L.A. Noire Review (Xbox 360)

Posted by Jim Cook, May 24, 2011 08:20

You never know who’s going to come into your office, or what kind of cases they’ll have for you. At first glance, L.A. Noire looked similar to her cousin Grand Theft Auto since they ran on similar game engines, but you don’t get far as an detective by accepting first impressions; I’d have to dig deeper to solve her story. She wanted me to find out if she was really just Grand Theft Auto: 1940s Noir Detective Edition, and whether she was worth the full $60 USD retail price. The job sounded right up my alley, so I poured a stiff drink and got to work. Just minutes into the assignment, a few tough guys gave me sinister looks and told me to drop the noir parody and I wisely did so. To get serious, if you were expecting GTA in 1947-era Los Angeles... this isn’t it; L.A. Noire is actually more of a police investigation game and quite fun if have the right expectations.

L.A. NoireWhile presented in the same third-person views and controls as modern Grand Theft Auto games, L.A. Noire is a very different experience. You’re not playing a gang member, immigrant, or even someone trying to get by. Nor is your character a ’hard boiled’ private investigator with a trenchcoat and snub-nose revolver, despite the noir stereotype. Instead, you play a detective with the LAPD, circa 1947, and this colors everything you do. There is a huge city to explore, with much of Los Angeles’ downtown area brought to life with era-appropriate signs, decoration, and fashion, but you’re a police detective and you play by the rules. Players are more than welcome to take a joyride around the city and search for hidden cars, though you don’t get to go on shooting sprees or setting up massive explosions like GTA allows. Your detective has cases to solve, and has to have a reason for the things he’s doing.

Thus there is no running around with your gun drawn and L.A. Noire simply won’t let you ready a weapon unless there is a justifiable reason for lethal force (or a warning shot). Instead of being an urban sandbox, Los Angeles in this game is host to specific crimes that you have to solve. You drive to crime scenes, some of them in progress and some long since concluded; there might be a bank robbery to stop followed by checking out a murder scene. And just like the noir genre suggests, there will be a reasonable share of gun fights, brawls, and chases (both on foot and in cars). Yet the real heart of L.A. Noire is its story, told through police investigative work. You’ll find clues, inspect dead bodies, question suspects and witnesses, and more in order to find out who the real culprits are.

Such investigations are easily the best part of L.A. Noire, telling an interesting story full of twists and surprises, memorable characters, and some well choreographed events. While much of your time will be spent examining objects around the crime scene (Is that discarded cigarette really relevant to the murder? What about the shoe with some blood on it?), questioning people is where everything comes together. They provide the human element to the story, each with their own motives and reactions to the events at hand. Almost all of these encounters feature great voice acting, and this works alongside some impressive facial expressions that help you ’read’ your subject: are they lying? Frightened? Being entirely truthful? It’s up to you to find out, and most of the time you’re given ample tools to do it.

L.A. Noire’s story is complex, tackling several topics. It’s set in Los Angeles circa 1947, and definitely looks the part. The plot brings up social issues of the time, looking at misogyny, racism, the problems facing returning World War 2 veterans, police corruption, and more. Your detective, Cole Phelps, is mostly an honest man and a fair cop trying to seek justice for the crimes he comes across while also setting a good example for others, ideally without getting a big head about it even as others tease him for being too sincere. He mostly follows police rules in his work, and what elements he doesn’t (being unusually tough with suspects, accusing them of crimes to see if they blurt anything out that helps his case, kicking the door in without a search warrant, etc.) are either part of the noir detective genre or most likely handwaved in the name of game flow; how fun would it really be to wait for a warrant, for example?

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Our Rating for L.A. Noire Review (Xbox 360)
7.0 Replay
Some cases have multiple paths to follow, and sightseeing while trying out unusual cars of the era is also fun for a while.
9.0 Graphics
1940s Los Angeles comes alive in amazing detail; old cars, fashion, technology, it’s all there. Complex facial expressions also help make interrogations more ’real’ as you search for the truth.
9.0 Sound
The excellent noir soundtrack would sound perfectly fine in a detective film of the era, and it’s joined by both top-notch voice work and sound effects.
7.5 Gameplay
Investigating crimes requires a lot of thought, and you’re given plenty of details to ponder. Car chases, brawls, and shoot-outs are also usually exciting, though a few are blatantly scripted and lose their impact because of it. Somewhat repetitive game mechanics also drag things down, though an excellent story makes up for it.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a single-player game.
8.5 Overall
A compelling look at 1940s America, this adult-oriented crime drama is definitely worthwhile for fans of classical detective films and those looking for a deep story.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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