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L.A. Noire – The Review

Posted by on May 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm

I’ve been at this a while now. Every new case brings new twists and turns. Every new twist and turn brings with it an emotion. Joy, frustration, elation, anger.

Of all the 360’s in all the homes in all the world, L.A. Noire had to fall in to mine.

Rockstar, what HAVE you done?

It’s no secret I’ve been waiting for this release for a long time. Since I first heard about Rockstar’s L.A. Noire and the technology Team Bondi was putting into the project, I’ve been counting the days to its release…reading the articles…seeing the previews…watching the hype build (though lots of other games have had lots MORE hype so I can’t help but wonder where R* dropped the ball on THAT one)

In preparation for getting this game, I sat down and did a 72 hour marathon of Monk and Numb3rs. I.V. caffeine, eye drops, catheter, the whole 9 yards. I needed to sharpen my detective skills because I knew this was going to be about asking the right questions and finding the right clues to make sure I was putting the bad guys in jail and saving the innocent citizens of L.A.

I’m not sure it helped.

Here’s how the game breaks down. You’re given assignments (once you’ve passed the “uniform cop” stage of the game) and will be going out to solve crimes. You can drive to the crime scene or you can opt to have your partner drive you there. If you drive, be careful not to run into other cars or hit pedestrians. Doing so will effect your rating for each case. If you choose to let your partner drive, you’ll be transported to the scene and don’t have to worry about mowing people down.

Be careful while driving. People will turn/pull out/run in front of you regularly.

Once you get to the scene you’ll be looking at already discovered clues, trying to find new clues, searching bodies, questioning witnesses and suspects, talking to other cops etc…As you approach a clue the controller will vibrate and a chime will sound to let you know something is there. You can stop and examine the clue but you have to keep in mind that not everything you find will be relevant to the case.

Make sure you do thorough searches. Evidence can turn up just about anywhere.

Once you’ve looked at clues and talked to people, you’ll eventually end up questioning a subject. This is where things get a bit difficult. You have to be very observant while you’re questioning “persons of interest”. You’re looking for subtle hints as to the level of honesty they’re giving you. Things like shifting eyes, fidgeting, scratching…these can all be indicators that the subject isn’t being completely honest and you then have the ability to either push the issue or flat out accuse them of lying. If you DO accuse them of lying, you’d better have some evidence to back it up or things will turn ugly.

If you choose the right path of questioning, you’ll get an audible indicator in the form of a piano riff with a chime on the end. The wrong path will reward you with a piano riff and some dark sounding violins…sort of like R*’s way of say wha wha wha whaaaaaa.

Again, this is the hard part. You need to get as much information as you can but the visual clues can often be VERY subtle. Even once you’ve picked up on one you have to be able to connect evidence with questioning, in your own mind, to be able to progress with a good line of questioning.

Once you’ve run through all of the questioning, you may be presented with other options like questioning more subjects or searching for more clues. Take every opportunity to dig as much as you can. The more information and evidence you have, the better off you are when it’s time to ask questions and make accusations. If you go up against a suspect with nothing, you’ll get picked apart.

Something you should be aware of – This game is bloody. VERY bloody. There’s blood EVERYWHERE so if you’re squeamish about such things, this may not be the title for you. There’s also a lot of violence. Remember, this was the 1940’s and things were a bit crazier back then. You’ll be driving along and get a call about a crime in progress, which you can choose to ignore or respond to and if you respond, there’s a good chance there’s going to be a fist fight or a shoot-out.

Lord, how I love fist fights and shoot-outs.

I think we're gonna need some napkins over here.

Now, on to the technical aspects of the game.

As I said in a previous article, nobody has ever been able to capture the movements of the human face in a very convincing way, thus far…especially not the movements of the face during speech. Well, Rockstar and Team Bondi seem to have pretty much nailed it. The scanning engine they used for the characters in this game is top notch and has provided the most convincing facial movement I’ve ever seen in any form of media. I’m more than a little impressed, here.

From anger to sadness to uncertainty to “let’s go behind the bushes and get it on”, there’s a nice wide range of emotion and expression covered. Good work, guys.

Somebody's getting frustrated...

The graphics are pretty much what you’d expect from Rockstar’s engine. They’re smooth and crisp with no signs of slow-down or clunkiness. Pretty standard fare for these guys.

The voice acting is absolutely amazing. I’ve been playing this game for quite a while, now and I’ve yet to find any bad acting. This seems to be another R* trademark. They don’t settle for second rate voice-work. They want to immerse you in their world and they seem to know what it takes to get you there. Bravo to the directorial staff on this point.

And now, I think I’ll sum up so I can get back to busting crime!

The good :

  • Good graphics and stellar facial animation.
  • Great voice cast with solid direction.
  • The “detecting” part of the game adds a great element to the gameplay.
  • Fist fights, explosions, gun fights and boobies…Who could ask for more?
  • Great score! Impressively composed jazz and period music add to the immersion.
  •  

    The bad:

  • Rockstar still hasn’t managed to sort out driving AI. Cars constantly run red lights, turn left in front of you, slam on their brakes when you hit the sirens and generally do everything they can to wreck your car and cost the city money while pedestrians pay NO attention to where they’re going or what is happening around them.
  • The interrogation aspect of the game is, at times, very frustrating. It’s sometimes difficult to tell if a subject is being dishonest or just nervous because of trauma and it’s easy to make mistakes if you’re not really watching what’s going on.
  •  

    The Ugly:

  • Uhm…nothing…at all…period…
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    The bottom line:
    If you dug GTA IV. If you liked Red Dead Redemption. If you’re a fan of Mass Effect. If you enjoy police dramas. If you ever watched any “film noire” and thought “me likey!”. Hell…if you have half a pulse and a bit of a strong stomach, you’ll LOVE L.A. Noire. Its stylized, gritty, cynical attitude and immersive atmosphere teamed with amazing voice acting, stellar writing, solid direction and, dare I say, HUGE BRASS BALLS make it one of the best titles I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.

    I want to see R* and Bondi releasing regular updates…DLC…Sequels…I want more cases (not that there’s a shortage of them on the 3 disk 360 build, I just want MOAR!) I want more investigations, I WANT MORE!!!

    This title is close to perfect. Only a couple of ever-so-slightly nagging issues keep it from getting a 10 and I’m very, very happy to give it a diamond-solid 9. If R* can sort out the traffic issues (I’ve been bitching about this for like 83 years), they’re basically infallible after that.

    If you’re on the fence over this title, get off of it. Get your ass down to your local game shop and buy it. NOW. You’ll thank me later.

    9/10 FleshEatingZipper

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