A Second Opinion on L.A. Noire (PS3)

Check out the main review here.

Cole Phelps: Inquisitive Investigator

Part detective game and part open world epic, L.A. Noire is a game with few peers. Unlike most Rockstar games, it’s story-driven and, despite being in an open world, doesn’t give the player a lot to do. To some, this may seem like a disappointment, but I’m glad it was kept this way. I liked the ambiance of just feeling like I’m a police officer in 1940’s Los Angeles. The city has been beautifully recreated and serves as a backdrop for the ensuing story; it doesn’t need much more than that. In fact, I believe that L.A. Noire makes an interesting case for a new use of open worlds: not one where the player is constantly running around doing random little things while delaying the story, but one where the open world serves as a way to set the mood and feel of the game so the story has that much more impact.

In Noire, the story and gameplay are tied at the most basic of levels. Players are given a case to investigate, they comb over the scene of the crime looking for clues and interrogating witnesses, while trying to find the truth of what really happened. Slowly, some of the cases come together to form an overarching theme that delivers a satisfying ending when everything’s said and done. Helping this is the remarkable facial technology that Team Bondi developed, and simply amazing audio features. Everything from the voice acting (special praise going out to Keith Szarabajka as Herschel Biggs) to the score is among the best in the medium.

There are a few downsides. I personally experienced many gameplay bugs (like NPC’s trapping me in a corner, forcing me to restart) and game crashes that give the feeling that another month or two of polish was needed. I also thought the driving in the game was pretty touchy and becomes a bit of a pain during high-speed chases. Interrogating witnesses felt rigid, due to the fact that the commands ‘doubt’ and ‘lie’ are essentially the same command, except with doubt, there’s no evidence involved. That aside though, the game is among the best of the year and certainly worth the long wait. In short, go buy L.A. Noire. Now.

Score: 8.75/10

This is a condensed version of a much longer and detailed review originally published by me, here.