L.A. Noire Review (PS3/360)

June 22, 2011

PlayStation 3, Reviews, Xbox 360

L.A. Noire is a third-person action adventure title for the 360/PS3 that was developed by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games.  L.A. Noire is, in every imaginable way, a bold title: very innovative, artistic and gritty. It twists and turns, surprises, flusters and entertains. A reflection of the hard work and long hours deserves a merit to its producers.  The game features a cast of hundreds, and has undergone a lengthy, difficult inception. Presenting itself as a third-person open-world thriller, L.A. Noire is heavily influenced by hardboiled crime epics, heavily influenced from the film noir genre of the 1940’s. It’s also significantly different than any other title Rockstar has produced before. As it stands it feels remarkably more adult compared to pretty much anything else available on the 360 or PS3 today, period; adult gameplay and performances in a traditional/novelistic way as opposed to constant adult swearing, gore and sex (although that’s there too). However does it live up to the hype and 100 million dollar campaign Rockstar has spent advertising it?  That being said let’s find out.

Story: 5/5

     Playing as Cole Phelps, a cop rising through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department in 1947, daily routine consists of investigating cases throughout the metropolis and avoiding Phelps’ tortured military background. Our sometime-hero is shuffled between Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson divisions at the behest of his own actions, be that they’re commendable or catastrophic.  Phelps is a very conservative do gooder, albeit a bit bland. He is a family man that has a morale barometer that is permanently set to “do the right thing.” He continuously plays by the book and is never fascinated by those that don’t. He’s somewhat one-dimensional, especially when compared to recent Rockstar protagonists John Marston or Niko Bellic. Most of his characterization comes from the fact that he has a past that he doesn’t like to talk about, which is slowly revealed to you through flashbacks of his WW2 days at different intervals throughout.

 

Gameplay: 4/5

The meat of L.A. Noire is the crime scene investigation and interrogation sequences. The player uses his or her senses to investigate the crime scenes for pieces of evidence, which in turn can be used to confirm whether a possible suspect or witness is lying to you. During these scenes, little audio snippets tell you if you’ve stumbled across an item worth taking a look at. Some clues are very well hidden among the backgrounds and require intelligent and precise investigating, and even with this as a guide I found myself rubbing Phelps up against every single surface in the room like a lunatic, waiting for the game to prompt me to search for something. As you find new clues, they’re added to your notebook, which you can refer to during the interrogation sequences. The action side of L.A. Noire fares less well. Roaming around the city adds a few extra hours of gameplay between the missions. Gun play and fist fights and the occasional tailing of a suspect are decent at best. But these devices aren’t really what the game is about, the treasure interesting investigation and interrogation. Chasing a suspect down, however, is brilliant.  Sometimes Cole will be able to draw a cross hair on his target with his pistol and convince them to surrender, while in some chases you have no choice but to fire down on them. These segments are a lot of fun. Side-missions pop up as you navigate between areas during the main cases, most side missions are shoot-outs or chase sequences that can either be completed there and then, or returned to later while free roaming. Above all, the main thing deserving highest praise is that L.A. Noire is a genuinely mature experience.  In my opinion, Heavy Rain was that first step forward in regards to maturity in gaming.  L.A. Noire deals with everything from child abuse to murder, and a naked woman lying dead in an alley is delivered to you in a complete matter of fact and grim way. This to me seems like it could have a far more important impact in future gaming than any kind of jump in facial animation technology.

 

Graphics: 5/5

The game is overflowing with great style, from the art deco architecture and mid-century modern style. Motion Scan also helps a game with far from cutting-edge graphics still wow the hell out of you. The graphics overall have a great polish and technical detail than many other titles out today.  It has to be mentioned the meticulous detail put into replicating a beautiful painstakingly accurate 1940s L.A, 90% according to Rockstar. The ability to switch the whole game to a cool black and white is a great addition. The facial detail is incredible many times I recognized actors from television and movies of today actually in the game. This advanced technology puts us that much closer to what future gaming could be.  When you put it all together, I think you’ll agree that L.A. Noire can serve as one of the most cohesive and comprehensive period pieces in all of video games.

Sound: 5/5

The sound for L.A. Noire is of the highest caliber in my opinion. The sound effects are accurate to the time period and just sound “right.” The radio stations play programming that was true to the time, and the dialogue spoken contains words and expressions that are not generally used in the American English language today and are perfectly true for the time period of this game.  Overall, both the acting and music licensed and orchestrated are terrific and defiantly contribute to the engrossing story.

 

Overall: 19/20 = 9.5/10

L.A. Noire is a true success in almost every way for Team Bondi and Rockstar.  The game is not perfect and there could have been some adjustments but overall it is an amazing package.  Those looking for a GTA or Red Dead Redemption adventure and experience need to understand that L.A. Noire is a standalone original title that deserves the attention of those mature gamers looking to experience something amazing and different.

PROs:

+Amazing technological motion capture, voice acting, and soundtrack.

+Noir themes and techniques are creative and fun, and act to aid the story.

+Good game length, engaging story, and fantastic art direction.

+Fresh and original action-adventure with a solid level of difficulty.

CONs:

-Occasional graphical glitches.

-Repetitive NPC dialogue.

-Camera angles occasionally can be frustrating.

-Location of Street Crime events can be time consuming.

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