In the six and a half years since the original PS3 release of L.A. Noire, it speaks volumes that there really hasn’t been another game that deftly manages to wrap up its detective and action beats in such a compelling neo-noir wrapper as Rockstar’s title. Now in 2017, L.A. Noire gets another bite at the apple and while the remastering effort isn’t quite as extensive as we’d perhaps like, the fact remains that L.A. Noire remains an innately compelling curio that everybody should play.
In its PS4 incarnation, very little has really changed from the original 2011 PS3 release (you can read our full, more detailed review of the PS3 version of L.A. Noire here); this is very much the same L.A. Noire, but it just so happens to come with all the previously released DLC, some extra costumes and, of course, a notable bump on the visual side of things.
Welcoming back an old friend with a fresh coat of paint
For the uninitiated, L.A. Noire casts players as LAPD detective Cole Phelps (given life by Mad Men actor Aaron Staton) who must work his way up the ranks of the city police department, investigating crimes that soon reveal an expansive network of corruption the stretches to the very top of the city all the while dealing with aspects of his own murky past.
A third-person, open-world detective adventure, progress is made through the game by taking on investigative cases that require a mixture of chasing down suspects, searching for clues, interrogating potential wrongdoers and, of course, engaging in some old-fashioned gunplay with those folks who’d prefer to be taken dead rather than alive. In short, there was nothing quite like L.A. Noire in 2011 and now in 2017, that statement is one that still rings true.
From examining articles of evidence at a crime scene, to making notes in your trusty pocketbook to consulting with other on duty police officers and detectives, building your case and then pursuing an admission of guilt remains an evergreen thrill and one that has not been dulled in the slightest by the passage of time.
Elsewhere, much of the allure of L.A. Noire lay in its deliciously realised noir setting and in particular, the excellent performances of the denizens who inhabit its glossy, smoke-filled cabaret bars and dingy, rain speckled alleyways. There’s just no setting quite like it and the timely re-emergence of L.A. Noire from the house that Grand Theft Auto built serves to reinforce the notion that more games should explore this artistically fertile time in America’s history.
Emboldening the cast of L.A. Noire was the use of MotionScan, a then cutting-edge animation technology that allowed artists and character modellers to accurately simulate an almost infinite amount of different facial expressions and nuances that character models in other games simply couldn’t match. As such, this lent the various characters in the game a look bordering on photorealism that other games just didn’t have.
The good stays good and the less good stays the same
The problem with this impressive technology is that while it lent the cast of L.A. Noire an eerily realistic aspect, the rest of the character models from the neck down weren’t quite so impressively handled, with reduced detail and some stiff looking animations standing in contrast to the stellar facial animation work. On the PS4 of course, there has been no shortage of visually impressive titles that have arrived since the original release of L.A. Noire, and the implementation of higher resolution visuals in its 2017 incarnation serve only to further highlight the gulf that exists between the faces and the bodies of the cast that populate its digital streets.
Something else that hasn’t quite aged so well in L.A. Noire when matched to contemporary expectations is the open-world within which everything unfolds. Don’t get me wrong; the sense of place, atmosphere and attention to period detail is absolutely superb and the game world stands as an evocative and opulent take on 1940s Los Angeles. The problem however, is that whereas efforts like Assassin’s Creed are often criticised for stuffing too many activities and off-piste distractions into their worlds, L.A. Noire suffers an opposite malady in so far as players are given this massive world to traipse about in, but outside the various investigations you can undertake, there actually isn’t much else to do.
Despite the fact that the original shortcomings of L.A. Noire have pulled through into its PS4 release largely intact, the core experience shines through and the addition of extra graphical effects, additional costumes, roundly comprehensive content offering and a sizable boost in resolution to 1080p and beyond, all serve to put the sheen on what is otherwise one of the underrated greats of Rockstar’s back catalogue.
Generously stuffed with all of the previously released DLC and boasting a raft of visual improvements (including a hefty resolution boost to 4K for PS4 Pro owners), it becomes difficult to deny the fact that L.A. Noire exists in its definitive form on PS4.
For those who gleefully succumbed to its noir charms over half a decade ago, this is almost a no-brainer purchase because despite the lack of new content, Rockstar have nonetheless done a commendable job in bringing L.A. Noire up to date for contemporary gaming platforms.
Likewise, for those who have never sampled L.A. Noire’s sizable charms and its expansive noir detective thrills, there really is no better time than right now to get stuck in and as such, L.A. Noire proves to be an easy recommendation for PS4 players.