With the flare of an archetypical 40’s crime thriller, L.A. Noire makes its debut on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as Rockstar’s newest concept. The game not only plays like an interactive episode of Law & Order, but it plays as a game of balance. For hardcore gamers who commit themselves for extended periods of time, the layout of missions and levels play out like a saga that comes to epitomize the player’s time in one of four ranks in the Los Angeles Police Department. This gives players four different ranks to weed through, with flashbacks between the transitions of each major case.
For casual gamers, each level within a rank plays out like an episode that’s the piece to an overall story, meaning players can devote as much of their time as they want to comfortably. Best of all, each is episode is only about 30 minutes top to beat. The same, as said above of how L.A. Noire plays, can be said about the accuracy of 1940’s Los Angeles. It’s everything you’d expect: Racism, mobsters, corruption, war, and the mysterious melodrama of Hollyweird. But at the same time, L.A. Noire delivers this realism without going too much into detail, which keeps the game enjoyable at the same time.
The player is thrust into the shoes of World War II verteran Cole Phelps at every crime scene. Phelps is a benevolent, well-to-do rookie on the LAPD who’s lauded as a war hero for his sacrifices on the battlefield. As he solves cases and builds his reputation in the L.A., Phelps becomes surrounded by low-lifes, wise guys and heads of mass corruption on both sides of the law. His personsality seems hard to decipher through his impenetrable shell of morality, but Cole becomes more relatable as he struggles through a sordid past of mistakes and war. Players see Phelps for who he really is in his flashbacks, where the world of clearly established boundaries and textbook rights is nonexistent.
Gameplay, too, is an excellent example of balance for hardcore and casual gamers. When using the cover system, which is simply utilized through the R1 button on the controller, gamers have a choice on how they want to address hostile situations. The casual gamer can tap L2 and pop out of a corner with the auto-aim function while the hardcore gamer can use blind-fire and take on free aim from corners to eliminate rivals himself. Interrogations of suspects, however, aren’t so forgiving.
Interrogating a suspect is a simple matter of deciphering whether or not they tell the truth using their facial expressions, vocal inflections and body language. The gamer decides if they’re telling the truth or lying through the X, square and triangle buttons. One detail the game doesn’t seem to exactly put flashing lights around is the fact that doubting something is accusing them of lying without evidence and lying is using evidence against the suspect to prove they’ve deceived you. You learn this through the game unfortunately, and even with the aid of knowing about a thin line that seperates the nature of Cole’s aggression interrogations still take no prisoners. Unless you quit and restart through your save point from the main menu’s ‘Resume’ option, you have no way of redoing your interrogations. Once its done its done, if you screw up you screw up. It adds an almost fearsome element of realism to the game.
The game loves to screw with you about wanting to right your own wrongs within a case. The ‘restart’ option deceptively tells you that the interrogation will be starting over when restarting really pushes a player back to the beginning of the case itself, a long way from where you want to be.
But this isn’t the only chink in the game’s armor. L.A. Noire’s driving mechanics are bad in the fact that the cars handle too good. Apparently cars from the 40’s operate with wet super glue on the treads because your car hugs the road better than most cars on the assembly line 30 years from now. The cars handle so well that they make driving on L.A. Noire wonky. You can take a sharp, 90 degree turn at high speeed and go in so far that your car slams against a wall or embarks on pleasant journey across the sidewalk destroying telephone poles, mail boxes and maybe a few wheelchairs — who knows? Overall, the player will get accustomed to L.A. Noire’s super indy car handling, but it will be a frustrating process, especially when you partner is practically screaming, “WHAT THE F–K ARE YOU DOING?!” at an abrasive, full volume when you have near brushes with death.
As the backstory of Cole’s past goes on, each new ranking brings in an ongoing problem as its formula, with numerous cases to sort through. You can either put the right or wrong guy behind bars at times, simulating how haunting cases can be for even real detectives at times very, very well. You branch off into different types of crime with each rank, and you put together the puzzle of the case through, you guessed it, picking up and analyzing random objects and attributing them to the crime anyway possible. You make house calls, talk to the corner, and even get into chases now and then. You also go through your own awkward moments observing naked women for crime scene evidence.
Of course, as one would expect, picking through utterly mundane objects continuously becomes boring after a while. It becomes monotonous. Though Rockstar’s sometimes linear gameplay throughout L.A. Noire may keep the player engaged, putting together the puzzle after a long time playing becomes exhausting. Crime scenes will eventually lose their flare and you tired of looking at random objects for clues. Some breaks for L.A. Noire are definitely in order after a while, but once you get past the repetition wiith restored interest it can be a refreshing experience. Even better, L.A. Noire isn’t a short single player game, it’s made to endure well over 12 hours, probably 24, who really knows? Divided, L.A. Noire’s life can be prolonged and the game will be like a novel you read every night: It definitely won’t be a game you take back the day after for finishing.
It’s worthy to note that alongside more annoying partners,.the player gets drive better cars, wear nicer clothing and use intuition — basically hints toward solving the case like finding missing clues through map icons and eliminating interrogation option — and much more.
It’s clear L.A. Noire is something that hasn’t been done as well as it has before. The gritty, raw nature of investigating and digging into crimes is paired with the entertainment of an almost cinematic plot that gradually unfolds before the player’s eyes. However, L.A. Noire’s gameplay is something that can get very repetitive very quickly, and that may very well not be Rockstar’s fault, as the nature of the L.A. Noire’s gameplay simply makes it something that dulls overtime. Though you find interesting things in the game, even brand names, you’ll find yourself longing for another movie sequence after you start up another crime in the annoying precinct, taking the same pattern down the stairs and maybe even sometimes getting losti n the place.
It’s an amazing game with small kinks that need to be worked around. but L.A. Noire’s nostalgic presentation, fun concept and well-above average gameplay make it a solid 8 on a scale of 1-10. It’s a game to buy and enjoy in the future, mainly for the well conceptualized single player, and it’s definitely a classic that you may even want to look back on one day. Case solved, detectives.