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Submitted by Chris Leyton on May 16 2011 - 16:57

At long last Rockstar Games and Team Bondi's crime noir inspired epic is finally upon us...

LA NoireHaving made a name, not to mention countless fortunes, operating on the shadier side of the law, Rockstar Game's long awaited LA Noire finds the often controversial publisher toeing the straight and narrow in a 1940's crime noir inspired Los Angeles.

Gruesome murders, corruption and deceit stand in the way of Cole Phelps, a hero returning from World War II, as he works his way through the ranks of the LAPD and attempts to put the past behind him. Along the way Phelps has to piece together vital clues and discover the truth behind crimes that include a gruesome serial killer based on the notorious Black Dahlia murders to a dope ring that comes with the questionable motives of the police department.

Initially unveiled back in 2006, part of the reason behind LA Noire's lengthy development lies with its adoption of MotionScan technology and along with it the end of an era in video games: one where the rough edges required the continual need to suspend disbelief. It's no overstatement to claim such a moment is upon us, such is the effect that MotionScan brings to the game. With a rich cast that includes the likes of Mad Men's Aaron Staton, LA Noire joins a small list of games that are breaking down the boundaries previously erected around video games. It's not necessarily a case of photo-realism as we're still some time away from that, but more a case of the performance or more specifically the way in which MotionScan captures that and puts it into the game. Lifelike behaviour is crucial to Team Bondi's effort, and unlike some prior examples, LA Noire doesn't just manage to avoid the pitfalls of the Uncanny Valley but effortlessly leaps across the chasm and sets a new benchmark for all others to be judged. This combined with Rockstar's usual panache for creating strong characters leads to a game that sustains your interest in a manner more becoming of a good crime movie or a HBO series then merely just a video game.

The main component of the gameplay naturally lies in solving crimes, through unearthing evidence and interrogating witnesses before eventually building up enough of a case to put the suspect behind bars. It's during these sequences where LA Noire's MotionScan technology comes into it's own. With titles such as Heavy Rain and Mass Effect, video games are finally entering a dawn of the virtual actor, but it's safe to say that Team Bondi's effort establishes a whole new level. Determining whether a witness is holding out on the truth is often a case of using your detective skills to produce the incriminating evidence, but it's also about determining how they respond to questioning as a witness sitting on the truth will demonstrate certain tell-tale traits, whether it's an awkward facial twitch or looking to the ground uncomfortably. It's this level of belief and empathy towards the characters that makes the LA Noire experience, as without it the gameplay is surprisingly reminiscent of a relatively obscure 1991 FMV-laden game based on the antics of Sherlock Holmes. It's primarily a case of building up the evidence from the crime scene, discovering extra details from the evidence by using the thumb stick to find a sweet spot – similar to breaking a lock in Splinter Cell – in turn bringing further leads along with witnesses to interrogate.

LA NoireInterrogation is the chance to choose questions from a list based on the evidence you've amounted. Each response from the witness allows you to choose whether to believe or doubt the interviewees' answer along with the ability to accuse them of lying – provided you've built up enough evidence to be certain that a witness is lying, otherwise a false accusation is often enough to bring an interview to a grinding halt and potentially end that route. Often a suspect will flee the scene, instigating an action scene whereby Phelps and his partner have to give chase either on-foot or in a vehicle. While these scenes offer thankful respite to the main gameplay, they do suffer from feeling slightly incongruous to the experience. It's not that they're necessarily poor - although combat, both melee and firearms, does feel understated - but the comparative quality is akin to any other open-world game, pulling you out of the experience slightly and reminding you that it is still a traditional video game at times. Equally for a game that offers such a refreshingly unique experience, LA Noire is prone to slipping into tired video game cliches at times. Sections that find Phelps navigating submerged gantries across the tar pits or working your way through a maze of furniture in a warehouse feel jarring (not to mention a little demeaning) given the otherwise engrossing nature of the main game. Something more comparable to the highly cinematic nature of the game would have been appreciated, but it's not a point that lessens the overall experience to any significant degree.

Despite it's open-world setting, LA Noire is quite unlike any free-roaming game that has come before it. In many ways, there's a question as to whether LA Noire even needs an open-world setting, given the costly demands associated with the genre and the otherwise incessant tempo and pacing of the game. There's a commanding sense of flow and pacing to the LA Noire experience that's somehow detracted by the general nature of playing an open world game. Whereas a gamers' mind is prone to wander in something like GTA where variety is a key requisite, LA Noire is a driven experience that is at its best when it's not being broken up. Fortunately the ability to elect your partner to drive is a means to keeping the pacing and ignoring the free-roaming structure. The choice is ultimately down to the player, but those seeking to squeeze every hour will find a considerable number of side missions that emphasise action, along with collectables such as hidden cars, famous locations, movie reels and newspapers. Although we generally found these detracting from the central experience, there is some merit to the newspapers which instigate a cut-scene that provides further backstory and hints towards where the game's central plot is heading.

