A new genre
LA Noire is a game that is set in Los Angeles right after the end of world war 2 and you follow in the footsteps of Cole Phelps as he works his way up the ranks of the LAPD. This is the basic premise of the game and I found it to be a good game with some noticeable flaws but ultimately a full-filling experience.
To start off the overall plot has various overlying stories but during your missions or Cases you are only focusing on what is directly in front of you; one particular story. I found that this type of narrative was interesting to say the least because while you are focusing on completing the case all the while you are thinking/worrying about the behind the scenes drama that is unfolding. The overall story arc primarily revolves around corruption and is not made very clear until the last act. With that said the central game-play element is detective work and it is the source of its greatest strength and biggest weakness.
The cases are broken up into five different categories. You start out as a patrolman work your upto a traffic detective, Murder, Vice and finally Arson. At the start of every case you are shown a quick cut scene of a crime being committed and after the crime has been brought to the attention of the police you and your partner are dispatched to investigate. Investigating for clues and possible subjects is a huge part of the gameplay in LA Noire and while the first few dozen times you do some might be fun, it starts to get monotonous around the middle act. This is due to the fact that the cases in LA Noire pretty much have you do the same things; collect evidence and conduct witness interview until Vice and Arson desk while involve a lot more action packed moments. With that said, it can be quite exhilarating when you discover a clue that completely breaks open the case.
Another key gameplay aspect is interrogating people and seeing if they are lying or telling the truth by reading their facial expressions. The game uses a new technology to capture full facial motions which captures little things like frowning of the forehead, lips quivering or eyes darting back and forth. You will have to read these expressions correctly if you want to get a accurate read on the character. You can either believe the person, doubt them or call them out on their lie if you have proof. Doing this is pretty straightforward for most of the game, however it will get quite complex trying to catch a suspect telling a lie during the latter missions. In a way this offers a nice progressions system and more often than not you will find yourself using "intuition point" to catch a subject in a lie. Intuition points are earned by leveling up and this is accomplished in variety of ways. You can earn them by successfully completing cases, interviews, finding clues, new landmark locations and answering street crimes.
Street crimes are random side missions that involve you chasing after a suspect, shoot em up or car chase scenarios to name a few and these will pop up when you are driving from one location to another in the beautifully rendered 1947 Los- Angeles. There are 90 different cars in the game and the cars handle quite well and it is fun to drive around in them. However, due to the fact that you play as a police officer instead of a person of questionable reputation like GTA games, you are liable for your actions. This means that if you drive like a mad man and cause huge damage it will be reflected in your end of the case report negatively. The graphics were crisp and while it is not breathtaking, it is a pretty game. The sound was authentic 1940's music and it set the mood very well.
As a police officer you are issued a pistol and that will be the weapon you will start out with during any shootouts however you are given the option to pick up other weapons during combat. The game's hud does not feature a health meter or ammo count in order to give you a more realistic feel and although it might sound like a radical departure from current gaming norm, I never found it affecting my performance. On the contrary, the fact that you have to count how many bullets you have fired and therefore intuitively figure out how many bullets you have left adds a nice strategic element. Minus the lack of information on the HUD, the shooting mechanics are pretty much the same as GTA 4. The only problem with the controls were that it can be frustrating trying to control your character on the ground. I found the controls to be finicky and I frequently found my character not move the way I wanted him to. Also something to note is that while the A.I is quite competent, there are some weird things it does while behind a wheel or a car. The A.I has the tendency to jump lanes right in front of you and make ill advised left turns which will more often than lot lead to some spectacular crashes.
Like I mentioned at the start of the review, the story is pretty linear with an overarching grand plot. While the plot was not spectacular, it did include some good moments and overall I found the story to be reasonably compelling . The game lumps together everything during the end of the last act and it is a sharp break from the slow pace of the story. However, I found the last mission and the conclusion to be quite satisfying.
The game will take you 15+ hours to beat and without a Multiplayer component, it is a hard sell for $60. However, you are given the option to replay through any of your completed cases and there is even an option to free roam and explore the painstakingly rendered city of LA. LA Noire is a new take on detective games and as such it is a game that cannot be defined by existing genre. It is not a game for everyone, however you should still give it a shot.