Review: L.A. Noire
In the City of Angels, solving crime is what needs to be done.
- Worth The Time?Definitely, this is one of those games that has to be played.
- Things LovedThe city, the realism for the time period, the performances, the new motion capture system (visuals), the note book, the story, the pace, the cars, the brutal realness of it all, the Irish captain, getting a shotgun out of the boot, the story arc and climax, the length.
- Things HatedThe shooting system can be a little bit clunky because of the button mapping, you can't technically fail a case, some surfaces don't look that great which is bad since you examine objects up close.
- RecommendationThis is a game that is actually for all types of gamers. It caters for the casual and normal gamer market. (Hardcore gamers are confined to competitive games) as well as the games are art market. This game is not perfect, but can be seen as the holy grail of gaming because it makes an attempt at doing what gaming stated out to do from the very beginning; make a film where you can control the character.
- Name: L.A. Noire
- Genre: Action Adventure
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Team Bondi
- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- Price: R600
- Reviewed On: PS3
The Legend Is Just A Man Like You And I:
L.A Noire is really something special.
L.A Noire has tried to do what games started right from the very beginning. Blur the lines between cinema and games. To make the movie where you control the character. L.A Noire is not perfect, but it truly is something to stare at in awe.
It is nice to see a game, a Rockstar game at that, where you play as the good guy and an honest cop to boot.
Done in the film genre of the same name L.A noire puts you behind the badge of Cole Phelps. He is the LAPD’s new poster boy because he is something rare:
An honest cop and a war hero that was awarded the silver star during his service in the Pacific with the United States Marine Corps. However Phelps doesn’t want to ever speak about the medal or the war.
You will follow Cole Phelps through his life as an officer and detective on the LAPD. What I liked about it is that you are thrown straight into Cole’s job as a uniformed officer on patrol getting called out to do the grunt work at a crime scene. It really is very difficult to go into detail regarding the story without giving too much away. Really this is a game you have to experience for yourself. In as little detail as possible: You will work the streets as a patrol man until you get your big break. After that you will be told to get 2 suits and have them pressed and you enter the ranks of detective working traffic cases. You will have to progress through cases until you get your promotion to another desk. The desks are Traffic, Arson, Vice and Homicide, but not in that particular order. Each desk comes with a different partner.
Between cases you will be shown flashbacks of Cole’s days as a soldier right up from him getting on the bus to Officer Candidate School right to the end of his war and the events that continue to haunt him. Besides flashbacks we are also shown slices of Cole’s personal life.
During the first half of the story you would think Cole is strictly professional, we know he has a wife and two daughters, but you are made to think the game focuses solely on his career, for Cole is made out to be a hero and is actually very close to that. He is the man with morals and isn’t racist or corrupt like many of his colleagues, but he is still just a man. Eventually his personal life and professional life meet and Cole’s reputation is tarnished, but it makes his character stronger.
Side stories can be followed by picking up newspapers. In the end the side stories, cases and Cole’s personal life all come together nicely in the story arc to form a magnificent climax.
L.ANoire is set in a 1947 Los Angeles scale remodel. One of the biggest Rockstar maps yet. America has won the war and is now in an economical boom and Los Angeles is the epicentre of it all with Hollywood starting to shine and the dollar bills in their prime however the city is sick and corrupted to the very core.
The city looks amazing and is very big. Again, this is one of Rockstar’s biggest maps yet (with GTA San Andreas the biggest). There are no freeways yet because they weren’t built at the time, so you will have to drive great distances at times. However if you don’t feel like driving you can ask your partner to drive which will skip you to your destination. The city is aesthetically pleasing and all the major land marks are there and can be explored and are actually important and not just there for show. We wouldn’t mind if they were just for show because they do well as eye candy alone. Since they have a purpose that makes them even better right? Right.
The city visually looks beautiful, but what lurks in the corners and behind the façades of wealth and power is plain sickness. The crimes and criminals are just sick. You will encounter paedophiles and a variety of sickos in your journey through L.A. Hollywood is the worst attracting young girls with stars in their eyes who are taken advantage of by film-makers and so on.
The sounds of the city and the score are great. Really the soundtrack just fits so well and the dialogue audio is great as we will get to a bit further down.
