Developer: Team Bondi
Review Date: May 2011
Reviewer: Michael Riling
While many people might know Rockstar Games
because of the popular Grand Theft Auto series, people expecting a 1940s
GTA will be disappointed. This game is not the type of game to play for
someone who wants to cause mass mayhem and destruction. Rather, LA Noire puts
the player in control of police officer (and later detective) Cole
Phelps. As a good cop and member of law enforcement, you are about
stopping crimes, catching crooks, and getting confessions; because of
this, one could say the game is quite the opposite of the GTA series.
LA Noire takes place in 1940s Los Angles and the city has been built
from top to bottom to be as accurate as possible using historical
records. The world is not the only thing that looks amazingly accurate
since LA Noire uses a new technology called MotionScan, which uses 32
cameras to accurately copy the actors' facial expressions down to the
tiniest detail. As I played through the game, each character's face
looked surprisingly lifelike, something that is especially useful for
the interrogations that will be discussed later. Every face in the game
looks lifelike ranging from minor civilians that are just there to fill
the city of Los Angles to major players in each case. Graphically
speaking, the game is a new step forward in gaming technology.
However, a game can't function on graphics alone and LA Noire realizes
this and gives not only beautiful graphics but a deep and entertaining
game play. Again, I will reiterate that this game is not for people who
want a massive action game. LA Noire's main selling points are its
story, characters, and mind challenging cases. As a detective most your
time isn't spent shooting and being engaged in high speed care chases
(though both do happen from time to time). Most of Cole Phelp's time is
instead spent investigating crime scenes, questioning suspects, and
driving from location to location to find clues and chase down fleeing
suspects. This is where the game really shines. As you go to each crime
scene, you can interact with almost anything including useless things
that will not help you in the case. Not every clue is needed to solve
the crime and each crime can end in different ways. However, if you want
to be positive you got the right person, you will want to gather as many
clues as possible and navigate through the maze of lies and half-truths
that criminals will tell you. In one case, I remember chasing one
suspect all over just to learn that the person was framed. Had I jumped
right on the person with just the evidence at the crime scene I'd have
arrested an innocent man.
The games difficulty level ranges depending on various factors. Early
tutorial cases are understandable easy since the goal is to teach you
how to investigate, examine evidence, and interrogate suspects, however,
once the tutorial ends its all down to how skilled the player is at
finding evidence, piecing together clues, and detecting lies. Even as a
criminal justice student, quite a few cases surprised me and I was not
always right about telling when someone was lying and when they were
telling the truth. The investigation system is simple in its own right,
you wander around the crime scene searching for clues, trying to
distinguish what is a clue, and what is simply trash. The evidence you
gather while investigating will help you tell when a suspect is lying or
when they are being honest when you interrogate them. Interrogating the
suspect is a bit more complex. You will be able to ask various questions
based on evidence gathered and with each answer, you will have to guess
one of three options: truth, doubt, and lie. If you select truth, you
believe the person and give a kind reply trying to encourage more
information. Lie means you will accuse them of lying and will have to
present evidence. Doubt means you suspect they are lying, but have no
proof and will give an aggressive response to demand information. Each
suspect will react different to various feedback and it is up to the
player to try and get into the character's mind and figure out how to
get the information they know.
No case is “unsolvable”, you will always arrest somebody, but how well
you do will determine your evaluation at the end of each case and if you
catch the right person. Play the case incorrectly and you could end up
throwing an innocent person in jail and not even know it.
While not primarily an action game, the game, like any detective movie,
isn't without its action scenes. The game flows between the
above-mentioned investigation, interrogation, and the occasional action
scene where you could be in a gunfight with a suspect, chase them down
on foot, or even a care chase through the streets of Los Angles.
The game is single-player only and rated M for almost everything. This
game is very realistic and as such you will at sometime come across very
twisted scenes. Naked corpses, mutilated bodies, child molesters, serial
killers, and more are all types of things you will encounter so players
need to be aware that these things are in the game. This game definitely
pushes the M rating and as such isn't meant for young children.
The game features four categories that each have a list of cases for you
to solve and each case can be replayed to try out different options,
look for clues you've missed, and question witnesses you missed. Cole
Phelps starts out as a patrol officer (the tutorial) and then moves on
through traffic crimes, homicide, vice, and eventually arson before the
story is over. Aside from those case files, the game also occasionally
will give you the option while driving around Los Angles to respond to
dispatch calls where things ranging from bank robberies to gang wars are
taking place. Between all the cases, the dispatch calls, exploring Los
Angles the game will keep a player occupied and entertained for quite
sometime. However, it does lack replay value beyond repeating cases to
try out new options and aim for higher evaluation scores.
Another problem I had with the game was the inability to save at will.
The game has one save file and it saves every so often at random times.
While I understand, the goal is to cause players to actually have
consequences for their actions since they cannot just restart and pick a
new option it is a pain at times when you want to leave and have to
wander around waiting for the little saving icon to appear down at the
bottom. The single save state is also a pain if you have family members
or roommates who would want to play the game because it means either
they do some of your cases or they can't play.
The games controls handle almost perfectly. There were very few
occasions where Phelps didn't do exactly what I wanted him to do.
Driving was a bit more complex because the cars are very sensitive so
until I got used to it I was all over the road. The shooting and cover
system works wonders and I could always duck behind cover, peak out to
aim a shot, then pop out and fire accurately.
The soundtrack for the game is amazingly done and sounds exactly like
what you would expect from a Noir film. The music on the radio, the
background music, and the small mysterious musical chimes the game gives
you when you make a correct action or find evidence fits in nicely and
helps add to the feel of the game. The music really helped add to the
dramatic moments in cases where I'd be investigating a bloody crime
scene in a dark ally and would hear the occasional mysterious tone to
add emotion to the scene.
Overall if you are a gamer who is looking for a game that requires
thinking, investigating, and crime solving this is the game for you. The
well-written cases and deep investigations will appeal to those who like
those things. If you are a player who loves graphics and innovation then
this is also the game for you since the game does something that is
surprising nowadays and creates a one-of-a-kind game that no other game
I'm aware of has done before. However, if you are a player looking for
an action game you'll want to skip this one or maybe rent it.