It’s a little late, but late is better then never right? So rare have we seen video games explore the dark sides of the field of criminal justice and even more so in the time period of the 1940s. However, thanks to Rockstar Games, both areas collide to bring us LA Noire. LA Noire takes an ambitious step with new technology and film style to bridge the gap between realism and fantasy in this industry. Is it a step in the right direction, or is the game headed straight for the morgue? I decided to take a look into LA Noire to find out, read more below!
You play as Cole Phelps, a celebrated war hero with a keen sense of direction and an eye for detail. After coming home from the war, a few medals earned him a spot in the traffic division of the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department), however, its not long before you join the ranks of the Homicide department and become a Detective on your first case. You’ll start off with a few feeler traffic cases to get your feet wet before a series of murders has the game placing you on the trail of a serial killer. Finally the game takes you on a roller coaster of twists and turns in the story as you start following up on drug rings and scandals towards the final acts of the game. There are other plot threads lying underneath as well that try too filling in rest of the story. You’ll find yourself engaged in frequent flashbacks to Phelps’ past in the war as well as you’ll find newspapers lying around the ground pertaining too certain events going on independently of your investigations. The game isn’t without its fair share of drama, as you’ll find yourself in all kinds of twists; cops aren’t always on the same side, search warrants are given out like candy and even racial tensions are over the scale. It certainly doesn’t shy away from the harsh topics even with a linear script.
Although the game is free roaming, there is still a set of “rules” barring how you go about roaming around. You unfortunately can’t draw your gun in public you are a man in blue, so any wild driving like running over pedestrians and causing trouble will be marked down on your case reports. All of the firefights, fisticuffs and driving chases are all but reserved for when the game mandates it. With a linear story, the cases are presented as such though there is a bit of room as to how you approach your locations you have too scout and witnesses you interrogate. After each investigation you’re given a rating based on the clues you collected and how well you conducted your interviews. Once you finish each case you can go back and replay them to get a higher rating, which there is an achievement for. You are awarded for your efforts as you rank up with intuition points for investigations as well as new uniform choices to play around with. Outside of that you have over 30 landmarks to find, about 90 vehicles to find, and finally over 40 short street crime side missions to tackle if you want a break from the main case. If you need help you can bring up Phelps’ notebook, which has everything from clues to locations and your current objectives. Although there is no surprise here that there isn’t any multiplayer, despite that you do play with a partner, unfortunately as the opportunity for co-op isn’t realized.
If you’re used to playing open world games going guns blazing, then LA Noire isn’t for you. Unfortunately, you’re stuck being the good guy in this one; however, the gameplay does leave you with options to spread your wings a bit. If you played GTA 4 you’ll notice the gun gameplay and generous auto-lock and cover mechanics are back. So, unless you travel to more of the side missions, the gun-play is pretty standard till the final acts. Other then that, you’ll be chasing suspects on foot, and by shooting them down by car. The biggest hurdles though aside from the fences are trying to line Phelps up at times to discover new clues. Although LA was never as huge as it is now, it’ll still take you a good few minutes to get from one side of the map to the other. Using the map, you can elect to let your partner take the wheel for quicker routes. So, while the main mechanics of the game have their limitations, it’s good to note that the major parts of the game is ironed out in your investigations and this is where the dirty work is. Each act is set up where you receive a case from your superiors and set off to the crime scene. Once you arrive you have to search for clues indicated by the rumble of your controller. Specific items can be rotated to find hidden clues and sometimes even new objectives. After that you can search any bodies lying around which will normally give you your first leave, just make sure you don’t forget to search their pockets. The final step is questioning any potential witnesses for their statement and interrogating them to find out what they know or saw that will lead you to suspects.
Once you’re in the groove talking to suspects or witnesses, you have to determine if they are telling the truth, being suspicious or just lying. If you choose the lie, you have to make sure you have evidence to back you up; otherwise you’ll loose a potential break in the case that’ll lead up to an arrest. Finally, you can use intuition points to help in breaking down the interrogation to discover what answer you should go for.
The incredible introduction of the Facial Capture technology helps to make it easier in determining witnesses’ stories. The amazing detail in facial expressions and graphics alone in the game make you fee like you’re right in the time period or watching a detective film from the era. All in all, Rockstar has made LA Noire as authentic as possible and succeeded. The presentation is top notch and deserves every amount of praise it gets. You’ll spend most of the time just watching and interacting, which is fun, as the main gameplay does get rather repetitive after a while. The musical work in the game is outstanding as well as the voice over work. Every once in a while you’ll encounter a frame rate issues or glitches and the vehicle camera could use some work, but overall it’s an exciting experience.
Bottom Line: Despite little of its flaws, LA Noire is an excellent title to give a try if you’re into crime solving and detective work. The introduction of Facial Capture technology is a big step for the gaming industry and one that I hope is used in future games, as it makes them all the more real both in presentation and gameplay interaction. If there is one big flaw on its part, LA Noire is a bit too linear for its own good, however, that’s also its biggest strength based on the way the game and story play out in front of you.