L.A. Noire Review
Xbox 360 | PS3
L.A. Noire Box Art
System: PS3, Xbox 360
Dev: Team Bondi and Rockstar Games
Pub: Rockstar Games
Release: May 17, 2011
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Blood and Gore, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence

A good example of this comes early on in the game, when two drugged women are put in a car with its accelerator pinned to the floor. Both women survive the attempted murder, and one of them, a Sunset Blvd-esque aging actress, clearly has some deal worked out with a movie producer involved in the case. I found it hard to read her flirtatious manner and wasn't able to get much information out of her. When I eventually closed the file on the incident, that particular thread was never resolved—she was basically off the hook for whatever foul play she might have been involved in. Things don't have to work this way, and to its credit, Bondi's design forces you to start thinking like a detective. (You can also use "intuition" hints, handed out as prizes, essentially, for a good day's work, but your allowance of these is limited.)

L.A. Noire Screenshot

There are some other gameplay elements to L.A. Noire besides just the detective work. Suspects, whether guilty or not, almost always run, providing a bevy of on-foot and behind-the-wheel chases. And you'll even get into shootouts with thugs and gangsters from time to time. Still, this isn't an action game. Use of weaponry is entirely contextual, and you can't pull your piece unless the story dictates it. The slow, methodical pacing here won't appeal to everyone, though that doesn't keep Noire from feeling fresh. Games that make you put all the puzzle pieces together yourself (I recommend you turn off the hint cues for crime scene investigation) aren't exactly a dime a dozen these days. It's a rewarding difference that keeps the game from being just another action game.

L.A. Noire is still not without its problems. It seems silly that just about every suspect you try to interrogate runs, even when there's no clear link between them and whatever crime you're investigating. If you ask questions out of order in Phelps' notebook, continuity issues may crop up. (Sometimes things are discussed that would normally not have been brought up yet.) It can also be very difficult to know how to approach a suspect during questioning. With only the seemingly clear-cut choices of "Truth," "Doubt," and "Lie," Phelps' method isn't always going to be easy to work with. Though you'll get used to it over time, it would have been nicer to see a system with slightly more nuance. Noir purists may also argue that the game's focus, which has much less of a psychological bent, may not feel as pulpy as it should.

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In the game's defense, Bondi's depiction of the genre skews for realism and style, despite the requisite imagery, themes, and the great pulpy dialogue that's peppered throughout the script. The tension bubbling below post-war America's pristine and prosperous image is here in full force, though. If you're looking for desperation, violence, unrest and depravity, it's often etched right the faces of the witnesses you'll be questioning throughout the game. Los Angeles is the perfect playground for all the freaks, creeps, thugs, and murderers you could want to see in a morally ambiguous game, and Noire doesn't pull any punches with its blunt and often graphic depiction. L.A. Noire isn't a perfect game, but it does represent a new benchmark both for realism in the medium as well as for the adventure genre. And at the very least, if it gets more people reading Raymond Chandler, I'm all for it.

By Steve Haske
CCC Contributing Writer

RATING OUT OF 5
RATING DESCRIPTION
4.8
Graphics
Though there are minor imperfections, L.A. Noire is to be commended for its astounding facial motion capture and depiction of 1940s Los Angeles alone. This is a gorgeous game.
3.5
Control
The controls work well, although occasional contextual-in-scene actions can be a little finicky.
5.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Hats off to the extremely talented actors and actresses who gave performances for this game. The jazz soundtrack and Chinatown-esque score are also fantastic.
4.5
Play Value
L.A. Noire caters to cerebrally-oriented players—it is a detective game, after all—but if you prefer a methodical pace, there's a lot to love here.
4.7
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
Review Rating Legend
0.1 - 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 3.5 - 3.9 = Good 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair 4.0 - 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Set amid the violence and corruption of post-war Los Angeles, L.A. Noire seamlessly blends crime-solving, clue-finding, car chases, and shoot-outs with revolutionary new interrogation-based gameplay that will allow players to read characters' emotions in order to reveal the truth.
  • Players will take on the role of Cole Phelps, a decorated World War II veteran who rises through the ranks of the LAPD, solving a series of gruesome murders and other crimes that bring him face to face with the dark heart of Los Angeles during Hollywood's Golden Age.
  • L.A. Noire employs ground-breaking new MotionScan performance-scanning technology, which utilizes thirty-two high-definition cameras to capture actors' faces in 3D, transferring every aspect of the performance into the game, enabling players for the first time to lip-read in-game characters and to read every facial expression down to the finest detail.

  • Videos / Game Trailers
    L.A. Noire - Debut In-Game Trailer - click to enlarge
    Debut In-Game Trailer
    L.A. Noire - Motion Scan Developer Diary - click to enlarge
    Motion Scan Developer Diary
    L.A. Noire - Serial Killer Trailer - click to enlarge
    Serial Killer Trailer
    L.A. Noire - GDC 2011: Naked City Trailer - click to enlarge
    GDC 2011: Naked City Trailer
    L.A. Noire - Investigation and Interrogation Trailer  - click to enlarge
    Investigation and Interrogation Trailer

    Screenshots / Images
    L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge L.A. Noire Screenshot - click to enlarge

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