L.A. Noire Review: Detecting Greatness

Since the creation of Rockstar Games back in 1998, Take-Two Interactive has managed to develop an impressive brand of popular titles bridging from one genre to the next. Notable favorites like Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, and Red Dead Redemption went on to receive numerous accolades in technical achievement and storytelling. Even though each title offered a unique experience all it’s own, there were still noticeable similarities when it came to gameplay dynamics and structure.

With the release of L.A. Noire, Rockstar teams up with Australia based developer Team Bondi to craft a faithful recreation of premier crime cinema in painstaking detail. The end result is an engaging detective simulation experience that delineates from the normal standards and achieves success by showcasing a raw environment filled with suspense and emotion. Here are a few reasons why L.A. Noire is worth investigating further.

L.A. Noire can be best classified as an engaging 1940’s crime thriller set on the mean streets of Los Angeles, California. The presentation employs the use of stylized film noir shooting techniques to emphasize strong feelings and impactful scenes. The main protagonist of our story is LAPD officer Cole Phelps, an intelligent and grizzled war veteran hell-bent on extinguishing his dark past by exercising his civic duty to serve and protect the people. As he slowly progresses through each case, Cole is subjected to the harsh realities of corruption and crime both inside and outside the force.

While each case takes center stage, there are several flashbacks inserted as opening sequences that dive deeper into Cole’s personality and progression as a character. This idea of devising an underlying narrative provides a pivotal backstory of not only the main character, but also of where things may be heading.

Being that this is a full-fledged mystery game, there is always a healthy dose of twists and turns that will keep you guessing from beginning to end. Rank promotions are distributed with each successful number of cases solved. You start from the humble beginnings of a patrolman and eventually work you’re way up to highly decorated arson investigator.  Each promotion also raises the difficulty and skill bar accordingly, prompting the player to use skill and mastery to successfully solve a case in its entirety.

The core aesthetics of gameplay lie in the extensive setup and presentation of each case. Every murderous crime is usually briefly documented before you’re able to begin a full-scale investigation. This formula, made popular by it’s use within many modern day crime television shows and movies, immediately gets your adrenaline pumping and ready to catch the culprit at a moments notice. As you dive deeper into the case, you’ll have an opportunity to visit crime scenes and the residences of key prime suspects. There are also some puzzle mini-games included which add variety to how to solve mysteries.

One of the most stunning aspects about the crime scene portion of each case is the remarkable balance of grace and realism. There is a pulsating musical score that plays as soon as you arrive on the scene, and concludes once you have found all the evidence and clues in that specific area. By the same token, deceased victims are portrayed and explored in grotesquely realistic fashion with no disregard for censorship. The decision to keep this concept completely free of restrictions is one of the main reasons why this game is a far cry from being a GTA clone.

Another masterful aspect to gameplay is rooted in the intuitive interrogation menu that pops up while questioning suspects. You are given the option of trusting, doubting, and exposing lies against each person. Collected evidence usually plays a key role in you backing up your testimony.

However, if you do make the wrong choices, then a suspect may neglect to give you further information and lead your case astray. There is also a brief musical snippet that plays abruptly when a guess is answered correctly or incorrectly. Making the right choices can also aid you in building up experience and intuition points. These points can then in turn help you to determine the correct guesses for each encounter quickly.

Truly, one of the most beautiful things about these conversational pieces is the level of detailed graphics that are displayed by each actor or actress. The use of the highly publicized Motionscan technology succeeds in drawing you into the personality and motive of each person of interest.

The only thing that’s lacking from the way each case is laidout is a proper explanation of how the culprit committed the murder. Often times what makes a murder mystery appealing is not just the pursuit of the criminal, but also a full disclosure of how it all went down. Even though this method wasn’t fully used in this game, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the gameplay experience is immensely exciting and addictive from start to finish.

The single player story mode should take you anywhere from 12 -16 hours to complete depending upon how good you are at using your detective skills.  There are also a total of 40 on duty missions that you can participate in for extra kicks. These missions can involve anything from participating in a heated car chase to engaging in a shootout of fleeing bank robbers.

For the most part, there is a great deal of repetition throughout the game, which may or may not bother you. However, if you’re drawn to the story and characters as much as the next person, then you’ll be quick to forgive these issues. L.A. Noire is the kind of game that encourages completion on you’re part and exceeds in constantly motivating you to see the story all the way through.

L.A. Noire is an enriched, innovative foray into the world of crime scene investigation but with the signature styles of both Rockstar Games and Team Bondi. In a year filled with highly anticipated games, it’s often hard to decipher which titles will stand out the most. With L.A. Noire that’s far from the case mainly because the game has a timeless and unique quality to it. If the thought of playing detective interests you, then don’t hesitate to pickup this game. Otherwise, deciding not to give this title a try will surely land you squarely in the interrogation room.

This review was based on a review copy of the game for the PS3 provided by Rockstar Games.

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