LA Noire

LA Noire review: Approach this game as an interactive movie, not as an open world

Rockstar Games LA Noire
  • Rockstar Games LA Noire
  • Rockstar Games LA Noire
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Facial expressions on characters are extremely convincing
  • Excellent storyline and script
  • Cutscenes leave you wanting more

Cons

  • Lack of freedom
  • Evidence gathering and action sequences can sometimes be a bit bland

Bottom Line

LA Noire is a groundbreaking game with a gripping story and beautiful presentation that should be appreciated more as an interactive movie than an open world game.

Would you buy this?

It does end up feeling like a point and click game but if players want to turn the difficulty dial up, they can always turn off the music and vibration cues in the options menu.

There are multiple ways a case can be solved; arriving at a particular location earlier may yield new sets of evidence. But more often than not the cases will conclude in the same manner. If you convict the wrong guy, you cop a verbal beating from your superior and you always have the option of restarting the mission.

The game still has replay value in that you may unlock new clues or cutscenes if you approach a case in an alternative way. Replay value is in trying to get a five star rating for every case by collecting all the available clues, getting all the right answers out of interviewees and causing minimal damage to the city.

LA Noire does try to spice things up with random car chases, some gun fights and pursue-the-fleeing-suspect type activities. But there isn’t much variety and by the end I found these interludes somewhat tedious.

I’ll admit I’m slightly bitter that I was unable to run amok in the street of LA, shooting or running down innocent bystanders because A) I can’t pull a gun out unless a certain mission allows it and B) I am the law enforcement. The damage I cause to public property and civilians will impact my performance in any given case, so there is a huge incentive to be a goody two‐shoes.

But hey, there’s always free‐roaming mode. You can’t use this mode until you have finished up in each crime division, so you will still have to go through the more restrictive main storyline at least once. But if you are craving some carnage, free‐roaming mode allows you to release your inner lunatic on the streets of 1940s LA and replay completed missions. It’s a pity there is no multiplayer component to it.

One important worth highlighting is the ability to be lazy and let your partner do the driving. This is great for saving time; the game will automatically fade out and skip straight to the destination unless there is some important banter between Phelps and his partner. The flipside is you will be less inclined to explore the beautifully crafted city.

There is an incentive to drive to places yourself: There are opportunities to tackle random street crimes, although I didn’t find them every exciting and ended up just anxious to get on with the task at hand.

A note on the whole film noir aspect of the game: Some of the cases in the beginning actually do start off with a very strong “dark cinema” influence through dramatic music with a minimalist flash of the case file name and a black and white fade-in sequence. Players are then given a glimpse at when a particular crime occurred, which leads into Phelps being assigned to investigate and the player taking control.

Halfway through the game, the “noir” theme seems to have been forgotten. LA Noire then transforms into a police drama film dealing with corruption throughout all facets of law and order. The case titles still appear but it doesn’t always jump straight into scenes that reveal how a crime was committed.

I wouldn’t say the story gets worse from that point on; in fact, the game retains a strong and engaging storyline almost up to the very end. Some plot twists are weaved in nice enough although it is hard to comment without giving out spoilers. But the sudden change of path and pace left me a bit dazed and mouthing “WTF?” to myself.

I like murder mysteries and I like police drama (although not as much) but the segue between the two was executed in a clumsy manner. The conclusion to the serial killer saga was too abrupt in my opinion.

Nonetheless, I was sucked into the story by well‐placed flashbacks slowly unravelling Phelp’s dark past and newspapers triggering cutscenes that reveals the back story of a crime central to the plot. For those expecting a detective game with unlimited possibilities and ways to solve crimes, bitter disappointment awaits.

But what LA Noire can offer is a glimpse into the future of gaming. It has set a benchmark for game developers to aim for and to supersede. If LA Noire succeeds as a wonderfully well‐made interactive movie now, just think of what the gaming industry will come up with in the next few years.

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