This is the first time we have ever done a double review for a title. We’ll have both reviews on the same post, but it should help give you a much broader look as to what to expect from the title if you haven’t already picked it up. Maybe, if people enjoy it, we’ll do these more often (especially if both sides have opposing views on the games).
LA Noire is one of those big name games that could use a good tearing apart to get the full picture of what the game is about and why it’s either great or a disappointment.
With that said, Baba Booey and I decided, amidst the confusion of who was going to review this, we’ll be doing a double review to have a little fun. He’s like my partner on the case (which suits the game well, as you’ll work with a partner throughout the game). Baba will start the review off with his take of the game on the first tab, and mine will follow. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it! And please, leave a comment and let us know what you think and whether or not we should do more double reviews!
Hey gang, I’d first like to apologize for the lateness of this review; there was some confusion amongst the writers on who was actually going to be writing this review. Once that was cleared up, the PSN was still down at the time. I was unable to download my preorder bonuses, so I wanted to wait till I could get those. Then, when the PSN finally came back up and I continued my playthrough, it was time for E3, and I didn’t want those posts to overshadow the review, so now that all is restored to normal, without further adieu, here’s what you’ve been waiting for, LA Noire: an in-depth review by Baba Booey.
So, has R* given us another masterpiece? Has the game lived up to the massive amount of hype the game received? We’re about to find out now. The game is set in the late 1940′s Los Angeles, which has been painstakingly researched and recreated for the purposes of this game. Its not perfect, but there are some marked similarities I’ve been told. You play a young man by the name of Cole Phelps, who has just finished a tour of duty in the Japanese theatre of WW2. Upon returning safe and sound, you have decided to enlist with the LAPD and continue to serve, but in a different way.
You start off working as a uniformed patrol officer, and this is where the game picks up. Consider it a tutorial; the game holds your hand as it walks you through your first case. While on patrol, a call comes over the radio. A couple of homicide detectives need a few flatfoots to secure a crime scene and search for additional evidence. Your partner guides you through the motions of investigation. One thing to note is that evidence is not in plain view, nor is it obvious and pertinent to your case. Remember, the people that commit these crimes you are investigating don’t want to be caught and will do anything to avoid capture.
With that said it’s not impossible to locate pertinent evidence. Although it’s not laid out in plain site, there are things placed in the game to help you along if you can’t seem to locate all the evidence you need. While searching a crime scene, music plays, and once you near an important piece of evidence the music changes to “investigation music” which alerts you that there is something worth your attention nearby and requires a closer look.
There is yet another system to aid players that have trouble locating valuable evidence crucial to their cases: the intuition points system. Upon completing cases and earning XP, you can also obtain intuition points. When used, it will highlight all evidence in the area and it is up to the player to then find it and deem it useful or random junk. once all the evidence has been collected, it is now time to talk to any witnesses and/or possible suspects. This is where the game gets VERY cool.
Through a revolutionary new motion capture system, R* has made another leap forward in game design. Their new system has allowed for the most crisp and realistic face caps that we have seen today. With this new ‘mocap’ type, gone are the days of rigid faces and straight, blocky, flapping mouths. Now, we have basically exactly how a face should look and move; the animations are fluid and seamless, expressions are clearly defined, and beautifully rendered. It is with this that the player needs to use to determine if a witness or suspect is lying telling the truth or withholding information. By use of facial ques and expressions, as well as body language, you will make your determinations, and how to proceed with your investigation.
I really feel that this new type of motion capture is crucial for this game. Without it, LA Noire would have been impossible, especially with current motion capture and face mapping technologies. While questioning people, the choices you make greatly affect the outcome of your case and how you interact further with people. For instance, if I believe someone who has lied to me about details of a crime early on in my investigation, that person will continue to withhold information that is truthful, and it will be much harder to get the truth out of them in future interactions.
As you progress from simple patrol officer to the traffic desk and beyond, heading out on cases as the lead detective, things become harder and harder. People become more defensive and guarded with their information and as the cases become more heinous and more elaborate. Things can become a bit overwhelming, but there is always the intuition system to help you along. It definitely has a big learning curve. Mastering reading peoples faces during questioning and interpreting the signals the give off, which lead you to their state of mind and if they are lying or not, or are withholding information, or flat out telling the truth.
Now, mind you, the game is not all looking for evidence and questioning subjects. There are some puzzle aspects to the game. One instance is while searching a crime scene, you find what seems to be an out of place piece of evidence, but as you progress through the investigation, you arrive at a house and after getting consent to search around, you find something interesting, but it’s in pieces. You have to take the parts and place them to complete the job and find out that seemingly unimportant bit of evidence is now a crucial part of your investigation. Something else that keeps the game from a monotonous grind of the same thing. From time to time, Phelps will need to seek outside help from experts, be it going to a gun shop to verify a serial number on a weapon, or some other outside help.
