L.A. Noire PS3 Review

It should be noted that this was a difficult game to review. Rockstar Games has always impressed with its many groundbreaking titles over the years, so it should come as no surprise that they had a hand in helping produce this innovative game from developers Team Bondi. This game, like many, is weighted down with flaws that could break other games. However, L.A. Noire doesn’t let these setbacks define it and makes sure its high points are high enough to make your overlook and even forget the bad parts. This is a rare title indeed, and it is nothing, if not imperfect, but also nothing, if not impressive.

L.A. Noire takes place in Los Angeles 1947, during the era of many old film noire detective movies and novels. This is where L.A. Noire derives its material, style, and methods in which the game is played. You play Cole Phelps, a new detective for the L.A.P.D. As Cole Phelps, you go from case to case, looking for clues and interviewing suspects and witnesses in order to solve the cases, all the while sifting through the grime that infects the L.A.P.D. It isn’t long before you realize that not everyone is a good cop within the police dept. and before you know it, Detective Phelps is knee deep in the corruption.

The first thing you will notice about L.A. Noire is how authentic the recreated city of Los Angeles looks and how realistic the citizens and characters appear. The open city sprawls out before you as you go on your way to fight crime, and right wrongs and the interactions with people seem real and genuine as you ask questions and discuss the cases. However, don’t expect a “go anywhere/do anything” time in this sprawling metropolis. Expect more of a “go anywhere/not have much to do” kind of city.  Much like the Grand Theft Auto series, the city is wide, expansive, and allows you to explore it at anytime. However, the game developers seem to have forgotten to give you much to do with it. You can take calls from the police station and go and attend to street crimes, but other than that, the city doesn’t offer much reason to explore. The street crimes themselves don’t offer much either. Most of them consist of shoot outs or running down criminals. The real game is in the story and the cases that further the plot, which is just a little disappointing when you want to explore, but you soon realize it is a waste of time other than for sightseeing.

The gameplay is something to be…admired. You have the basics you would expect from a detective game: shoot-outs with the criminals, chasing down crooks across town and across rooftops, car chases with gangsters. The shoot-outs are nothing revolutionary, but adequate and fun to participate in, especially when most of the game consists of talking and searching. Chasing down the baddies is fun at first, bad after every other suspect takes off running when you just want to ask where someone is, it starts to where on your nerves. It seems like that’s the reason you can only pull your gun in shoot-outs, because you would shoot the fourth person and onward who tried to run from you. The car chases are annoying due to the terrible driving mechanics. The driving is almost identical to Grand Theft Auto, which is fine when you’re wreaking havoc and committing crimes. However, when you are penalized for reckless driving and causing damage, the clumsy driving becomes more of a nuisance than a good time.

The true elements of gameplay come in the searching for clues around a crime scene and interviewing the witnesses and suspects. L.A. Noire takes interactive gaming to the next level as you search the crime scene for any clues that could bring you closer to catching the culprit. Many things are useless and you will find a lot of them, but there will also be many pieces of evidence that will help you in solving the cases. Most pieces of evidence can be examined by you by looking them over and seeing if you can make heads or tails of them yourself. You can also examine bodies and find documents that instantly add to your bag of helpful clues, which you can refer back to at anytime. The realistic images and people add to the already immersive detective work of scouring a crime scene for evidence.

Finding clues, however, is just the first half of a case. The other half is the interviews. This is where the incredible facial motion capture comes into play. When interviewing, you must decide whether the ones being interviewed are telling you the truth or not. You can doubt their statements, or outright tell them they are lying. Be sure you have the evidence to support your claims though, or you may not get the answers you need. The facial expressions on the interviewees are so lifelike, it is quite simple to look up and determine if they are lying or telling the truth. Others, however, are harder to read with their stoic faces and hard set features, which also shows the true impressiveness of the facial motion capture.

Don’t expect to interject your own opinions or intuition into the case, however. Though the ability to discover evidence and ask questions is impressive gameplay and helps immerse yourself in the story, it is, at the same time, restrictive in how uninvolved you are in the actual solving of cases. You can only ask questions you gain access to by specific evidence you find. You have to find the exact pieces of evidence in order to ask the right questions to solve the case. Your own thought process doesn’t really come into play, and it becomes a little frustrating, especially if you have your own ideas of what’s going on.

Sad enough, the one flaw that hits L.A. Noire the hardest is the fact that sometimes it can be booorrrring. As discussed above, the detective like gameplay makes for a very immersive game. However, games are meant to be played, and all the walking around looking for things on the ground and watching people’s facial expressions starts to wear on you after a while. Most of the cases are fun and entertaining to be a part of, but some are just bland and seem like filler to move the story along. It doesn’t help that L.A. Noire has extended cut-scenes that tend to drag you out of the gaming world and remind you that you don’t have a lot of control over Detective Phelps.

L.A. Noire is tedious, repetitive, and a little boring. It’s also intriguing, immersive, enjoyable, and a blast to play. It has flaws that get on your nerves, a story that keeps you watching, and gameplay that keeps you interested and enjoying the time you spend with it. This is in no way a perfect game, but it is something that hasn’t really been done before and was done right. It’s impressive both visually and mechanically and will definitely be talked about for some time.

Score: 8 out of 10

Click here to buy L.A. Noire for PS3 at Amazon.com

About Tyler Lee

Freelance video game journalist, published author, nerd.

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