The latest title from Rockstar Games is likely not what you’re expecting, and for some, this is a very good thing. While the sprawling open world environment is in tact and as impressive as ever, you will spend most of your time doing linear based missions as opposed to running rampant. The focus on thorough investigation over good old gun fighting is rightly apparent, and a welcome change of pace. Mix in a huge amount of polish and impressive technical aspects, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a game!
The scene is post-war Los Angeles, and you start out as a beat cop named Cole Phelps who has returned from the war labelled a hero. Through-out the game, Cole moves up in the ranks through Homicide and Vice, working cases that range from insurance fraud and arson, to full-blown corporate conspiracies. Each desk you work at has its own set of cases, which all tie together – some more tightly than others. Along the way, you find newspapers, which once read (or rather, viewed as a cut-scene) expose the back-story which brings everything together. At first, it’s hard to see any connection between the back-story and the main cases, but things quickly come together during the last quarter of the game.
While most of your time is spent solving cases, you can pick up the radio at any point and lend a hand on the street. From robberies to perverts snapping up-skirt photos, the street crimes are a nice way to liven up the experience if things are moving too slowly, or give you a couple extra hours of gameplay once the main story is complete. In total, I racked up around 20 hours completing the story and all 40 street crimes.
You’ve likely seen footage of L.A. Noire, and were no doubt taken back by the incredibly realistic facial animation and voice acting. This could have been a deal breaker if it wasn’t executed well enough, but thankfully it was. It’s one of those games that you want to put on and show to anyone who will give you a moment of their time. It really is that technically impressive! From the character models and animation, to the historical vehicles and landmarks, LA Noire is one gorgeous game.
When it comes to the core gameplay, I was completely enthralled by the investigation and interrogation aspects. As you arrive on a crime scene, you take a minute to look around, talk to people, then it’s up to you to find any clues that will lead you on your way to putting the pieces together. The evidence you find, and what order you visit locations will determine the questions you’re able to ask during investigations, and ultimately, the outcome of the case. You may have a pretty good idea that someone is guilty, but without presenting the correct evidence, your witness will laugh in your face and likely end up walking. For each question, there is one correct answer. Being able to tell if the person is telling the truth or lying is crucial, and I found that the general rule of thumb, is that if you think the person is lying but you don’t have evidence to back it up, doubt them. If you find yourself really unsure, you can always use an intuition point, which will cross reference the community’s reaction, which often gives you a good idea of the correct answer.
Every game has its issues, and L.A. Noire has a few of its own, albeit minor. I’m not a fan of games with limited controls, and that was definitely a point of frustration for me here. You can only jump when there’s something to jump over, and it happens automatically. Same goes for drawing your weapon – only when the game does it for you. I ran into some problems getting in and out of vehicles with others close by, and the cover system is less than desirable. But I was able to overlook all of these minor gripes given how great the overall experience was.
As I mentioned earlier, I spent about 20 hours going through the story and street crimes. Since the game’s release, there have been 2 additional cases added (which were a pre-order bonus), with promise of at least 2 more on the way in the coming weeks. This is enough to ensure L.A. Noire stays in my possession a little longer, but I doubt I’ll go back and play through the entire game again.
I had extremely high expectations for L.A. Noire, and they were met, without a doubt.