While some of these cases are very serious and brutal, R* has not included nothing but doom and gloom rape and murder cases. There are some tongue in cheek cases which causes Phelps to shake his head and disbelief and warrants the rare chuckle from him and his partner. I found this a nice break, although investigating serious crimes is a tough and gloomy job, even in real life, not all cases are worst case scenarios, which help keeps the game fresh.
Aside from your regular desk duties, you can also catch side cases as well. While driving from location to location, your police radio is always a-flutter with chatter, but from time to time, the radio will squawk to life with reports of crime in progress, and you can then choose to respond to the call, which could be anything from a crazed gunman on the roof shooting at people, to a full on shootout or car chase through the streets of L.A. These side missions are something that was added in by R* to once again keep the game fresh and break up the routine of your hardened detective life.
While we’re on the subject of driving, let’s talk about the cars, I was surprised when I found out that instead of opting with their usual parodies of real life cars, they, instead, went with actual cars of that period, and they remade them in the splitting image of their real life counterparts, which, by the way, look amazing. But there is one downside to all this, the driving in the game…..seems scripted; not very fluid and organic, almost forced. I know that driving is not the focus of the game, but I believe that more time could have been spent on the driving physics, but it’s, for sure, not a deal breaker.
Here are some of the negatives that I found with the game, first of all, like I mentioned above, the driving is uninspired and very scripted. More time could have been spent on working with the driving physics, making it a bit more fluid and less ‘klunky’. I know R* isn’t exactly known for amazing driving physics, but they are definitely capable of slightly better controls, etc.
Secondly, I, like many other players in the beginning, found learning to read the expressions of people to gauge if they are being truthful, lying or withholding information to be overly difficult, to the point where all intuition points were being spent in one interview. I think that a perfect addition to the game would have been a sort of police academy where you could have a chance to learn the subtle clues and hints people give off through body expression, but, granted, after a while, you start to get used to it and can make better choices. Not always 100%, but pretty close. As for glaring negatives, that’s all I can really comment on. There are some smaller things, but nothing really worth mentioning here.
Now lets kind of take an overall look at things and put it all an the line. I have seen many complaints that this was not a traditional R* game where it’s an open world game with 10,000 hours of playtime and endless possibilities. In this instance, I don’t think it would really translate well here. The included DLC cases were awesome and the badge pursuit challenge was cool; simple, but cool. It included actual film negatives of pictures taken around LA, and its up to you to sniff these badges out on your way to a new case or on the way to nab a suspect.
They provide extra XP to help you out with intuition points, etc. There has also been comparisons between LA Noire and Red Dead Redemption, as well as GTA; I just want to go on the record by saying that this is not needed. These games are VERY different games. LA Noire is vastly different in genre and type than GTA and RDR; its like comparing apples to oranges. Not needed and pointless.
In conclusion, this game is definitely a hit, and to me, has deserved all the hype that has been given to it. It’s a well designed game with very few major flaws, and more pros than anything else. 7 years went into this game and it shows; the initial script for this game was over two thousand pages long, new technologies went into its creation, the voice acting is superb, and the graphics are crisp and vibrant. Soundtrack really makes you feel like your driving around a 1947 LA city.
After a while, you really get into the game. You care about the characters, you want things to work out for them, you feel for the plight of the victims. R* pulled out all the stops on character development. There are suspects that really get under your skin, and you just cant wait to find the evidence that is going to put them behind bars, and possibly get someone the needle or the gas chamber. Cutscenes are very well done and high quality in a dark, film noire fashion; definitely a top notch production.
Leading sales charts in the UK and sporting very strong numbers here in North America, R* has definitely set the bar at a very high level, and with a large amount of DLC on the way, and with the Rock Star Pass (a new way to deliver LA Noire DLC, which includes a few future cases as well), they plan to continue to support the title with regular DLC packs, and, personally, I think it will keep the game on the front of everyone’s ‘to play’ list.
R* has yet another game where people will shell out the money for the chance of new cases, and to keep playing new content for a unique one of a kind game. Will LA Noire stand up to the test of time? Will there be a challenger to the only boxer in this weight class? Only time will tell, but from what I’ve seen, it’s going to take a lot to challenge this game.
I give this game a 9 out of 10, or a 90 out of 100, however you like it . I hope it wasn’t too long and I hope you got something out of this, so If you don’t have this game….I recommend you skip renting it and go and buy it; you wont regret it, and you’ll have the chance to play some really cool DLC!