The streets are decorated with many cars that can be commandeered if the need arises. They all look and handle great. More importantly is that when on your way about town getting from point A to B during your investigation the scanner will go off informing all units of crimes taking place. These are street crimes. There are a total of 40 and are actually small missions on their own and are great at varying the pace of the game. My only gripe with them is that they are usually far from your location which results in you driving half way across Los Angeles to deal with what could be chasing suspects that robbed a store. It would make sense if they happened or were triggered when you were in close proximity to the location.
The Brutal Reality Of It All:
You better have a strong stomach if you play L.A Noire. Unfortunately kluch the only boobies you will be seeing are dead boobies. Yes some victims will be nude and fully nude as in pubic hair and all, that however is not what you need the strong stomach for because you will encounter a killer (or killers) that imitates (or are, you find out) the Black Dahlia. A serial killer that murdered woman by strangling them and then mutilating them to an extent. It gets gruesome and when you are on the arson desk it is worse. The brutality of it all actually makes you want to find the killer. Also this is the 1940’s. People weren’t too worried about finger prints, DNA, HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis, etc. so when you inspect evidence especially victims you will be getting your hands dirty literally. When examining a victim’s head and you turn it to the side if the neck is broken you will hear the sickening crack. It is amazing really all the detail.
The gore, general sickness of crime-scenes and crimes aren’t the only things that are brutally real. The corruption hits very close to home and just shows what it can end up doing.
L.A Noire is long. I honestly thought it was going to end after homicide, but that is because I have become accustomed to the short games of the modern era. L.A Noire is pleasantly long and will keep you entertained for at least 25-30 hours which is the length of a season of a TV series.
They Won’t Answer If You Don’t Ask:
The pace and combinations of gameplay aspects are done well in L.A Noire. L.A Noire is more focused on the story and investigation aspects of gameplay, but there are still shoot-outs, car chases, and a few other breaks from the investigative routine. Most Rockstar published games pride themselves on one aspect, the combat.
In L.A Noire the prized aspect is when you pull out your notebook and question a suspect. You have 3 options truth, doubt and lie. Don’t fall into the old trap, as I did the first time I played, of checking your cellphone for messages or getting something from the other side of the room whilst there is a cut scene with dialogue in it because you will have to pay close attention to the faces and body language of characters. L.A Noire uses a new motion capture technology for characters. More on that below.
In the early cases, the game seems to have training wheels on and as a result, they can feel narrow and artificial. for instance, at a certain point in the beginning, you need to get a confession from a suspect. If you mess up the interrogation (as I did), the suspect will dismiss you, at which point your commanding officer will tell you to get back in there and get a confession out of the suspect, starting the whole thing over. It’s also very obvious early on when a suspect or witness is not being entirely honest, as he or she makes an exaggerated show of looking nervous or shifty eyed. But once the training wheels come off, the process gets a lot more interesting. It becomes entirely possible to miss vital clues at crime scenes or fail to get important information from a witness and to progress through a case, and suspects behave more naturally, which makes them tougher to read.
L.A. Noire employs a ground-breaking new performance-scanning technology called MotionScan, which utilizes 32 high-definition cameras to capture actors’ faces in 3D, transferring every aspect of their performance into the game, enabling players for the first time to lip-read in-game characters and to read every facial expression down to the finest detail. This will play a vital role when questioning and interrogating suspects.
This has never been done in a game before and even though there may be games out there that make the view out of your window look like bad graphics I wouldn’t trade the result of the motion capture for anything in the world. Never before have I seen throat muscles clench when speech is stopped abruptly to avoid saying too much, nor have I seen an Adam’s apple move so realistically. You can’t grade L.A Noire on voice acting because there isn’t any. These are performances. It really is amazing and is a key tool in determining whether a suspect or witness is lying or telling the truth.
L.A Noire attracted many a famous face, this could be credited to MotionScan which allows actors to perform just as they would in a theatre. The game’s creators had this to say about the technology:
This allowed the actors to perform directly into the video game without any level of interpretation.
L.A Noire and its MotionScan technology is seen by actors and many others as a way into games literally and figuratively for actors.
A lot of the actors we used are TV regulars … They just see video games as another thread to their career. They can do film, they can do television, they can do theatre, and they can now do video games. So from their point of view, I think that’s liberating. It opens up all sorts of new avenues too. And the beauty of the technology we employed with LA Noire is that it’s pure acting.
The facial expressions are real and look great. It will be difficult to play other games even other games with better graphics. The performances on a whole are outstanding. Due to MotionScan the in-game characters look like their real-life counter parts.
The acting is A-grade and the script the same. There is some killer dialogue in L.A Noire. From this aspect alone L.A Noire blurred the lines of film and game.
