L.A. Noire takes place in 1940’s Los Angeles. Players start off as a rookie cop, Cole Phelps, who is quickly thrust into detective status. The story unfolds through Cole’s rising ranks as a detective and the cases themselves. For the most part the story is well put together and hard not to enjoy, but it does seem to falter toward the end.
The crux of the game is investigating. While Cole advances through four desks, each story essentially plays out the same. There is a mystery to solve and this is how it’s done. An early case leads Cole and his partner to investigate a bloody car left on the railroad tracks. Players can investigate the area along with interviewing some witnesses. While investigating, music plays and when Cole finds a clue the music will chime along with vibrating the controller. Once all clues are found the music will trumpet out.
The other parts of investigations are interviewing witnesses. Cole will ask questions and the witness will reply. It’s then up to the player to decide if the answer was truthful, doubtful, or a flat out lie. If presented with a lie, players must back up their accusation with evidence. But how can you tell? Rockstar put a lot of effort into the character models, facial animation, and motion capture and the results are nothing short of jaw dropping. With this in mind, witnesses’ eye rolls, smug expressions, and so forth are believable and will help players make a verdict. While getting all questions right may lead players to A, there is a B, and even a C path. All roads lead to basically the same ending to the case, but how you get there is the fun.
There are some issues though. Players will be picking up more bottles than actual clues. If the chimes only led to clues, it’d be too easy, but it would be less tedious. Another issue is that the acting is almost too good to distinguishing between right and wrong. Making players feel like a real investigator is cool, but the creators must remember that players aren’t real investigators.
Despite feelings of frustration and repetition, the acting, music, and overall style to the game is too good to pass up. Seeing the technology implemented in L.A. Noire makes one wonder how developers can use it elsewhere. Again the game isn’t perfect, but it’s a well-crafted package that both gamers and non-gamers will find it hard to put down.
Score: 4/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on August 18, 2011 via my Examiner account before the website shut down.