Review – L.A. Noire

Team Bondi and Rockstar Games teamed up to bring the LAPD thriller L.A. Noire to console and PC gamers everywhere. Did they close the case, or are they guilty of wasting our time? Read our review to find out.

The year is 1947. World War II has just come to a close, and life in America is happy and carefree. Young people from all over the country are streaming into Los Angeles to try and make it big on the silver screen. The City of Angels seems like a Utopian Society where everyone is somebody and everyone is successful. What goes on behind the scenes, in the dark underbelly of this society, is far from Utopian. Murder, larceny, arson, serial killers, pedophiles. What it needs is a good cop to come along and help clean up this mess. It needs a hero to right the wrongs of this dark and seedy world. It needs someone who can see through the BS and know who is being truthful and who is lying through their teeth. The City of Angels needs you. The game is rated M, and we strongly recommend you DO NOT buy this for your kids. Think raped and murdered naked female corpses lying around.

You play as Cole Phelps. A G.I. who was given a Silver Star for bravery, even though he doesn’t feel worthy of it. He enlists into the Los Angeles Police Department as a beat cop, with ambitions of moving up the ranks towards a top investigator. Through flashbacks that usually occur between cases, you’ll be given bits and pieces of what happened to Cole while overseas, and you may start to understand the man he has become. There are several underlying story lines going on at once, but we don’t want to say anything that might take away from the overall experience of the game.

Candy Evans Case File

Game play itself consists of investigating crime scenes, identifying persons of interest (P.O.I.), and interrogating these P.O.I. both at the crime scenes, and downtown when warranted. Investigating the crime scenes will have you going over an area with a fine tooth comb. Not everything found will pertain to the case at hand, but it’s best to leave no stone unturned. Examining bodies in murder cases is paramount, as their remains will hold keys to who their murderer may be, and also holds clues as to who the murdered person was in life.

Rookie Beat Cop in his First Interrogation

Identifying P.O.I. usually starts out simple. Close relatives such as husband, wife, brother, or sister are a great place to start. The game uses true to life criminal investigation strategies. While investigating close relatives, their homes can also hold clues to the crime, so searching a house before questioning anyone is always best. Questioning these P.O.I. is where this game goes above and beyond any game similar to it. Facial motion capturing using thirty two cameras at once, allowed the developers to create facial animations that are so true to life, you can ‘read’ their faces and gestures to know when they are feeding you a line of BS. From a slight glance to the left, or to a knowing grin, this reading of the P.O.I. becomes your main goal while in interrogation. You may find yourself paying more attention to what they are doing, than what they are actually saying. This is fine, since a transcript of the interview is always just a button press away. If you are stumped, you’ll be earning Intuition Points that can be spent to assist you in what your next move should be.

Behind the Scenes: Facial Motion Capturing

Also included in the game play is a cover system for when the talking is over, and the shootout is the only option. While in cover you can use blind fire, or pop out and shoot. The weapons in the game are standard for a game of this era. Tommy Guns, .45 APC pistols, revolvers, shotguns, and the BAR are all efficient enough and get the job done. The firefights aren’t exactly equal to a good third person shooter like Uncharted or SOCOM 4, but that really isn’t the focus of L.A. Noire. The firefights do accomplish enough to make them entertaining and add just enough to the overall playability of the title to make it fun.

As a cop, sometimes tailing a P.O.I. will be key to discovering other clues. Going Incognito enters the game here. Whether it’s sitting in a booth at a restaurant and hiding behind a newspaper, or following a POI on foot, the mode takes a little patience. The cover system is used in this mode as well. It’s effective but occasionally frustrating. Trying to move from cover to cover doesn’t always work as planned and being spotted will take you back to the last checkpoint. Following someone in a car is less frustrating and fairly simple. A map in the lower left hand corner shows you their location, and if their icon starts blinking then you are too far away from them.

As a cop, you’ll be partnered up with different characters throughout your career. All of them seem cold and look down at you at first, but they usually warm up to you as you progress along. Driving around in cars felt pretty generic, but there is something new we hadn’t experienced in an open world game such as this before. Since you are almost always partnered up, you can let them get behind the wheel of the car and basically skip to your next destination. No need to memorize the city map, since your partner has already done that for you. This makes travel time in the game non-existent, and really speeds up the story. There are a few times where the discussion between yourself and your partner is key to the storyline, so skipping at that point isn’t allowed.

You Do the Talking While Your Partner Watches

The only problem we had with this game was the overall graphics quality. While the animations are considerably better than anything we have seen to date, the graphics quality left us wanting more. This generation of gaming has been all about high definition, and L.A. Noire just didn’t quit hit the mark there. The game doesn’t look bad, by no means, but it doesn’t measure up to games like Uncharted, Shift 2 Unleashed, or Call of Duty: Black Ops.

The music for the game is movie quality and could probably be used in any movie from that era. While at a crime scene, the music will play until you’ve found all of the clues for that given scene, and the silence lets you know it’s time to move on.

The game released with DLC readily available. This should add to the longevity and replayability of the game. If you are driving your car to a destination, keep an ear out for side cases that will come up. These are street crimes in progress that you can head to and take control of. There are also collectibles in the game. There are 13 newspapers placed throughout each level, and each one will unlock a cut scene that will add to the storyline. There are 50 golden film reels and 30 landmarks to locate. As a pre-order bonus from GameStop, some copies of the game came with 35mm negatives that show you where to find 20 police badges, We scanned these negatives and made them visible to all in another post.

Team Bondi and Rockstar games came together to create a remarkable game. The storyline is worthy of a blockbuster movie, and the twists and turns will keep you on your toes.

The City of Angels needs a hero. That hero needs to be you.