L.A. Noire is finally here after many years (and E3 appearances). So how did Rockstar Games and Team Bondi do? It a nutshell not a bad job, but here is a review.
L.A. Noire is the latest Rockstar release and it drops the player into a turbulent 1947 Los Angeles setting with control over the main protagonist Cole Phelps. Cole Phelps isn’t your ordinary officer, but more so a prodigy of the LAPD. Cole Phelps has just returned from fighting the Japanese in WW2 and is looking to work his way up through the ranks of the LAPD and will do so over the course of the game. As Phelps you will move up through 5 different desks in the LAPD; those being Beat, Traffic, Homicide, Vice and then finally Arson. For each stretch of your journey you will also have a different accompanying partner to guide you through to your next promotion (or he will tell you when to turn left if you ask him nicely).
1940s Los Angeles was a violent time and this violence and social unrest is depicted in great detail in L.A. Noire. As Phelps you will be tasked with solving a bevy of cases and you must use your investigative and interrogation skills to rain justice down upon the perpetrators who wish to disrupt peace. Now that you have a solid grasp on what L.A. Noire brings to the table time for some Pros and Cons.
- The story in L.A. Noire is definitely top notch. Excellent writing and voice acting brings the game to life and immerses the player unlike many games before it.
- Shootouts and chase scenes are here and add just enough action elements to balance out the more focused sections of the game. Cover system for shootouts works well too.
- The game offers up a large detailed world for the player to navigate. Famous landmarks are scattered across the city, which not only adds to the detail, but also gives the player incentive to explore.
- The facial detail in this game is really second to none. The motion scanning technology used for this game really adds another dimension to gaming because it is incorporated into the game beyond cut scenes. Seeing every facial mannerism depicted in interrogations and regular dialogue creates a visual experience that every gamer should experience.
- When you get the chance to interrogate a suspect it is really a treat because you have the opportunity to see actual emotion displayed on the faces and it elevates the level of suspense to a whole other level. Every suspect’s face will tell you whether or not he or she are telling the truth, bending the truth, or straight up lying to you. The interrogations are a core part of this experience and it is done fantastically.
- Some cases have multiple outcomes so replaying them offers the player a chance to see a different conclusion to a case they have already completed.
- Beyond the cases there are Street Crimes to solve; film reels, hidden vehicles, and landmarks to discover. These additional objectives add another layer of depth to a game that would have normally been strictly linear in its progression.
- Flashback scenes show Phelps’s experiences in the Marines and the War. These additional story elements add depth of character to Cole and also explain other events happening in the game.
- Replaying cases on the Xbox 360 version has you swapping discs often and while its not a huge deal to me, it will bother some.
- I haven’t played the Playstation 3 version of the game, but the Xbox 360 version has a few graphical issues such as texture popping, disappearing vehicles (it has happened to me on 10 different occasions), and at times some really bad collision detection. Framerate will drop occasionally during gun fights and chase sequences.
- The city is large and detailed, but exploring it does take a considerable amount of time. So driving will become monotonous quickly if you don’t enjoy the scenery (this can be avoided if you have your partner drive, but I’m pretty sure mileage will not accrue and you will miss landmarks).
- The city is broken up into separate police precincts, but you will get dispatch calls from stations other than the one you are currently operating out of which will usually send you on a lengthy journey. You don’t have to take these calls, but if you choose to, a call that’s in closer proximity to where you are working would be appreciated.
- Car chases within cases usually lead to vehicle damage and property damage, which in most cases will hurt your final report after a case ends. Could mean the difference between getting a 4 and 5 star rating.
- A very limited HUD offers a more cinematic engagement for the player, but will make gauging ammunition and health damage hard for some in shootouts and the occasional brawl.
- Pedestrians like to run at your vehicle when your sirens are on and they just create additional obstacles that prove annoying during car chases.
- Investigating crime scenes should be something fun, but it is very rudimentary in design and gets boring quickly. Also the amount of useless objects you can pick up at most scenes diverts from what could be a more streamlined investigation.
- The story while good, can feel disconnected at times (Like Cole’s wife and how she is almost unmentioned throughout the whole game, but is implemented in a fairly large way and becomes the reason for a desk transition???).
Team Bondi and Rockstar have done many things right with L.A. Noire, but have come up short with others. The game does offer a great experience and the interrogation sequences are fantastic, but the drama and how cases play out feel recycled at times. After a few cases you come to expect the same sequence of events. You show up at a crime scene, find a few pivotal clues, chase someone through some back alley, and ask them a few questions, and then you move onto something else. Had this sequence been mixed up a little bit it would have made moving from case to case a bit more exciting.
I don’t want to sound like I don’t enjoy L.A. Noire a great deal, because that couldn’t be anymore false, but a few design issues held this game back from being perfect. I probably won’t play a game like L.A. Noire for quite sometime and everything I didn’t like about the game was outweighed by an overall solid experience and something you should experience.
Presentation – 8/10 – Easy to use interface and main menu is slick and stylish. But the limited HUD will bother some.
Gameplay – 8/10 – The overall mechanics of the game work well most of the time, but some inconsistencies create the occasional annoyance.
Graphics – 8/10 – The characters display amazing facial detail and the city of Los Angeles circa 1947 is depicted very accurately, but graphical glitches and framerate issues can tarnish the experience at times.
Sound – 10/10 – Top-notch voice work and soundtrack really fills out the experience.
Down the Road – 7/10 – L.A. Noire will clock in around 20 hours for most if you choose to do everything, but if you have no interest in replaying cases or doing the side stuff you will be done until DLC arrives.
Overall – 8/10
Recommended Buy Price
Full Price if you have been waiting for the game
$30 – $40 if you want to check it out, but don’t want to pay full price
$10 – $20 if you saw someone play it and were like “that looks ok I’ll buy it in a year”
As always comment on what you think about the game or what you think of this review. I always appreciate feedback. Oh, and you can also follow me on Twitter @GamersAbstract and on Facebook. Until next time…
I purchased L.A. Noire for $60 for the Xbox 360. I have invested 17 hours into the game and have completed 67% of the game.