Review : L.A Noire
One of the most hyped games of this year, Rockstar’s L.A Noire puts you in the shoes of rookie cop turned detective Cole Phelps, played by Mad Men‘s Aaron Staton. Set in a post war Los Angeles it is a rewarding, tense ride as you get to experience the trials of being a detective.
Cole Phelps starts off as a cop on the beat, one of two cops to win the Silver Star in Okinawa in the Second World War, and the first few levels introduce you to the mechanics of the game. Clue finding, chasing on foot, shooting, brawling, car chases and interrogation – all of these things become an integral part of the game later on. Your first real case sees you at the scene of a shooting in broad daylight. As you’re first on the scene you get to lead the investigation.
This is where the game really opens itself up, you get to search the crime scene for clues as eerie music plays. The music indicates how many clues you have found, once it’s stopped you have found everything. However, there are red herrings in every location to throw you off as not everything is relevant to the case. For example, empty beer bottles, cigarette butts and other meaningless stuff. If you do pick these up, Cole will quickly tell you they have no significance. You get a small chime whenever you are near a item you can investigate and look at closer by picking it up and moving it around to see if there’s something hidden.
In the first real case you get your first interview too, where Rockstar’s breakthrough facial technology called ‘motion scanning’ really shines. The idea of the interview and interrogation process is to really get the facts out of a person of interest. With every question you ask a suspect or witness, you get their facial expressions tell the answer, but it is up to you to figure out how to read the actor‘s face as well as pitch in their voice.
In an interrogation or interview you select a question to ask from your notebook. The response is then given, you then have three choices. Truth, results in you responding kindly to the witness or suspect and pushing on to get the information you need. Doubt, which means pushing the suspect further to the truth, which, if you are correct in your instincts they will give up something that may play a key part in your investigation. The last choice is Lie, for instance, if you have found a set of size 9 shoes and ask your suspect what shoe size they are, for them to reply a size 8. You can use the evidence to prove that it is a lie. You can also use intuition points here, these are given as you find clues and level up. Intuition points can remove a wrong answer from the three choices in order to give you a better chance of getting the right information. However, if you wrongly accuse the person or have a lack of evidence you can find that your interview, as well as you investigation has hit a dead end.
As Cole Phelps solves cases to the best of his ability, he starts to see himself rise through the ranks, from starting out on the Traffic desk you find yourself being moved up to Homicide, Administrative Vice, and eventually Arson. Along with every case, you get war flashbacks, which give you a great insight into how the war affected Cole and how it turned him into the man he is today. The cases continue as you investigate murder victims, interview suspects, chase conspiracy theories, shoot down goons, and take part in dramatic car chases and the odd punch up. You will have a fantastic, intelligent adventure as the game goes deeper and darker into the heart of L.A’s sleazy crimes.
The game offers a linear path to follow, but with a sandbox free roam L.A to explore, with nearly 95% historical accuracy, the game’s attention to detail is very impressive. The way to get around is by car or, of which there are 95 different types to find and drive in the city. There are 40 side cases to do, which range from a bank robbery to a domestic situation which you have to dissolve, these come as a handy breather when you want a change of pace from investigating. There are hidden items to find in the vast city of L.A which include golden film reels, officer badges and landmarks. You can check your progress of these and your cases on www.rockstargame.com/socialclub.
If you sign up to Social Club, you are immediately rewarded with a new in game costume for Phelps to wear which allows you to carry more ammo for all guns when equipped. Other costumes give you the edge in a fight, interrogation, or just make you look good when you’re rubbing shoulders with Hollywood’s talent. Social Club allows you to track all your stats, collectables and gives you a easy to follow checklist for anything important you may have missed. You can check your stats with your friends too and see who is the better detective.
Another great addition to the game is that of cameos and Easter eggs. Heroes fan favourite Greg Grunberg plays the husband of a murdered wife, and he is a key suspect. Jon Cryer makes a appearance early in the game, using the same comedy value we have come to love in Two and Half Men. Also, Fringe’s John Noble plays a real estate agent who has a dirty secret to hide. As for the Easter eggs, see whether you can find a certain Rockstar cowboy’s hat in one crime scene.
Although this game is a fantastic breakthrough and another blockbuster for Rockstar, it does have some downfalls. For instance, downloadable content was announced before the game was released. You get one case for free, but the other you will be paying around £8 for when it gets released, obviously you’ll do this if you love the game as I’m sure many people do. But developers need to realise that when we buy the game for forty pounds or more, we don’t expect to pay for another pack in the opening week. Another thing is depending on how efficient you are with cases, the length of the game can be quite short, even with investigating all clues and finding everything was well hidden, it took me just under 30 hours to complete.
If you are looking for a game to get you thinking with lots of non-stop action, then this is a game for you. It is so rewarding when you put a suspect away. The story is very interesting and there were many times I was shocked and didn’t want to put the controller down, I wanted to know what happened in the next chapter. The facial recognition technology makes this game even better, and will hopefully be used in future games. All in all a fantastic game, with DLC on it’s way I can see this game being a bestseller and still replayable months after your first play through. Well done Rockstar.
Final Score: 9.5/10