film noire or detective novels you are in for quite an adventure.
The game is set in the city of Los Angeles in the year 1947. As the name may have already given it away, L.A. Noire borrows heavily from film noire movies. Film Noire for those who are unfamiliar with it, were highly stylized films that generally revolved around morality decisions, crime and sexual nature. To keep with the astatic, Team Bondi has included the option to play the game in a Black and White mode.
Cole Phelps, a Sargent in the marines during World War II before signing up to be one of L.A.’s finest detectives, stars off as a simple beat cop trying to make a living after coming home from the war. He is not content with where he is in life and has a drive to be something more than what he is currently. What starts off as just an ordinary day, turns into the turning point of Cole Phelps’ young career.
Cole and his partner get called to a crime scene in a dingy dark alley on a homicide call. This is where the game hands Cole over to us. While walking around the crime scene, Cole is able to interact with a numerous amount of objects. When he picks up the objects he is able to view it from all angles and focus on important details of the object that are pertinent to the case. Through out the crime scene music cues are used to inform the player that all clues have been found or that there is an object nearby that Cole hasn’t seen yet. These clues are a necessity when trying to interrogate a suspect or divulge further information from a suspect.
Cole Phelps has all the right interest at heart to clean up the streets. After cracking open the first case, the captain has seen it fit to allow you to interrogate the suspect. This is where the new motion technology utilized really shines. Lines aren’t just read any more, but performed. It’s like a radio host performing a roll in a movie. During these interrogations you don’t just listen character, you have to watch and study how the words come out. All the “tells” of lying or telling in truth in real life are now seen in the game. These “tells” are what will ultimately guide you as you seek the truth from suspects. To complicate matters there is another a third option; doubt. Doubt is used if you believe that someone is lying, but you don’t have specific evidence to back it up.
The facial animating can be truly scary at times just how realistic the human emotions are portrayed. Sadly, not everyone is easy to read, which could lead to some tough choices. But choosing the correct chooses in the long run doesn’t really change the game. It is impossible to fail, and see a game over screen for getting a choice wrong. You may think that everyone is telling the truth or that they are lying and get every question wrong, but in the end you still get the bad guy and move on to the next case. There are a couple of cases that have you have a choice between 2 suspects, but I seemingly picked the wrong one both times. The Captain had a few choose words for me, and claimed I would be demoted and back on the street, but I just moved on to the next case like nothing happened.
In between cases, we are treated to flashbacks to Cole during World War II. This is where we learn all about the true Cole Phelps. While trying to be the best solider he possibly could be he became something much worse than anyone would have thought. These flashbacks also include pivotal story to the main game and help fill in gaps in the narrative.
The interrogations are what stole the show in this game, although in the end I would have liked the game to not divulge that you got a question right or wrong as soon as you make a decision, but let the player decide by the reaction of the suspect or witness if they chose the correct response. This could have added a whole another aspect to the game that would have raised the difficulty dramatically.
Some of the cases in the game are very slow moving and seem to drag on at points. Thankfully there are only a few that do so. The side missions that can be accessed while driving around during the main story are nothing more than action sequences to get your fill as the main story focuses more on the detective work than good old fashioned shootouts. Once again these could have been taken further and had more freedom in how to deal with the suspects. Shooting every suspect seems to be the only way to complete the missions.
L.A. Noire is still a enjoyable adventure, and a good distraction from all the other games out today, and can’t wait to see what Team Bondi does with the franchise in the future.
Note: The L.A. Noire review is based on a retail PlayStation 3 copy of the game.