IMBD obviously has no idea what was involved in L.A Noire and has all the actors listed as “voice”. Unfortunate, but still it is a list of all the actors that performed in L.A Noire. Take a look if you are interested.
The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword:
The notebook is more important in this game than the gun.
L.A Noire is a game that forces the player to think. You will keep notes on everything you come across from evidence, clues, information on persons of interest, locations, basically everything regarding the case at hand. When questioning a person of interest or interrogating a suspect all questions will be selected from the notebook. Using nothing but your skills of observation and your perception you will have to decide whether a suspect is telling the truth or lying. You can select the doubt option if you know they are lying, but lack the evidence. If you accuse a suspect of straight out lying you will have to provide proof and you can go straight to your trusty note book and lay it at them. The line between lie and doubt are paper thin and many a great person (me and Dean) have messed up quite spectacularly in some questionings and interrogations.
L.A Noire is tough. Some assistance can be gained through the use of intuition points earned form ranking up to remove an answer from a question, ask the community through the Social Club (L.A Noire online community) or show all clues at a crime scene.
We advise that you be weary of the doubt button as summed up here.
Every City Has Its Troubles:
L.A Noire is not perfect.
There are some small things that are a little irritating.
Above we mentioned that Dean and I have messed up spectacularly in some interrogations, well you see the thing is, no matter how badly you mess up you never get a game over screen. This is where the double edged sword comes in with the film-game genre. The only time you will get a game over screen is if you die or if you lose a suspect in a chase. Basically what I am trying to say is that no matter how bad a detective you are or if you make a colossal mess up you will still pass the case and move onto the next. This is to keep the flow of the game. You will just get shat on by the Captain or Lieutenant and get a bad rating for the case, but the case will still be passed. To be honest it is a positive and a negative. It is definitely a positive for casual gamers just interested in the story, others may see it as cheating or cheap. What is your take? Drop a comment below.
Another gripe I had were the shooting controls. On the PS3 it was L2 to aim and R2 to shoot. Now in a fire fight you will be running to cover often, the thing is R2 is also to run which means you have to release L2 and R2 and then press R2 to run which is tricky at first, but you can get used to it. A bit silly in my opinion. I have no other gripes with the controls yes they are simple and that doesn’t take away from the experience one bit.
The other problem I had was visual problems (not my eyesight). Some surfaces where very blocky (as in 8bit blocks like when zooming or enlarging a picture too much) and clunky at close which is bad because you are constantly examining objects closely. It is with only a few objects but it is still bad, I have experienced the pop-up effect where billboards or structures only pop up when you are right in-front of them. I must admit that it was only on a few occasions. The worst and most constant flaw were the pedestrians. I don’t know how to describe it, but when you are driving they can seem (as the surfaces) very blockey and move as if they are lagging.
The Small Touches and Undertones Are What Make It
Usually it’s the small things, the little touches that make something special. That is the case with L.A Noire.
- The way the text in the notebook looks hand written
- the sketches of objects and people in the notebook
- The detail in the city
- the trolley cars
- the cars
- the street crimes
- the way the sign saying stop and go flip in and out of the traffic lights.
- the facial details
- the Hollywood sign still reading Hollywoodland
- being able to get a shotgun out of the trunk
To name a few off the top of my head.
Throughout the game the main theme is corruption and how corruption prevents what is right from happening, but throughout the game there are also undertones that are quite powerful such as forgetting returning soldiers and not providing them the care they need after fighting a war they did not ask for as well as the mindsets of people in the armed forces. Phelps gets looked down upon by many soldiers because he respects and shows sympathy towards the Japanese and explains that Japan attacked America only because America cut off their oil supply not because they hate America and Americans as other soldiers would believe. Racism and how every man no matter how great has his demons and faults. If all these aspects are put together the entire game is actually one of atonement and if interpreted how intended it is almost as powerful as Heavy Rain especially at the end.
The majority are wallpaper sized enjoy.
End Of Case Report:
L.A Noire was a very memorable experience for me. I will remember it more than I will remember Heavy Rain. It may not be as emotionally gripping as Heavy Rain, but as I have said above it delivers in other aspects. Everyone should own this game, if not then at least play it to completion. L.A Noire is special and…just play the damn game. 3322 words are not enough to describe this game. It really touched me and I enjoyed it. L.A Noire is a break from the tsunami of shallow games we have gotten over the years. I would even go so far to say it is a contender for game of the year.