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L.A. Noire Review

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Developer: Team Bondi Publisher: Rockstar Games
Release Date: May 17, 2011 Available On: PS3 and Xbox 360

When you think of 1940s crime, car chases and gun fights, the cities that most likely come to mind are New York and Chicago. Los Angeles was still only the nation’s 5th largest city with a density that trailed behind all of the top 10. Just thirty years earlier, though, Los Angeles was barely on the map. The meteoric rise created opportunities for economic growth, both legal and illegal.

Where most Rockstar games focus on criminal activity, L.A. Noire has you as playing one of the good guys. Your name is Cole Phelps, a decorated war hero and veteran turned cop. You make your way up the ranks of the police force by solving crimes and impressing your superiors. It’s an interesting departure for a studio that is best known for games that let you shoot up hookers.

First off, L.A. Noire does not allow you to pull out your pistol whenever you want. You also are discouraged from running over pedestrians as it will affect your performance as a cop. This is not terribly surprising, but just be aware that even when your character pulls out his gun, shooting at a running perp will cause you to fail your mission, unless he poses an immediate threat to you.

The missions usually start with a cut-scene of the chief in your department explaining the latest case. You follow whatever leads are available, usually discovered when combing through evidence at the crime scene. It’s a little CSI at times as you examine dead murder victims lying in pose at the time of their death. Some of the images can be disturbing, so it is definitely recommended that you keep children away from the room when playing this game.

The other big part of L.A. Noire, aside from discovering evidence, is the interrogation of witnesses and suspects. Since a crime is basically a giant jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces, you need to put the puzzle together with all of the information that you can gather. While the procedure for doing this is straightforward enough, it actually proves to be quite challenging.

Interviewing people is not an easy task. Everyone seems to be looking out for their own self-interest and oftentimes that conflicts with the victim’s. As an investigator, it is your job to sift through what is fact and pure BS. After asking someone a question and hearing their response, you have the option to say they are telling the truth, doubt them, or say that they are lying. All of this has to be assumed by closely reading a person’s facial expressions and tone of voice. Pay special attention to the eyes. If they seem shifty or the person fidgets, they probably have something to hide.

There is a fine line between doubting someone and calling them a liar in this game. The first thing that you will learn is to never call someone a liar without backing it up. You need evidence to say that they are lying. However, simply doubting someone’s story is also considered incorrect by the game if you do have evidence to disprove their story. It often becomes a tricky situation when you know that someone is not telling the truth, but are unsure if the evidence you have supports that conclusion. Thankfully, you can back out of saying someone is lying after you are given a chance to look at the evidence.

Aside from the main story, L.A. Noire also has a number of side missions for you to tackle. The calls that you get over the police radio are optional, but they always seem to take place at locations far away, sometimes even on the other side of the city. I would be much more receptive towards these missions if it wasn’t such a hassle to reach them. A lot of them involve domestic disputes, bank robberies or other common calls that a police officer would get in a city.

The menu system is pretty sleek and innovative in its own way. When you press the Select button on PS3, you go to a police notepad where you can look at notes on the case, get background on people, select a location to add to your mini-map, use intuition points (these include elimination of answers and a community answer feature that gives the percent of players that selected a certain option), and learn case objectives.

As far as graphics go, L.A. Noire stands out as one of the best looking open-world games on any system. The scale of the city is quite amazing as well, which is particularly important since Los Angeles is the epitome of urban sprawl. I encountered a minimal number of glitches and nothing that adversely affected gameplay. The city is lively, with lots of cars and pedestrians (even a streetcar system that I never realized existed). Most impressive are the facial expressions on the characters in the game.

L.A. Noire is in many ways unlike any game we have seen before. It combines the open world design of Grand Theft Auto with the investigatory elements of Heavy Rain. It is a long and entertaining experience that is made even more worthwhile with the included downloadable content in new copies of the game. Cole Phelps might not be your average Rockstar protagonist, but he is definitely one of the best. I have a feeling that we will be seeing more of L.A. Noire in the future. I for one can’t wait.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 9.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 9 out of 10
Written by Kyle Bell Write a User Review