horseman6's L.A. Noire (Xbox 360) review

A Lesson in Logic

LA Noire is a project that I've been interested in for some time and I applaud Team Bondi for their ambitious attempt at creating a deep and unique adventure experience. However, even with the great face-recognition technology and interesting style, the flaws of LA Noire greatly outweigh the games triumphs.

LA Noire is at times a gorgeous game to look at. The face-recognition technology is both endearing and off-putting. The main issue is the obvious disconnect between the quality of characters faces and the quality of the rest of their body. While the faces look cutting-edge with amazing detail, the rest of the characters sometimes look ridiculous, with extremely obvious polygonal shapes. The Los Angeles in LA Noire has been created with amazing detail and I applaud Team Bondi for the care they have taken to recreate the city of the late 1940's. There are other obvious flaws with the visuals, but nothing too distracting other than a lack of much-needed bump mapping.

LA Noire is a feast for the ears. The voice-acting is absolutely fantastic, with actors creating believable and interesting characters. The music is spot-on for the time and there are a ton of little audio touches here and there to create a fantastic aural experience.

Now on to the gameplay, and this is where LA Noire falls apart. L.A. Noire is an illogical game. What I mean by this is that due to developmental and technical limitations, questions, answers and clues can be completely random or absent.  Cases, in general, are fairly self-evident, meaning I could figure out what was going on fairly easily. The problem is that no matter how many clues you collect, or what questions you think Phelps (the protagonist) should ask, the game will not throw in the obvious questions. I may find 10 clues for a case, each of which I could use to help solve a mystery but out of those 10 clues, Phelps only pops up with one possible question. This limitation lead to some severe frustration at times.

The other issue comes during the truth, doubt, or lie sections. When you click the "Lie" button, you assume that Phelps will pressure the interviewee based on an obvious question coming out of a previously asked question. A lot of the times, this is not the case and when you click the "lie" selection, Phelps will accuse someone of being a murderer or criminal. I found myself pressing the lie button often because of your ability to back out of a "lie" selection to make sure I don't miss something. Other times, evidence in your inventory can be mix and match, meaning when trying to present evidence several items in your inventory may be logical examples to contradict an interviewees statement. I think a better design would be to allow Phelps to select clues in your inventory and asking the interviewee about them. In the end, it all comes down to logic, not real logic though but in-game logic. Getting an answer right is determined based on what you think the game thinks is logical based on limited selections rather than real-life logic based on an expanded mental selection.

Now, some will claim that asking wrong questions is part of the game and that you should deal with it. However, LA Noire keeps track of when you get a question wrong by providing visual and audible cues. Not only does it provide those cues but it also scores you based on whether you got the questions right or wrong and it does this right after an interview or interrogation. Often I would find myself quitting and restarting the entire question and answer section just because of this (especially since a lot of the choices are completely ridiculous). It would better serve players to remove these cues altogether.

Intermixed with the adventure sections, basically the meat of the game, are dispatch calls to have you apprehend criminals in a GTA-like fashion. These sections are repetitive beyond belief. The only reason you would want to do these side-missions is to take a break from the adventure sections for a few minutes or to get achievements.

Overall, LA Noire is an interesting experiment but also a failed one. What should have been a very deep and rewarding game turned out to be a recipe for frustration and irritation. While I appreciate Team Bondi has done, LA Noire is far from revolutionary.
Posted by secher_nbiw

I signed up here just to let you know that I agree with pretty much everything you said here.  I am incredibly bored with cut scene after cut scene after cut scene (why can't you skip them if you restart a case?).  It reminds me of the old point and click adventures, where you would mouse over everything on the screen to find your next move.  I just wander over the crime scene until something happens. 

Posted by horseman6

I love point and click adventure games. The difference between this game and a p&c; adventure is that p&c;'s are inherently, puzzle games. You find clues in environments to advance to the next puzzle/story sequence. La noire is similar except that it pretends it's not one of those games, creating an environment of exploration and case solving that really isn't there. You aren't ever really solving cases, you are simply finding objects and selecting dialog with little or no flexibility. That's the problem with the game, there is an illusion of freedom.

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