This being my first review, I decided to choose one of my all-time favourite video games to kick things off – L.A Noire. L.A Noire has been out for just over a year now but is no doubt worthy of a review on this site. Created by Rockstar and Team Bondi, the game puts you in the wing-tipped leather shoes of Cole Phelps – a beat-cop working the streets of Los Angeles in the 1940s. Quickly, however, you find yourself promoted to Detective and working on some of the most brutal crime cases imaginable (though many are based on real-life events). The magic of L.A Noire comes through its ability to deliver such gruesome events in a somewhat magical way through the sheer class of the 40s and the birth of one of the world’s greatest cities.
From speaking to friends who have played L.A Noire it is clear that opinions are divided when it comes to the storyline. This review will not contain spoilers (of course – there’s no warning!), however many seem to be dissatisfied with the way in which the game ended. Not everybody agrees with this claim though (I cried at the ending), and the only way to really see for yourself is to play through to the end. My personal opinion is that the ending was very good and paid tribute to a game of this much quality, but then the game wasn’t meant for just me and the fact that some didn’t like it suggests that it could have been better. Besides the ending, most cases (the missions that you take part in to advance the game) work on a case-by-case basis having little to do with each other, but occasionally there will be a string of cases that follow a particular criminal. There is, however, an underlying plot of corruption in the police force that will leave you making numerous friends, and numerous enemies. Unfortunately, cases do get a little repetitive after a while, but the uniqueness of the game (I can almost guarantee you will not find a game like this elsewhere) compensates for this and makes the overall experience an enjoyable one. The whole story mode takes between 25 and 30 hours to complete (making it a nice and lengthy campaign), but there is plenty more to do afterwards in the form of some terrifyingly time-consuming achievements.
L.A Noire is a step in the right direction for graphics in video games. Artistically the game looks fantastic, and it’s clear that a lot of time has been put into ensuring that the Los Angeles on your screen closely resembles the Los Angeles of the 1940s. The cars are beautiful, the buildings are stunning and the clothes are glamorous. There really is little in the way of gaming that will bring as much satisfaction as speeding down Sunset Boulevard in a shiny new Buick. What makes this (open) world so much more satisfying, though, is the incredible detail in which it has been presented. Team Bondi have really gone to town on the presentation in L.A Noire; so much so, in fact, that in order to fit all the detail into the game they were required to split it across three discs. Pretty incredible, huh? This data size probably isn’t helped by the remarkable new feature called MotionScan. This is an incredible addition to the game and the industry alike. MotionScan is the technology used to create the characters in the game. The basic idea of the system is to place a real actor (such as the lead man Aaron Staton) in a room crowded with cameras. The cameras record every single aspect of the actor’s face, the results of which are then used to create an identical character. The overall effect is an enormous benefit to the game which looks almost realistic in appearance.
L.A Noire’s style of gameplay is, as far as I’m aware, unique. The general idea besides combat and travelling is to arrive at the scene of a crime, whip out your notebook, and interrogate a suspect. This is done by scrolling down the notebook and selecting a relevant question (usually you will have a choice of one or two to begin with). Then, after examining the suspect’s response, you must choose whether to believe the person in question, doubt them, or prove they are lying (by highlighting evidence you have collected previously). This may sound boring and easy but believe me it’s neither! Yes the system gets very repetitive very quickly but the sheer difficulty of analysing a suspect’s reaction is enough to make the experience an interesting one. Seeing a bad guy get locked up because you nailed every question is gratifying. As for the aforementioned combat there are few faults. I didn’t seem to notice any serious bugs which meant for a fun (and realistic-feeling) experience with the old weapons of the 40s. Hand-to-hand combat isn’t lacking either, and although the fights have been somewhat glamourised they feel smooth and effective. I’ve already told you about the beauty of speeding around Los Angeles in an automobile, and the controls certainly do not ruin this experience. If you’re looking for a quality driving game then this is not it – the controls aren’t that of Forza or NFS. However, the chances are if you go out and buy L.A Noire you’re doing it for pretty much everything but the driving and this means that you won’t have a problem with the average-to-good driving experience.
In conclusion there are few faults with the year-old L.A Noire and I seriously recommend you go out and buy it or at least borrow it and try it out. I guarantee that if you do you will fall in love with the city and the characters and won’t be left disappointed.
Game Score: 9/10
By Lewis Manning