Rookie Phelps taking on his first case.
You may be familiar with L.A. Noire from the ubiquitous “Press X to Doubt” meme, but it’s no secret that the game itself is a cinematic masterpiece and was a frontrunner in gaming when it was initially released in 2011. L.A Noire pioneered its state-of-the-art motion capturing technology and changed the graphics scene in modern gaming. In addition, the game boasted with Hollywood stars and a 1940’s Los Angeles ambience. Needless to say, L.A. Noire was one of its kind when it came out nine years ago. But does the game still hold its charm all these years later?
In the summer of 2019 I completed the PS4 remastered version of L.A. Noire out of curiosity. The game is an action-adventure-detective game set in the ‘40s Los Angeles, starring the rookie cop Cole Phelps as he climbs up LAPD police department bureaus (Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson). Phelps and his partner, unique to each department, must solve each case to advance in the game. The nature of cases depends on the police department starting from petty misdemeanors to more serious, brutal crimes. Cases are rated from one to five stars depending on how accurately the player has solved the crime. There are a total of 26 cases including previous DLCs in the remastered version.
L.A. Noire’s specialty is the suspect interrogation mechanic. Phelps must successfully interrogate suspects and witnesses to accuse the correct culprit. Based on the suspects’ and witnesses’ responses, Phelps must either believe or doubt them or accuse them of lying. The proof of lying is gained by finding enough evidence.
In the 2017 remastered version, Phelps no longer “doubts”, but becomes a bad cop instead.
L.A. Noire has a huge open world in which the player can roam around. “The Streets of L.A.” mode offers optional, storyline unrelated side-quests varying from chasing bad guys to bank robbery shoot-outs. The player can also discover famous L.A. landmarks, golden film reels and hidden vehicles.
I had mixed feelings about L.A. Noire after finishing the game. While I enjoyed playing terrifically written cases and was in awe of the game’s depiction of 40’s L.A., the gameplay wasn’t smooth at times. Especially during chases driving the vintage cars drove me crazy. Gladly for the most part you can leave the driving to your partner and also skip the chase altogether, but it takes away a lot from the gaming experience. The main characters were brilliantly crafted and acted, but the awkward motion-capturing didn’t really help with catching liars. Deducing only from suspects’ and witnesses’ facial expressions (which are sometimes extremely hard to read) isn’t an easy task. And you’re screwed if you haven’t been able to find the necessary clues, either.
On the other hand, if you’re into the hard-boiled neo-noir crime solving drama, then L.A. Noire is for you. The game is full of moral choices and political dilemmas with major plot twists. The cases other than in the Patrol department feel authentic and unique, and some are even based on true stories. Aaron Staton from Mad Men lends his looks and voice for the protagonist Cole Phelps and he really delivers.
All in all, L.A. Noire is a memorable gaming experience with a few undisputable flaws. Even with its gameplay problems L.A. Noire is a quality detective game, which I can recommend for the old Hollywood charm lovers.
Developer: Team Bondi
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release (initial): 17.5.2011 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, in November for Microsoft Windows
Release (remastered): 14.11.2017 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.A._Noire, Screenshots are from my own gameplay.
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