Reviews// LA Noire

Posted 16 May 2011 17:07 by
Games: L.A. Noire
These stats come up in your notebook, which also includes details of where you should go, who you should question and what your next objective is. You also get a log of everything you’ve done so far in the options screen. In all truth, I felt the need to look at the log once and that was having been away from the game for a day.

The close of a case will also tell you how much money you’ve lost damaging city property (or citizens) while driving around the wonderfully rendered LA 1947.

Yup, you’re a cop. Or not… but that’s not for me to say. So, bumping into things (or people) around the city comes at a cost. This is definitely not GTA you see. Exactly how the cost goes for or against you isn’t made clear.

There’s a great deal more to be written about LA Noire from the perspective of what it as a game is trying to achieve in the greater story of video games aside from mining movie genres. But this a review and not a feature.

Should you buy the game? I’d say “Yes, sure.” It is a quality production that sets out to break some technical ground while asking for the same level of brainwork as say Broken Sword. Completing the main plot – including the flashbacks – and interacting with the excellently acted characters is satisfying. For me, it’s not as satisfying as completing Heavy Rain. However, that’s me. For hardcore gamers expecting the sheer scope and humour or Red Dead Redemption or the innovation and visceral thrills of the Grand Theft Auto games up to the plodding GTA IV, I think you’ll find LA Noire lacking something.

I certainly can’t agree with Hideo Kojima who recently enthused that, “This game may change the future of 'adventure game.' I’ve got a big expectation!”

Before we leap to the score though, I’ve also asked our Senior Writer, Mark Johnson, to provide his input on the game. Here’s what Mark thought:

Second Opinions
By Mark Johnson
I could tie myself up in knots trying to work out how best to judge L.A. Noire. How to look at it as an experiment in interactive narrative, how to view its merits as a piece of noir, how Team Bondi has woven a noir tale into a medium that has still seen very little by way of serious storytelling, etc etc etc... I've decided not to bother though, because there's no need to be a wanker about the whole thing when what a review basically needs to be is a thumbs up or a thumbs down on a product you might want to buy.


L.A. Noire is fun, involving and engaging. Through the chunks of the game I've played I found myself genuinely taken with the story and thoroughly immersed in its world. At its best moments, I felt like I was really prodding at my brain to kickstart it into solving the crimes. I really wanted to know what happens next. The action, while a secondary concern to the puzzle-solving, is solid enough and breaks up the more cerebral thread of the plot. L.A. Noire IS QUITE GOOD.

Which is not to say it's without its faults. While L.A. Noire will dunk you full-bodied into its world if you let it, it is possible to to get through the game without paying too much attention to the story unfolding around you. Once you work out how the game works – how clues nudge you from one situation and person of interest to another, how interrogation works – it's possible to coast through on autopilot. That feels like a failing.

Similarly, L.A. Noire is a victim of its own success in places. The motion capture is phenomenal and the acting behind it is really solid, but that can lead you to expect a little too much of the characters you come across sometimes. For example, you're supposed to be able to judge whether a suspect is telling the truth from their facial expressions a part of the interrogation sections.

Maybe this is a failing on my part as a human being, but I struggled with this. I felt like I was trying to interpret a game mechanic rather than trying to interpret a person. Despite the quality of the motion capture and the acting, the characters on-screen felt too inauthentic for this to be a really successful mechanic.

It's also a shame that Bondi basically tried to stuff a noir novel in the game with cutscenes offered up exposition from beyond the experience of Cole Phelps, the main character. While that might be OK for a book or a film, it doesn't work well in a game.

It can be difficult (or just weird) trying to interpret clues in a reasonable way when you actually know more than your character. While generally Bondi has done a good job of interpreting noir into a new medium, this is a throwback to older media that jars.

All that said, however, while L.A. Noire is most certainly not perfect, it's a very interesting, worthy experiment that provides plenty of fun and a very rich gaming experience. Totally worth getting.

(For the record, I'll mention the elephant in the room. I like L.A. Noire more than Heavy Rain. I'm not going to tell you it's inherently superior, though. I prefer the lighter mood and setting, the exploration of the noir genre and – as someone who enjoys action adventure games – the classic GTA-style shoot-outs and chases to Heavy Rain's quicktime events.)

LA Noire is a fine attempt to get to grips with the Hardboiled or Noir genre of literature and film and shoehorn a video game into it. As ever with Rockstar-aided productions such as GTA, it’s aided by suitably of-the-time soundtrack (including radio broadcasts and a decent if uninspired musical soundtrack); nicely - and I use that word deliberately. Rendered environments are also a plus. The plot moves on a pace but you’ll feel a jolt or at least a mild feeling of confusion with the protagonist.

The set-pieces and action scenes are less than challenging, especially when combined with run-of-the-mill Rockstar driving, melee and gunfighting mechanics that are, to my mind, nothing more than we’ve seen before. The plot, however, is good enough to drive you through from start to finish and leave you with a smile of achievement with the final flashback.

The sequel, and the game is set up for a sequel, will I hope build on the environments, acting and above average plotting. I would also hope that Rockstar and friends, having now mined early cinema successes in the Western and the hardboiled detective, can get back to innovating rather than paying homage or stating, “Look, we can do it too”.

SPOnG Score: 90%
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Games: L.A. Noire

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WhoaDIgg 19 May 2011 08:50
L.A. Noire is awesome so far! I just found a blog that's giving out the DLC for all the extra cases!

I just got my Slip Of The Tongue Case DLC, but I don't know if there's anymore DLC codes left. If you want to check it out, here's the site:

[19 May 2011, 10:21: Message edited by 'TimSpong'] Yup edited for SPAM
Jimmer 15 Jul 2011 14:44
I have just started disc three and decided that I really cannot be arsed to grind it out for a few more hours, just to say I have finished the game. It's a truly wretched game. The only saving grace is the facial animation stuff, although that is totally bollox when it counts, during the fatally flawed interrogation bits. The driving is pump, gunplay is not much fun and the foot chases are tedious and often don't make any sense.

For me, it's a massive missed opportunity. I loved the idea of starting out as a beat cop and working my way up. Problem is the progression through the ranks is too quick, plus you are basically dealing with homicides from the off. Why not start out just patrolling a block or two, dealing with parking offences and muggings etc? Then you would actually feel a sense of progression when you move up.

Red Dead Redemption is vastly superior to this pile of cack.

So there!
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