L.A. Noire Review
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L.A. Noire's intriguing character profile, deep interrogation and investigation system, and impeccably detailed facial technology puts this detective thriller in a class of its own.
- L.A. is highly detailed, atmospheric
- Terrific casting, motionscan technology
- Compelling character profile and narrative
- Some cases are slightly disjointed
- Control issues occasionally hinder action sequences
The glitz of 1940s Los Angeles paints a thin veil on the corrupt underbelly of society. Greedy real estate developers, psychotic serial killers, hardened World War II veterans, corrupt cops, hit men, arsonists, and junky jazz musicians are but a few of the citizens that inhabit L.A. Noire, the latest masterpiece from Rockstar Games. The same publisher that is famous for focusing on brazen anti-hero thugs now turns its attention to an actual hero. Cole Phelps is a decorated and respected veteran with a stern sense for the law. His compassion makes him likeable; his human flaws make him relatable. If Rockstar ever needed a protagonist for a feature film, Phelps would easily fit the bill. But while L.A. Noire is easily compared to great TV cop dramas, murder mystery novels, or even classic films, this is a game, but it’s unlike anything you’ve ever played.
Phelps faces all kinds of criminals. He’s at home behind the wheel during a high-speed car chase. He can handle his own in a fist fight and he’s not scared to use lethal force when necessary. But while these action sequences are ripped right from games like Grand Theft Auto IV, any comparison to Rockstar’s celebrated crime juggernaut ends there. L.A. Noire is subtle; it is one of the few games that doesn’t reward players for headshots or how fast you can complete a stage. Instead, gamers are rewarded for their attention to details, their ability to read facial expressions, and their personal cunning and intuition. Gather a stack of evidence at the crime scene, take statements from witnesses, and create your case for your top suspect. This accounts for more than half of the game. Pepper in action sequences, and add a heavy layer of interrogation, and you have the making of truly unique gaming experience.
Team Bondi has created an immaculate title. The level of detail is absolutely incredible. Characters are pulled directly from old cop dramas, with men wearing tailored vintage (circa 1940s) suits, while women wear their hair in a bun with thin silk scarves caressing their necks. Explore a home and you don’t see a generic backdrop; instead, every house and building is unique, with each detail inside specific to its residents. Los Angeles is meticulously rendered and detailed; you can almost smell the unspoiled air. Drive the streets and you won’t just see a fake movie set or billboard, you will see actual recreations of the city’s famous landmarks. You get a sense that the city is in transition as soldiers return home from a long war. Old homes are torn down to make way for new building developments, women still struggle to hold the smallest desk jobs, and the city is learning how to deal with new drug addictions. Everywhere you look, L.A. is a changing city, struggling to maintain peace.
The new MotionScan performance capture technology is truly revolutionary. If you thought games like Heavy Rain showed off crazy facial detail, you will be shocked what L.A. Noire has to offer. Again, the game is all about subtleties, and L.A. Noire’s facial detail is no exception to this. You may not notice it at first, but just wait until you question a witness or interrogate a suspect. Each character is incredibly unique and you’ll have to judge if they are telling the truth, withholding some information, or giving you a big fat lie. Your job is to figure this all out by watching for little things, like someone fidgeting, blinking too much, looking away, or squinting. As expected, some characters are better at lying than others. Try to tell if a gangster is lying and you’ll be sent for a loop. When you do sense someone is lying, or you know they are based on the story so far, you can call their bluff by selecting “lie” when prompted. At this point you’ll have to back up that claim with hard evidence you’ve collected throughout the case. If you don’t trust yourself, you can always use Intuition—which is available as you collect experience throughout the game—to either eliminate a potential answer (truth, doubt, or lie) and evidence, or ask the community for help.
Playing as Cole Phelps, you are tasked with rising through the ranks of ... (continued on next page)