If you have been following any of the big gaming sites or even mainstream media, you probably already know that L.A. Noire is receiving glowing reviews and universal praise. I decided to give it a shot and after just a couple hours with the game, I can see what all the excitement is about.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the game during its development cycle, and not a whole lot of news had come out about it to know exactly what to expect. Of course, you see the name “Rockstar” on the box art, so immediately you think of GTA and Red Dead Redemption, just in a 1940’s setting. You would be wrong. True, there are a few small elements that may loosely compare to those games, but only in the most general sense. As a quick disclaimer, I wasn’t much of a fan of any of the recent GTAs or RDR, but I am definitely a fan of L.A. Noire.
L.A. Noire is a crime solving game that is broken up into cases. The cases are nice sized chunks of game play that have a beginning and end to them, and depending on how well you do on each case determines your character’s overall progression through the ranks. As you level up, you can unlock more intuition points to help you find more clues and help you out when you get stumped.
The general case layout, at least in the first part of the game, is that you start out by investigating a crime scene, looking for clues and evidence. A big part of the game is interviewing witnesses and potential suspects, and while you are doing that, you have to try and read their facial expressions and mannerisms, then compare it to any evidence you’ve gathered to decide if they are lying or telling the truth, which drives how to proceed. The amazing part is that it actually works really, really well. L.A. Noire has some of the best “face tech” we’ve seen in games, so you really have to pay attention to interviewees.
The few items that may only slightly resemble a GTA or RDR game is the driving and combat. The combat is not a large part of the game, and your character cannot pull out a weapon at any time. There are only specific instances that fit the context where you can draw your gun, and even then, you probably don’t want to shoot if you don’t have to. The controls for that could be a bit tighter, but it’s forgivable given the fact that this game isn’t really about shooting and plays a small roll. Most of the game is looking for and examining evidence along with engaging in dialog with your partner, witnesses, suspects and other persons of interest.
The driving in the game is probably the only part I find a bit unpleasant. The amount of the city that you can travel in L.A. Noire is impressive, but I found the driving controls to be a bit too floaty. Of course, being a cop, you actually don’t want to crash into other cars or objects, and if you do it enough, it can really hurt your case “score.” Thankfully, they accounted for this, and in most cases, you can let your partner do the driving which results in what basically is “fast travel” to the destination of your choosing. I expect to let my partner do the bulk of the driving for the remainder of the game. There are some small side missions that you can take on while driving, which are radio calls requesting officers to respond to different events that you can accept or ignore, which could involve chasing down a suspect or diffusing a hostage situation.
The game’s presentation is some of the best I’ve seen. They nailed the 1940’s setting completely (or at least my perceived image of it) with sharp visuals, period specific music, top notch voice acting and great dialog. The game looks phenomenal and from what I’ve read, the PS3 version edges out the 360 version in graphical quality. Also, the PS3 version has the advantage of being contained on just one blu-ray versus three DVDs on the 360.
So if you were on the fence about L.A. Noire and are looking for a great story-driven crime game, definitely check it out. The game unfolds like a good crime drama and could definitely make for a good game to play with a significant other or friends. Working together to analyze the evidence and talk about possible motives or suspicions of lying make it an interactive game for non-players too. I’m definitely excited to dive back into the world of L.A. Noire and take on some new cases.
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