LA NoireWith so many redeeming qualities perhaps the game's greatest strength is one of design. LA Noire's detective aspects could have quite easily become a case of choosing options from a list, exhausting all the options until a scene is finished. Instead Team Bondi has expertly toed the line, offering enough freedom to solve scenes with varying degrees of success yet at the same time managing to keep everything woven tightly enough to prevent it becoming a tangled mess. As a result, the margins of success in a case are considerable, with a speedy and decisive outcome warranting commendations from the chief, while sloppy detective skills will earn a strict lecture about where you fell short. As the game progresses towards the final Arson desk, the challenge of making sure the correct suspect is caught becomes noticeably harder. Damning evidence is trickier to find from a crime scene that has been burnt to the ground, and as a result the risk of accusing the wrong person becomes significantly greater. It's a shame that Team Bondi didn't have the courage to punish the player in such situations as the game seems to indicate. A stern ticking off from your superior typically finishes with the claim of hitting the streets to solve menial crimes as punishment. It would have been nice to earn some redemption by having to complete a number of the side street missions in this case (not to mention give them a greater purpose), but instead LA Noire pushes you on to the next case regardless and in turn throws up continuity errors such as being lambasted in a cut-scene before being whole-heartedly commended in the next.

One surprising element is the sheer breadth of LA Noire's primary storyline, which provides plenty of duration despite its fast tempo. With 21 primary case missions to solve, along with 40 side missions and countless collectables, LA Noire packs the breadth of content we've typically come to expect from a Rockstar Games title. Hopefully, Team Bondi will look into the possibility of releasing content cut from the game as the promise of two more desks will be an enticing DLC proposition.

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Overall Score: 0/10
LA Noire is a defining moment in video games on this generation, and more than just because of its use of MotionScan technology. The free-roaming genre has become a little stale in recent years, yet LA Noire manages to inject a renewed sense of vigour to the scene and capably demonstrates that video games don't have to be just about your trigger skills. Put simply, LA Noire is the latest must-have from the ever reliable Rockstar Games.

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User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Sat 28th May 2011 14:39, Post No: 61

post: no 60

While it is easy, its not that easy. You still have to look for evidence in some times larger areas, and if you do miss it, it could affect your interrogations, which are done well, but there shouldn't be only 3 options in a conversation. The game is a long crime thriller. It take around 25  hours to 100 % it, and you can still replay cases and do things differetly then before. There is alot of action in this game, but the core of the game is the clue finding, and the interrogations.


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 25th May 2011 02:27, Post No: 60

L.A. Noire is a huge miss.  It's simply not fun.  It's not really even a game.  It's this semi-interactive narritive.  Nothing I do matters.  Everything is way too easy, and lacks any soul.  There is no real detective work,  the game will tell you what's important evidence, no need to think.  Then it tells you to go to point x and talk to y.  Someone runs from you, insert boing foot chase, return to station, case closed.  Rinse and repeat 20 times.  BORING!


User avatar
By: Peter Corr

Added:Sat 21st May 2011 15:07, Post No: 59

finally rockstar is using the amount of disc space needed to make such a feature rich game.  looking forward to this tonight when home from work!  8-)


By: Tom Hampson

Added:Sat 21st May 2011 13:09, Post No: 58

brilliant review chris! i cant wait to give this game a go! 

 


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Thu 19th May 2011 14:37, Post No: 57

@post 56,  yeah only cuz they were in such a rush though.  they could have, if their publisher wasn't impatient and greedy, spent 5 years on production (like GT5, or deux ex for example) and make it outstanding.

also, not trying to start a flame war, i don't even know how big in GB gta4 is, but if they'd have made it too big, it would have taken more than one disc for the 360 version, which i doubt microsoft would have been happy about, especially as they forked out money to rockstar for the timed exclusive content.


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Thu 19th May 2011 08:28, Post No: 56

It would of been hard to mimic a san andres craziness with the new consoles for gta4. There was too much too focus on; realism, multiplayer, graphics. I just hope that now they have gta4 and its mechanics down really well they can build a crazy san andres kind of game.


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 18th May 2011 18:29, Post No: 55

i really hope gta5 is better yeah.  i'm not being a child and boycotting them or anything hehe.  the biggest thing for me was all the reviewers giving it 10/10.  it makes me paranoid that they were all paid off, OR that they simply rushed the game to get the first reviews out there.  either way, they're not helpful to us, the punters, what-so-ever.  i tend to only bother with video reviews nowadays as they show live what they're talking about (in good video reviews).  meh, here's hoping both LA and GTA5 are back on 'san andreas' form anyway!  8-)


By: SegaBoy

Added:Wed 18th May 2011 12:12, Post No: 54

I do agree that GTAIV wasn't as good as San Andreas - but Rockstar benefitted from delivering a more cinematic experience that didn't necessitate the time and costs of creating something as extensive as San Andreas. Remember it was the first GTA on this hardware, like when GTA3 first appeared, perhaps GTA5 will be something all together grander...


User avatar
By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 17th May 2011 21:53, Post No: 53

@post 50

i disagree that's all.  the game wasn't even technically as good as the ps2 game san andreas.  it was as big, had more loading times, and some ridiculous graphical glitches.  (goto the top of a building on san andreas with a sniper rifle, then do the same on gta4, you will see the glitches i'm talking about).  the story and characters were just no where near as gripping as san andreas.  they DID ignore the FANS and what they were asking for.  they went backwards.

don't get me wrong, i know i'm in the minority here, but i thought gta4 was an absolute massive let down.  and that's simply my opinion, not stating a fact.

la noire looks ok, but i'll be renting it first, as with every other rockstar game from now on since gta4.  (i rented Red Dead, and didn't buy it afterwards).


By: SegaBoy

Added:Tue 17th May 2011 16:02, Post No: 52

And also @anon 15:51 - wise words, you know exactly what you're talking about...


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