L.A. Noire is a game I have been waiting to review for months. From the first moment I heard about the game, I was excited to see if Rockstar could deliver in a genre that many have tried and failed at. More than one developer has sought to create an authentic, gritty, 1940’s style experience that was true to the times and at the same time, still enjoyable to play. Rockstar has done just that, creating an experience that draws the player in and doesn’t ever let go. From the start, L.A. Noire holds nothing back, challenging the player to not just “run and gun”, but to think about cases from multiple perspectives, and develop and execute their own investigations as they see fit.
The year is 1947 and Los Angeles is in the middle of a massive economic boom, but is still grappling with the repercussions of the returning GI’s, who are severely traumatized from WWII. It is the tale of two cities really. On the surface, Los Angeles is a city of glitz and glam, but just beneath that glossy veneer lies a city full of corruption, deceit, and murder. That is where you come in, you are Cole Phelps, a “decorated” WWII veteran and rookie police officer with the LAPD. L.A. Noire is the story of Cole’s rise through the ranks of the LAPD, as he sets out to try and bring some order to all this chaos. You really have to be in awe of the sheer size of L.A. Noire, both from the perspective of the size of the map, and from the depth and complexity of each case. A third of the cases in this game, if combined together, could make a damn good game in their own right, and that is even more impressive when you think about cases that Rockstar didn’t even put in the game and are considering releasing as DLC. Each case is very well done, and you can tell that Rockstar spent a lot of time working to give each one its own unique personality.
From a gameplay perspective the game, for the most part, delivers on everything you would expect. The key thing that Rockstar has tried to communicate is that L.A. Noire is NOT Grand Theft Auto. It is not even Red Dead Redemption. The gameplay in L.A. Noire is much more focused and in a game like this, it had to be. There isn’t a whole lot of gunplay in this game at all. In fact in a lot of situations, using a gun isn’t even an option. The majority of Rockstar games are action driven experiences, with the story being excellent, but secondary. L.A. Noire is the exact opposite, in that the story and your navigation of it is the star of the show, and the action sequences in between are there more as a secondary aspect to facilitate the overall story experience. With that said though, when it comes to action – L.A. Noire has it all. You will have to chase down fleeing suspects (both on foot and in vehicles), get into hand-to-hand altercations, and battle it out in intense gunfights. The real attribute that will make or break you though, are your deductive reasoning and interrogation skills. You will come across lots of suspects on every case, and the more evidence you have BEFORE you engage, them the better. This means that you need to investigate all secondary leads, since you may discover evidence during those that will give you more evidence to use as leverage once you do finally get your suspect into the interrogation room. If you fail to do the necessary leg work, you will find it very hard to close your cases with any kind of respectable score. When you find out about different people and places, don’t hesitate to call Research and Investigation (R&I) to get more info to help further your investigation.
L.A. Noire does lots of things very well, but it is not without its flaws. When it comes to doing interrogations, I really wish they would have taken some cues from CSI: Fatal Conspiracy. CSI:FC did an excellent job at allowing you to develop evidence, and then go into an interrogation fairly confident that you had enough evidence for an arrest. L.A. Noire just doesn’t deliver that. Even if you do great investigative work beforehand, it is still hard to go into an interrogation or conversation for that matter and perform the correct line of questioning on a regular basis. The game tells you to rely on not just your evidence, but also on watching the suspects’ facial expressions and body language. I won’t deny that Rockstar’s revolutionary MotionScan technology is excellent at capturing tons of facial detail. My issue is that there is no clear way to tell the difference between someone who is just nervous, and someone who is hiding something or lying. Though I think it was a great idea, I just think that they should have provided the player with more complementary tools to make a decision on things. I also noticed quite a few glitches while playing the game including being stuck behind a piece of environment that I should have been able to jump over, and not being able to and having to restart the mission. I also discovered that in some cases you could call R&I and they would tell you information about a suspect or case before you actually learned about it from any other place in the game. These were only minor issues and happened a few times during the course of my gameplay.
I think my biggest issue with L.A. Noire is the way it saves. The game uses an auto-save feature that saves at key points during missions, and the user has no way to manually save their progress. The result is that you can get quite a way through a case, and if you haven’t gotten to the next save point and have to go for some reason, you have to either leave your system on or play through that section again the next time you play. It’s much easier for developers to not allow the player to create dynamic save points, but in a game like this I would have really liked to see it. The only other problems were sometimes I felt like the cut scenes were just a bit too long and I found myself wishing for just a bit better pacing to the gameplay.
We have to give you guys the truth on the weaknesses that we felt the game had, but I want to be clear that I think this game is a must buy. L.A. Noire is most definitely in the Game Of The Year conversation, though it will probably be overshadowed as a new IP by new installments of established gaming franchises like Call Of Duty, Uncharted, Batman, Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect just to name a few. The ability to make games like L.A. Noire is what takes Rockstar from being a really good game developer, to being a great developer. They chose not to just stay in their comfort zone and make endless spinoffs of games that they know will sell, but instead push themselves to give gamers new and fresh gameplay experiences. L.A. Noire is the kind of game that could easily be spun off into several successful movies. The bottom line is that if you haven’t already, you need to run, not walk, to your favorite game retailer and pick this game up. The game will provide 25-30 hours of extremely engaging gameplay in addition to planned DLC. The game doesn’t feature the kind of branching gameplay that would give it high replay value though. All in all, L.A. Noire is an excellent piece of gameplay, true art, and an experience that the majority of gamers will thoroughly enjoy, and because of that we give L.A. Noire 9 out of 10.