Rockstar has had quite a good track record in recent times with GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption in particular earning the company praise. It looks like they have done it again with LA Noire.
LA Noire is based in the city of Los Angeles in the 1940′s after the Vietnam war. The main protagonist, Cole Phelps, has just returned from the war and joins the LAPD with hopes to become a detective. You can’t just stroll into the police force and become a detective overnight, therefore you must earn your stripes and work through the ranks in various departments. Throughout the game you will have multiple partners and experience very different aspects of policing including highway patrol, homicide, vice and arson.
The homicide aspects of LA Noire are easily the most enjoyable and it is a shame that there weren’t more cases in this category because some of the other beats like arson are quite boring. It’s also a real disappointment that the murder investigations aren’t towards the end of the game, they are shoved right in the middle and once you progress past it, you are stuck performing fairly mundane cases on the vice and arson desks. The hunt for the serial killer was utterly enthralling, but unfortunately the story starts to waiver a bit after its completion.
Don’t get me wrong, LA Noire has a brilliant story, it just felt like the timing of various missions was wrong and the progression through the game was not as well structured as I hoped.
Let’s move past the story for a second and move on to the gameplay. LA Noire is not your typical crime game, while most have you simply shooting everything that moves, LA Noire forces you to take a more educated approach and actually solve cases with your investigative skills and powers of interrogation. Because of this, the game can be immensely satisfying at times. There is nothing like finding that breakthrough piece of evidence or uncovering a lie from a witness for the first time.
Because a large proportion of the game revolves around interrogations and questioning, you would imagine the voice acting needs to be spot on. Thankfully LA Noire delivers on this front and has created what is probably the single best voice acting and animations ever seen in a video game. The dialogue is excellent, the synchronisation of voice and lip movement is perfect and the facial expressions are even detailed enough to know what emotions a character is feeling.
This therefore leads in to a closer look at the graphics of LA Noire. As mentioned just a second ago, character animation is superb and probably the most life-like ever seen. While the rest of the in-game graphics aren’t quite up to the same standard, they are very well done. The recreation of LA streets are detailed and at times gritty, plus the 40′s style is present everywhere you go. From the clothing to the cars, every aspect has been thought about and presented beautifully. Plus the attention to detail when inspecting evidence is amazing. For example, open up a wallet and you can read specific details on the driver’s license.
A notable mention must also be given to the casting department of LA Noire, never before has a game had so many famous actors and actresses. Aaron Staton from the TV series Mad Men plays Cole Phelps, John Noble from Fringe is the voice behind Leland Monroe and there are many other familiar faces. The selection of acting talent is fitting for a game set in Hollywood and due to the excellent animation, actors will see a true to life representation of themselves.
LA Noire is one of those games that really makes you reconsider how you think of games. Like the 2010 hit Heavy Rain for the PS3, LA Noire does not fit into a stereotypical mold and therefore demands attention from any gamer. If anything you can probably classify LA Noire as an interactive movie, due to its terrific plot, casting and graphics. The term interactive movie has been thrown around before and is generally used as a negative assessment of a game with too many cut scenes, this is not the case with LA Noire at all. Never once did a cut scene stop the flow of action or go on for too long.
While it is not perfect, LA Noire is a must have game that has to be played for its originality and excellent voice acting. While the ending is a bit of a let down and the various choices you make throughout don’t end up having that much of an impact on the narrative flow, it is a breath of fresh air for gaming.