Review – L.A. Noire
It’s January 1947, and Cole Phelps, the protagonist of L.A. Noire, has been honorably discharged from the Marine Corps following World War II, and has moved to California to join the Los Angeles Police Department. Working as a beat cop, he finds out that L.A. isn’t as luxurious as Hollywood portrays. Wanting to do what is right and not just what is expected of him, Phelps continues to impress his superiors, including the Captain of the Homicide Department who gives him a chance of interrogating a suspect Phelps arrested earlier. Impressing the Captain, he’s promoted as a detective and gets his chance to clean up the City of Angels. And just in time, too.
L.A. Noire is reminiscent of the old adventure games. It’s all about using your brain, looking and examining clues, questioning suspects and witnesses, and slowly putting together the outcome of the story. It’s still a sandbox game in which you can drive around L.A. and solve random crimes as well as your main case, but it’s not Grand Theft Auto. The game’s setting can best be described as “1947 for Dummies.” Clothing, cars, hair styles, music, slang… everything dates back to post World War II. The best touch, though, was the constant reminders of the Black Dahlia: the January 1947 unsolved murder case of Elizabeth Short, whose body was found naked and mutilated in Leimert Park in Los Angeles.
Speaking of the Black Dahlia, L.A. Noire is not a game for children. There’s a reason why it’s rated M. Do not buy this game for your children. Get to the first couple true murder cases and you’ll know why.
This PSA has been brought to you by Level Up News. Now back to our regularly scheduled review…
One of the prominent features of L.A. Noire is a process they call MotionScan. Every character in the game has an actor that not only voiced said character, but entered a rig consisting of thirty-two high-definition cameras completely surrounding the actor and capturing their head and facial movements while voicing their lines. Over 400 actors performed for L.A. Noire whether they were a main character, had a bit part in one of the cases, or even one of the random citizens walking on the streets of L.A. But the MotionScan isn’t just used during cutscenes and interrogation scenes. Even while walking around with your partner, if they strike a conversation it’s still used.
This technology is crucial to a game like L.A. Noire since you’ll be questioning suspects and witnesses and will have to judge whether they’re telling the truth, outright lying, or you doubt them but lack the evidence to prove they’re lying. It plays out like Capcom’s Phoenix Wright series. Players will have to pay attention to the suspect’s facial movements while they respond to Phelps’ questions and while you’re deciding what response to give. If you forget what suspects have said, the game keeps a log of everything, almost like a screenplay.
The only problem with this is the vagueness between “Doubt” and “Lie.” The game grades you on selecting the right responses during questioning, so if you choose wrong you’re unable to try again unlike in other dialogue-choice games. In one case, there was a pair of self-repaired glasses in the crime scene. Later when I asked the suspect’s wife about her husband’s glasses, she said that he had left the house wearing his new glasses, not the old broken ones. Knowing this wasn’t true I selected “Lie.” What I meant to do was to say that she was lying about having a new pair of glasses seeing as the ones we found were broken, but what Phelps did was accuse her of being the murder and being with her husband when she killed him. Seriously? The only saving grace is that whatever Phelps accuses of lying, you have to prove. If you don’t have the proof, you can just hit the back button and Phelps responds with a simple “I’m sorry” and the whole thing forgotten about. Choose “Doubt” and “Lie” wisely: if you anger your suspect or witness, they will stop talking and your investigation just became harder.
Cases can be solved multiple ways, and sometimes all the clues presented at a crime scene aren’t the only clues you can find, and will steer the case in a different direction. If you also happen to fail getting a suspect to spill secrets, the game can give you a different path to follow. So take your time and take the game seriously. Some of these cases you can’t solve on the fly.
L.A. Noire isn’t just Detective Interviews 101. There’s suspect tailing involved where, like the cops of Law & Order, Phelps and his partner can tail a suspect through the streets of L.A. There’s also foot-chasing, building-hopping, and shoot-outs. And if you fail at any of these, the game will let you know. Suck at car tailing? Up will come the Fail Screen asking “Do you want to skip this part?” The suspect your chasing grabs a hostage and shoots her? Guess what, you get to start the foot chase allllllll over again.
The game does mix up the standard detective scenarios with crime reports. These are short, independent and enclosed cases that can have players either engage in brawling’s, shootings, or hostage rescues (which these can sometimes appear during your main case as well). They’re also a nice way of gaining experience points, which can also be gained during the regular cases, to unlock new outfits–which either are for show or can help Phelps’ stats like improved aiming or obtaining an Intuition Point. These points, which you can only store up to five at a time, can reveal all the clues in an area if you’re having trouble finding one, or can cross out a wrong answer when questioning a witness. In the case that a witness is indeed lying, it will also cross out most if not all of the wrong answers.
At the end of every case, the game rates your ability to respond correctly to testimonies and finding clues as well as if you damaged your car, the city properties, or any civilians along the way. If you didn’t get something right, the game will give you a hint of what you can do should you ever want to repeat the mission. There are twenty-one cases in total, not counting any downloadable content, and forty various crimes to solve throughout the city, so you won’t have to worry about beating this game in a couple hours.
L.A. Noire is a different spin on point-and-click action-adventure games. It’s a game that challenges your intellect and forces you see the big picture even before Phelps figures it out. With several more downloadable cases planned, and some that are already available from pre-orders, we can’t wait to see what Team Bondi and Rockstar have in store for us in the future and in any sequels should they choose to do so. It’s fun, it’s educational, it forces you to think. Fans of murder mysteries need to play L.A. Noire.Review - L.A. Noire,