Remarkable motion capture and face mapping technology
Outstanding voice acting and big name actors
Imaginitive cases to keep the game fresh
|Lack of good driving physics|
Difficult learning curve when learning how to read facial expressions early on in the game
As Baba has said in his take, GTA this is not. Be sure to get that into your head, as if you go in thinking it’s a Grand Theft Auto set in 1947, you’ll be sorely disappointed! With that said, Baba really hit the nail on the head on quite a few topics, but that’s not as to say my opinion completely agrees with his. I am also going to hit on a few other things in more detail, but I feel after reading both reviews, you should be able to know exactly what to expect from this title.
First of all, the setting. Los Angeles, 1947. As Baba had mentioned, it is a near perfect rendition of the city at that time. What is really insane is if you need to go to a location, and you aren’t sure how to get there the fastest way possible, it is said you can go on Google Maps and it will give you the right directions (although I haven’t tried this myself, if this is the case, that’s insane!). With that said, the map is huge, and it will take some time to get from one end of the city to another, especially since the freeway legislation hasn’t yet been enacted.
Speaking of the map, if you go into it, you can see where current crimes are in progress, as well as the location of hidden vehicles, assuming you have reached the correct rank (vehicle locations are unlocked as you gain XP from completing cases, finding clues, and doing the side missions). Normally, as Baba had mentioned, the car radio will go off, but it only happens if such a street crime is near your location.
You can also go into each of the case folders’ free roam mode, which, essentially, lets you just drive around, possibly looking for the golden film reels, finding the hidden vehicles, or just do all of the street crimes. What is kind of annoying in that aspect, though, is that if you happen to get close enough to one of those street crimes, the cutscene will automatically start, and you’ll either have to finish it off, or fail to get out of it. Another thing, I feel that the game could use some period street crime updates, because after you do them all, there is really no replayability with them (you can do them again if you’d like, but given how much driving you need to do to get to some of them, it can be a hassle; at least the game lets you skip trips by holding the triangle button when you go to get into your car).
Now, going back to the case folders, it’s a really nice setup, as it shows you what your rank was on the last time you played a case (or maybe it’s the highest star rating you’ve received), or whether or not you’ve picked up the newspaper available in that case (although you don’t get any trophies or anything for picking up and looking at all of the papers, it does flesh out the story a bit more, so I definitely suggest checking them out anyway). If you reach maximum rank, you can still pick up more intuition points by replaying old cases.
Baba pointed out some of the ways to tell if there is a clue nearby. You, of course, have the music, but if you’re near something that can be picked up, you’ll also get c little chime of sorts. I believe you can turn off hints like that, though. Some clues also have a flash of light that reflects off of them. Of course, if you’re still having trouble, you can use an intuition point. There was one case I had trouble finding all of the clues for, and that was when you had to follow a blood trail in an alleyway.
If you don’t want to use one of the intuition points, you can also check to see if you’ve collected all the clues by going to your notebook and selecting “Locations”, and the name of the place you’re currently at will, 90% of the time, be crossed off (you’ll also get a musical note that ends the investigation music most of the time). If you’re ever inclined to check out a crossed off location again, you can also select it by going to the map screen, and it will be marked by a small, yellow circle (as will the other locations). I had to do that once before.
Now, as Baba said, interviewing people and reading their reactions is what made this game. Watching the characters talk, I couldn’t help but be awed at how detailed and realistic the facial expressions and body language was. With that said, usually, for me, I could tell when someone was lying, at least early in the game. Getting further into it, though, a lot of the NPCs start taking on more human reactions, including having anti-authority actions towards Phelps, despite telling you the truth (making you think that he or she is lying), or causing you to second guess someone because they seem to be overly confident in their lies. Star ranking at the end of the case are crucial in these interviews, and it starts to get really tricky when you call people on a lie and have to match the evidence to prove it.
That’s what I loved about this game. It really gives you some insight on how to read people if you never could do it before, and, again, that’s due to the face scanning. I don’t think any other game comes close. The dialogue and voice work is spot on, for the most part, and the differences in dialogue between asking certain questions or making accusations really flesh the whole experience out. That’s not to say that some things kind of take you away from the engrossment, namely asking a question that seems out of tone after your last response, or asking a question trying to get the same details you might have gotten from a previous question. It’s not game breaking by any means, but some work with the otherwise excellent script could have been done.
Now, onto some other things. Your partners. At every desk, you’re partnered up with quite the character. One, in particular, I did not like very much, and seemed to come off as a crooked jackass (if you’ve played the game, you know exactly who I am talking about), and I grew a serious dislike for the guy. Occasionally, they’ll have a funny line or two that is relevant to the case, but I only ever really liked working with the partner you get at the arson desk. Not to spoil anything, but he starts out lazy, but as the cases develop, he gets the motivation he needs, and you two really start to uncover some interesting things. It’s just unfortunate that none of the partners up to that point were really serious about their jobs.
