LA Noire Review: Still Great

L.A. noire promo
Written by Puching Zhang

LA Noire is a classic detective thriller that will keep you playing for awhile. Here’s gamemaster Puching Zhang’s LA Noire review. It’s old. But it’s great.

aNewDomainPuching-Zhang-anewdomain — I will only ask you this once:

Where were you on the night of the 27th?

You’re lying to me! Say that once more time and I’ll have you locked up before your feet touch the ground!

Puching Zhang here with another awesome game review, this time I’ll dive into one of my old favorites, “LA Noire.” “LA Noire” is a classic detective game that was originally released in 2011. It is set during 1947 during the golden age of Hollywood. Movies aren’t taking center stage in this game, though. It’s all about being a cop.  Team Bondi has brought to life a city with superb acting and stunning detail. Here’s my LA Noire review.

A Storied Past

LA noire coverThe main campaign is set in Los Angeles in 1947. World War II has just concluded and the U.S. is entering into a decade of the high life. You’ll play as Detective Cole Phelps, an ex-marine turned cop that seeks to redeem himself over some atrocities committed during his years of service as a marine (this is a major plot point, and I commit myself to no-spoiler reviews).

At first you start out as a normal beat cop, on patrol, where you learn the game’s controls through an interactive tutorial (nice, Team Bondi). Once you’re promoted to detective you’ll work through four desks, investigating four different types of crimes: traffic, homicide, vice and arson. In each case you’ll investigate the site for clues, interrogate people and even fire a gun at suspects.

There’s also a driving component to the game, and even though Rockstar is the overall producer of this game. And yes, that’s the same Rockstar that made “GTA.” Here you can’t drive like a complete maniac. You’re a cop now, which means the more property damage you cause, the lower your score for the level will be. But the best players of LA Noire can still drive like lunatics, providing they are careful, as you can see at this clip on YouTube.

LA noire trailerThe cases themselves start off with classic mundane traffic cases, but pretty quickly the game dives into a series of brutal but strangely related murders, followed by some drug cases and a conspiracy as Cole Phelps’ past is slowly opened up to you. Team Bondi did a great job with the story — the information, especially in the later stages, isn’t explicitly revealed to you, but rather is pieced together by the player.

However, one problem I have with the campaign is that, most of the time, no matter how badly you screw up an interrogation, the campaign goes on as normal, even though you may lack a few clues for later purposes. I never liked this part of the game, since I felt it was a bit lazy on Team Bondi’s part. Why couldn’t they have other campaign branches or plot twists based on how well the interrogation goes? Instead there’s a linear campaign sequence that doesn’t have any twists or turns.

Those controls, though …

Although the campaign isn’t perfect, the mechanics in the game are nothing short of revolutionary for the time. “L.A. Noire” manages to successfully capture the new face of future gaming with full face scans of the voice actors for both heroes and villains. The full face scans allow the game to capture when and if the suspects are lying. The full motion body capture allows the player to have a fully realistic view of the suspect’s honesty, improving gameplay tremendously.

These techniques really do matter, as almost everyone in the game lies at one point, like suspects, witnesses and even people you would think are innocent bystanders. This is just awesome and provides a lot of suspense.

L.A. noire gameplay“LA Noire” isn’t all about riddling out clues through investigation. There’s a fighting mechanic in the game, which occurs in a neat third person shooter scenario where you act as the cop shooting down the scum of the city. There’s even a cool fist fight mechanic when the guns won’t work. Finally, for those that enjoy the driving mechanic, there’s a Free Roam mode where you can go around the city leisurely, without worrying about investigating anything.

Overall, I have to give “LA Noire” a very high nine out of 10. It could’ve had more plot branches instead of the linear storyline, but the facial mechanics are incredible, the story is amazing and it makes some cool historical references to the post-war housing boom, police corruption and the prominence of the mafia. The game does get fairly R-rated at times, especially in the homicide desk, so be prepared. I wold especially recommend this game for anyone who’s interested in mystery, intrigue or just film noir in general (there’s even an option for you to play the game in black and white, so it feels just like a late ‘40s film).

Yes, it’s a bit old, but still retains the high-quality feel of an epic, unique game. You can buy “LA Noire” here.

For aNewDomain, I’m Puching Zhang.

All images: Screenshots courtesy of Team Bondi