L.A. Noire: In this game, you play Cole Phelps, a cop recently promoted to Detective, in 1940s Los Angeles, hoping that someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets. Hang on, that’s from Taxi Driver. Anyway, you get the idea. Violence and corruption are rife and you and your partner have to travel from one location to the next, trying to get all the info out of the wrong ‘uns and assess who’s telling the truth and who’s talking out of their Trilby.
The cases begin with a woman’s missing husband while his car has been found full of blood, followed by a male hit-and-run victim with blood on the street a fair distance from the body and you have to track down the real story and apprehend the bad guy, or sometimes just shoot them dead if they present no option. There seems to be no penalty for offing them, either. If this was set in the present day, there’d be an endless court case to get to the bottom of it.
The way to find out the culprit is to search for clues by going to various locations, picking things up and manipulating them to see if you can gather more information, such as a brand name on a pair of glasses, then enable CGI scenes of interviewing eyewitnesses and subsequently deciding whether they’re lying or not, picking from a selection of topics to ask them about. However, you can’t always just go through a list until you’ve exhausted them all, you often have to choose which 2 or 3 you should ask.
However, this does get a bit tedious after a while because you just have to keep walking round, examining a crime scene until the music stops playing in the background, at which point you know there are no clues left to find. And if you can’t find anything, you can use up intuition points to find them. This does make for rather a linear experience, though, in terms of who you interview and in what order, which is a shame because the game is set in what they called a ‘sandbox’ environment, i.e. you can go anywhere and do anything, and it doesn’t live up to that. Also, when you interview a suspect, you can tell when they’re giving you the runaround as they have very obvious tells.
Also, the driving sections aren’t brilliant. When you steal another car, rather than threaten the driver, Cole Phelps just waves his warrant card and tells them it’s an emergency. There’s a lot of driving in this game, too, but you can skip this between scenes by holding ‘Y’ to make your partner, Bekowsky, drive instead. Then soon after you set off, the picture fades out and fades back in at the destination.
Chase sequences need some work as well. For example, when running from one roof to the next, you don’t have to time the jump between them, just run up to the edge and Cole will do it all for you. These will sometimes result in a fist fight which can be amusing for a while, but they do get a bit samey.
On the plus side, the game evokes great period features with good motion capture, but the speech leaves the mouths looking odd when it comes to synchronising with the voices. Also, there’s around 25-30 hours of gameplay, so you get a lot for your money.
As an aside, Phelps does come across as being a bit rude. He hardly ever says please and thankyou when he speaks to anyone, including the operator when he needs to make a call to the station. And on that point, he often does this from a victim’s house, without even bothering to ask.
Additionally, after less than 10 mins of gameplay, the game froze. I’ve heard about this happening, following a required Xbox Live update in order to continue playing the game while signed in to Xbox Live. However, it only happened once.
L.A. Noire also includes the “Rockstar Games Social Club”, which unlocks rewards and enhances your gaming experience. I unlocked the Chicago Lightning Outfit, which improves your accuracy with various weapons and this outfit becomes available as soon as you achieve the rank of detective, which comes pretty soon.
Note that there will be some downloadable game content coming along at some point, but there isn’t any just yet.
I should add that after a few missions things do get more involving as you get promoted, including taking part in shootouts, but they’re still not fantastically well-handled and by default the gun almost always shoots straight at the bad guy. Rockstar have managed to get the atmosphere right with this game, but the mechanics leave an awful lot to be desired. Also, after a high-energy game like the GTA series, it’s a bit odd to have to slow down in a world that expects exactly that. Still, if you can lap up the atmosphere, and there is plenty of it, then maybe it’s more for you.
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- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- Price: £44.99 (Xbox 360, PS3)
- Players: 1
- HDTV options: 720p/1080i/1080p
- Features: game-content download
Director: Brendan McNamara
Producers: Naresh Hirani and Josh Needleman
Screenplay: Brendan McNamara
Additional writing and dialogue: Daniel McMahon, Michael Unsworth, Rupert Humphries, Lazlow Jones, Rupert Humphries, Nick Giovannetti, Una Cruickshank and Timothy Lee
Music: Andrew Hale and Simon Hale
Cole Phelps: Aaron Staton
Rusty Galloway: Michael McGrady
Roy Earle/Patrolman Harvey Keller: Adam John Harrington
Stefan Bekowsky: Sean McGowan
Herschel Biggs: Keith Szarabajka
Jack Kelso: Gil McKinney
Elsa Lichtmann: Erika Heynatz
Leland Monroe: John Noble
Dr. Harlan Fontaine: Peter Blomquist
Dr. Malcolm Carruthers: Andy Umberger
Capt. James Donnelly: Andrew Connolly
Capt. Lachlan McKelty: Randy Oglesby
Capt. Gordon Leary: Ned Vaughn
Lt. Archibald Colmyer: Steve Rankin
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.