Published on May 16th, 2011 | by Kyle Spencer, Editor
L.A. Noire Review
Developer: Rockstar Games / Team Bondi
Platform: PlayStation 3 , Xbox 360 [Reviewed]
Release: May 17, 2011
Rockstar has been a powerhouse development team for a number of years. From their ever-so-popular Grand Theft Auto to the Red Dead franchises, there is no question that an ambitious new IP would not be far out of their reach. With help from Team Bondi, Rockstar has put together a crime drama that rivals many Hollywood feature films. L.A. Noire reminds me of a video game version of movies like L.A. Confidential, with a unique twist. From upgrades to technology, and the new improved motion scan system, L.A. Noire is an experience. Even though there are some minor technical flaws, Rockstar and Team Bondi are flexing their muscles with this new IP.
You assume the role of detective Cole Phelps in a very detailed and vivid depiction of 1947 Los Angeles. Cole is a veteran war hero who turned cop. You will be taken case by case as Cole works his way through street cop, narcotics, homicide, and vice ranks, to becoming one of the best hard hitting detectives in L.A. You then are thrown under the bus that will throw Cole’s life into a spiral by his own superiors.
How does L.A. Noire differ from other detective games in the gaming world? For starters there isn’t very many at all, but the technology and attention to detail that Rockstar puts behind every one of its titles is ground breaking. In Noire, they used a new motion cap technology that allows the team to track every muscle, bone and skin feature on every one of their actors. The Cole Phelps that you play in the game is a real actor, played by non-other than Aaron Staton from AMC’s Mad Men. From the facial features to body type, every detail is mapped. Expressions on the faces of the characters is remarkable, and that further intensifies the relationship that you obtain with the characters in the game. You feel the intensity and emotions that Phelps goes through, and he does have a troubled past. He is a war hero after all.
The gameplay is where L.A. Noire surprised me. I was expecting a mix between Grand Theft Auto and Mafia II, but was welcomed in with a sweet variety of both. You play the game as if you were a detective day by day. Cole wakes up in the morning, heads to work, receives a case and you would then have to drive to the scene of the crime, examine the crime scene and search for evidence, and check out the body if necessary. However these aren’t the most lavishing parts of the game. The fun comes from interrogations and witness interviews. You have to examine the characters facial expressions to try and get a feel of whether that person is lying to you or not. Ultimately, in the end, you get to the same outcome, regardless if you are able to detect the dishonesty or not. It just will take you longer and your captain will be less than satisfied with your performance.
You are given a notebook where you can track all the evidence you find case by case to help back up your story. If you call a suspect out on dishonesty you will have to provide the evidence that links that suspect to the claim. As you climb the ladder in the LAPD you will earn points that can be used to help you solve cases a bit easier by revealing clues at the crime scenes or allow you to ask a witness or suspect a question with a different approach, that way it helps you from getting in trouble with your superiors.
One strong pull away from Noire is that Rockstar took a different approach to its sandbox kind of game. Many people will look at this game and say “oh, another GTA,” but in fact it plays a bit more like the Godfather or Mafia franchises. The open world aspects have been reduced to a couple of side quests where as a majority of Noire is its main story mission. So if you like free roaming games with a ton of side options you may be a bit disappointed. You can visit historical landmarks in the city and respond to a few crimes that come across your CB, but overall it is focused largely on the main story. The story itself is deeply compelling and will take you 30 plus hours to complete.
Graphically the game is beautiful. From the large amount of detail and character fluidity, Rockstar has achieved greatness yet again in this department. The animations and voice acting seem almost flawless, and make the player feel like he is playing through an episode of Mad Men.
The pacing of Noire is flawless. Not once did I find myself asking “why am I doing this?” or “I have to do this again?” You will run into occasional military flashback from his war in japan, or you’ll get a glimpse into Cole’s personal life, outside of the station. The depth is amazing and I like seeing these moments because it grows upon the relationship that you already have with that character.
The only gripe that I have with L.A. Noire is the clunky shooting system. I feel that they could have benefited from acquiring the shooting controls from the likes of Red Dead Redemption. Driving was also a pain in typical GTA fashion, but thankfully you will not spend 50 percent of your time driving in your car.
L.A. Noire is a game of the year contender from the start. The game redefines the genre and breaks new barriers with ground-breaking technology. The story is engrossing and will leave you wanting more and more. Think of it as a great television show that leaves you wondering what will happen next week. L.A. Noire is like an awesome series with two seasons crunched into a video game. Is there room for DLC or possibly a sequel? It’s Rockstar, so, yes. DLC will be instrumental in the future of Noire but for now I am thoroughly happy with what’s already in the box.
[xrr label=”Rating: 9.5/10″ rating=9.5/10]
+ Immersive storyline.
+ Strong bond with character.
+ Impressive graphics.
+ Incredible motion cap technology.
– Clunky gunplay.
– Driving mechanics.