A Compelling And Well Written Detective Game
Aside from a graphic upgrade and a few new collectables, the re-released LA Noire on Playstation 4 is virtually the exact same game as the original when it was released back on PS3. For those who have already played the original, there really isn’t anything new or different to experience here unless you haven’t played through the DLC which comes included in this package. For those who haven’t played the game, LA Noire is a fresh, original spin on the open world formula, combining realistic detective mechanics with a living, breathing world set in the late 40s.
Produced by Rockstar Games, the studio have an uncanny ability to turn games into gold after working their magic. Red Dead Redemption was a fantastic open world game when it came out and Grand Theft Auto speaks for itself in terms of quality. After seven years of development, the company obviously had a lot to live up to with their newest IP, LA Noire and in many ways they absolutely deliver a compelling and interesting game.
Most cases begin with investigating the crime scene
Set in the late 1940s, the story follows the life of war hero/LAPD star Cole Phelps after the war. The game follows a pretty standard detective story from here as Cole works his way up the ranks in the police force. Starting at the very bottom of the ladder, you really get a feel of progression as you’re given more complicated cases and you progress through the four different departments beginning with Traffic then Homicide through to Vice and eventually finishing in the Arson department.
Right from the start, it’s clear that LA Noire is unlike the other games Rockstar has made. The facial detail is astonishing and is realistically depicted throughout and although the graphical up-scaling certainly helps with this, even without the motion capture is incredibly detailed. The setting of L.A. itself is brilliantly realised too and the detail put into the world and the buildings in particular make it a joy to explore with the various streets and locales in the City Of Dreams brimming with character.
For all the great work put into world building and the graphical beauty of the 1940s, LA Noire follows a strictly linear path. Although there are opportunities to go off and explore, do street crimes and collect things, the nagging feeling that you’re supposed to be doing the cases is always felt through the intrusive UI that makes it increasingly apparent this isn’t a free roaming experience. There’s never a moment away from a case either and the only deviation from specific areas come from short car journeys between crime scenes which is a shame when you just want to take in the sights and sounds of the city. This is a real drawback to the game too and really prevents you from getting fully immersed into the game world and seeing everything the city has to offer.
Paying attention in interviews for subtle facial clues to tell whether someone is lying is crucial.
The cases themselves are excellent though and form the main bulk of the game. Every case is handled to perfection although most follow a pretty similar format. More often than not, this involves starting at the scene of a crime and looking for clues by wandering around the scene pressing X. In doing so, more locations and suspects are uncovered leading to deeper understanding of motives or murder weapons depending on what sort of clues you manage to find. Being thorough is the key to this one and unlike other games that use cut scenes as a way to break up the gameplay, the cut scenes here are really important and can actually hinder your experience if you aren’t paying attention to the intricate character motions or revealing dialogue given.
When interviewing suspects, the motion captured facial detail becomes incredibly important and you’ll find yourself staring intently at the screen during these moments trying to spot the slightest twitch or eye roll to try and suss out a lie. Interviews are handled via three buttons to press – triangle for a lie where you can pin hard evidence against what a person is saying, X for the truth and Square for a doubt. This formula sounds simple enough but as the cases progress and the numbers of suspects stack up, it becomes very difficult to work out who’s telling the truth and the consequences can mean the difference between solving and failing a case.
The World Map is large and well designed but unfortunately not explored as much as it could be
LA Noire is made slightly easier by the inclusion of ‘Intuition Points’. These can be gained by progressing up a rank by completing cases and gaining experience points through discovering landmarks around the city, finding collectables, finishing street crimes or getting questions right in interviews. These ‘Intuition Points’ can then be saved up and used during crucial interview sessions to Ask the Community which provides a percentage marker for what other players chose or removing one answer via a 50/50 gamble. This system is well implemented and breaks up some of the guesswork when you haven’t quite uncovered enough clues to nail a suspect.
Due to the intentionally slow pace of LA Noire, the action occurs in well paced sporadic bursts and it’s worth bearing in mind that this game plays as a detective title first and an open world action second. Although many fans have lamented this exclusion of action that dominate other Rockstar games, the changed emphasis actually helps LA Noire stand out from the other Rockstar titles.
Most of the action comes in sporadic bursts and is certainly an after thought in this detective game
The biggest problem with LA Noire, as seems to be the case with many of Rockstar’s titles, is the ending. Without spoiling too much, the game ends a little abruptly after a final cut scene and the inability to explore the city further after completing the main story cases is a little disappointing. All the usual Rockstar bugs come into play here too including buildings popping into view as you drive past and a few graphical glitches although recent patches have gone some way to alleviate these issues.
Overall though, LA Noire is a fantastic experience that breathes a breath of fresh air in the video game market and delivers an original and interesting game in the process. While some will dislike the decidedly slow pace and lack of action, LA Noire stands out thanks in part to its stunning aesthetic and realistic depiction of Los Angeles in the late 40s. If you played the original back on PS3 there really isn’t anything particularly new here aside from a few extra collectables and the added addition of all the DLC but there really isn’t anything quite like LA Noire out there and for that alone, the game is well worth checking out.
Verdict - 8/10