And yes, the story takes place over a series of a few months or so. Some of the relationships you create with certain characters really affect your work and your career direction (it’s scripted, though). Although I have only failed a case one time, usually, even if you do bad on a case, the next one will act as if nothing happened on the last one (some cases require you to accuse the right person; I think you can only fail a case if you picked the wrong one, but there are only a few of those).
Now, onto the DLC. This game is a perfect fit for downloadable content, for quite a few reasons. One, you get more cases, and with a mystery/crime solving game like this, that is a must, and this game really benefits from it. Two, there are a lot of missing times in the game where new cases can fit in. In the game, there is even a hint that Phelps had time in the burglary division, which is something you don’t get to do, and I hope Rockstar capitalizes on that. What is really cool about having all of the cases downloaded, and starting a new game, is that the game will automatically play the cases in chronological order, as most of the DLC missions are mixed in with cases already on the disc, rather than placed at the end of the list. What is nice about the DLC cases is that they’re pretty varied, so it’s not always the same old same old.
With that out of the way, I am going to talk more about some of the technical aspects. First, if you want to, you can go into the game options menu and play the game in black and white for more of a noire feel to the game. With that said, the game looks OK as far as quality goes (so I will have to kind of disagree with Baba in that respect). I have seen a few popped-in objects, disappearing cars, weird spawn issues, etc, but the game, overall, still looks good. Personally, though, I gotta say, this is the first game I ever really got motion sickness from, because of panning the camera, looking for all the cars to collect (95 in all, and, as Baba said, are all actual cars from that time period. Too bad there wasn’t a Willy’s GP at the airfield or base). I had to stop playing because of that. In some cases, it rains, and if you can see inside the car at certain angles, it does appear to be raining inside of the car as well, but unless you’re looking for problems, it is largely overlooked.
As far as sound goes, the music does, indeed, give a time period appropriate feel. The sound effects are decent as well, but I did have a really annoying bug at one point where the typewriter sound (which comes up to show the current time after a cutscene) kept repeating itself over and over again. I actually had to restart the game back to the XMB to get rid of it. It has only happened to me once, though.
Shooting mechanics are pretty standard in the game. Nothing fancy or anything like that. You do get a trophy if you kill a bad guy with every weapon in the game, though. What does kind of suck is that it is almost impossible to disarm someone, as they will usually just die from a shot to the hand. There are also no weapons to switch between besides whatever you pick and your pistol, and they’re few and far between, but the lack of excessive weapons use is kind of obvious in this game, as a gun is usually a last resort tool in law enforcement.
Now, the driving. At first, the handling of the cars was way too arcadey. I didn’t particularly like the way the cars handled at all, but I did get used to it. It also took me ages to realize there was a handbrake button, and that’s R1, and I do not like it there. It would have been nice if Rockstar gave us the option to map it to another button, but, alas, it’s another game that doesn’t allow such a feature. The handbrake is essential, too, and really helps when you’re involved in a chase. At least when cars flip over in a more scripted manner (during said chases), it does look pretty cool, with panels and wheels flying around every which way.
Drawing nearer to the end of my review, I will point out that trophies in this game are really easy to get. I think the hardest ones are actually finding all of the cars, and getting 5 stars on every case (and maybe finding all of the golden film reels). DLC also comes with trophies, so if you’re a trophy hunter, that’s even more for you to collect. Currently, I am one trophy short of the platinum, and that is to get $47,000 in end-of-case penalties. Without a stat counter letting you know how much damage you’ve cost, it’s impossible to know, so you just have to keep wrecking cars and destroying street lights and mailboxes, etc. to build those up. The fire truck works the best I think, as it can take, and cause, a lot of damage. Too bad I still could only top $38,000 before I decided to finish a case, resulting in a 1 star rating and a wasted amount of time to even build that up.
I believe I covered everything I waned to point out. Concluding, this is an excellent game if you know what you’re getting yourself into. At first, because of the driving mechanics and not fully understanding how the game played, I will admit I was a bit underwhelmed, but once you really start to get into the game, it is really hard to put down. At least the end of a case makes for a good time to break from the game every now and then, and aren’t really like the cliffhangers seen in other games like Uncharted, but it was still hard to put down because you really want to see what the next case has in store. Apart from some of the gripes I posted above, I will say that the final mission was probably the most uninspired part of the game, but did tie up some loose ends. They could have definitely done a better job with it I think.
Hopefully between both of our reviews, you’ll know what to expect from the game if you haven’t already played it! Thanks for reading our very first double review!
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This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of LA Noire provided by Rockstar Games.
Written by: Jay
- Community Manager / Editor-In-Chief