Graphics:
9.1
Gameplay:
9.5
Sound:
9.7
Control:
8.9
Replay Value:
9.0
Overall Rating:
9.2
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
Rockstar
Developer:
Team Bondi
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Action/Adventure


L.A. Noire is unique. Strangely enough, however, it isn’t unique in the most literal sense of the word, as half of it utilizes a familiar – even outdated – gameplay mechanic, while the other half pushes the envelope and pours a strong foundation for the future. It’s such an odd mix of impressively progressive drama and functional yet relatively old-fashioned elements; it defies categorization and labeling. It lacks a cohesive sense of identity and is continually jarring and yet, we find ourselves immersed in a painstakingly crafted world of beauty and intrigue; a singular atmosphere; a memorable time in American history. And oh yes, it’s amazingly addictive. Despite the inherent clash of old and new, we can’t get enough of it.

The gameplay best characterizes the aforementioned contrast, but the graphics also represent a blend; a dichotomy where two distinct features seem mutually exclusive. On the one hand, there’s that unbelievable environment, which is beautifully designed and created, but doesn’t always boast immense polish and sharpness. Indeed, it’s an upgraded GTA landscape. The city is vast and awash in that vintage 1940s fashion; featuring nearly a hundred different vehicles, lots of NPCs, and an undeniably gorgeous presentation, it’s easy to get lost amidst the richness. But there are visual issues, like clipping and pop-in, and such drawbacks are prominent enough to remind us of some familiar limitations.

But on the high end of the spectrum is that much-lauded facial animation, generated by the great new MotionScan technology. In the world of video games, this is unparalleled. Nothing can touch it. I could provide you with an elaborate explanation but I believe one example says it all- when I first saw traffic desk captain Gordon Leary, I knew I recognized the face. After a little thought, I realized I had seen him in the movie “Life” with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. It was Ned Vaughn, who had only a small role as the young Sherriff Pike. The movie is 12 years old; I instantly recognized his face, now older, in L.A. Noire . …I’m sorry, but I can’t think of a better representation of this thrilling new step in gaming.

Considering the massive voice cast of professional actors, it should come as no surprise when I say the voiceover performances are top-notch. We gave Red Dead Redemption our Best Acting award last year and at this rate, it seems only Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception can give L.A. Noire a run for its money in this category. So many actors and actresses; so many fantastic performances. The phenomenal soundtrack may not suit all tastes, which is understandable, and it may also sound limited in scope. But we have to understand that in this time period…well, they didn’t exactly have a whole lot of genres. The effects aren’t spectacular and even mundane in places, but the rest is so amazing, I almost don’t care.

From the start, the player feels as if the game is split into two distinct parts. The first is very GTA-like and has you driving around and exploring a lively, well painted environment. This is where you can explore, locate collectible items (like film reels and landmarks), drink in the vitality of this thriving metropolis, and field dispatch calls. The latter tasks you with resolving random issues cops typically face on a daily basis; this includes robberies gone wrong, domestic disturbances that flare up violently, and even suicide attempts. Now, in contrast to a Grand Theft Auto , there isn’t as much to do. But this is due to one incontrovertible fact that some miss: L.A. Noire does not rely on this structure.

In truth, the open-ended, free-roaming aspect really isn’t the focus. It’s why this part of the gameplay may feel a little empty, perhaps even devoid of certain necessary pieces. Furthermore, we’re using a mechanic that, while tried-and-true and battle-tested, retains eccentricities that are more glaring in this day and age. Granted, these are familiar shortcomings but they must be mentioned. For instance, the control feels just a touch slow and awkward, and I sometimes got the sense that Team Bondi put too much emphasis on movement physics. It seems too exaggerated. The driving also feels a little loose and yeah, those scripted chase sequences – where no matter what you do, the vehicle you’re chasing follows a set path – are back.

The latter is familiar to all GTA fans and for some, it’s just plain hilarious. For instance, during one canned chase sequence, I managed to push the chased vehicle into a parking lot, where the driver proceeded to drive into a wall over and over again. So I looked away for a minute, turned back, and he had magically disappeared…sadly – and funnily enough – only to reappear in another parking lot across the street, where he got stuck again. Yes, it’s amusing. And when obvious pop-in and other graphical issues rear their ugly heads, you just sort of accept it as part of the standard free-roaming adventure. And maybe it only seems all the more outdated due to the innovative and progressive nature of the rest of the game; the fact of the matter is, the control, in spite of the flaws, is solid and reliable.

And once we move beyond such recognizable quirks, the game shines brightly. The process of being a detective is a complex one that requires patience and intuition (yeah, I’ll get back to that in a minute). You will examine crime scenes, question witnesses, interrogate suspects, and record clues, locations, and people’s information in a handy notebook. You can talk to your partner if you’re feeling a little lost, and the controller will rumble when you’re near a possible clue. Haunting music will also play as you search and it’ll only die out when you’ve found every clue. All of this works very well; the cases are extremely well designed and written.

But it’s the personal part; the interview part that captures the player. This is where we ask a question, listen to the reply, and select Truth, Doubt, or Lie. At first, this seemed to be an awkward and uncertain process but I soon learned that in reality, you really do have to think like a detective. If you’re going to accuse someone of lying, you better have evidence to back it up, so be prepared to go to the notebook. This requires that you keep a close eye on all accumulated clues; you’re constantly thinking about a person’s reply and how it applies to the evidence. The lying is more about what they say, but for Truth and Doubt, their facial animations are important.

Only by analyzing both a person’s reactions and any information you have at your disposal can you hit upon the correct answer. Wandering eyes, facial twists and ticks, and other behavior that might be attributed to nervousness raises doubt in our minds. Truth usually comes with a direct gaze and genuine-sounding responses. Now, this is where the great voice performances come into play- these people are all acting, so all of it is fake. You have to be a good performer to portray genuine feeling; i.e., if the delivery of the lines was ham-handed, all of it would sound suspect. I found this to be a crucial aspect and the game succeeds nicely.

Experience earns you intuition points, which you can spend during your investigation. In a crime scene, you can spend a point to put all the clues on your map and during an interview, you can spend one to either remove a wrong choice or ask the community. You have to be a member of the Rockstar Social Club to do the latter, but it’s sort of like that Phone a Friend option in “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” You might want to save those intuition points for the tougher cases but the purists won’t want to use them at all, as they sort of feel like cheating. Still, it’s a very cool feature and after all, “intuition” is a part of the realistic process.

It isn’t perfect. When selecting Doubt or Lie, Detective Cole Phelps will sometimes get pushy and harsh in a situation that doesn’t call for such a reaction. And there are times when you just can’t decipher a look or a response. But isn’t that part of being a detective? This leads me back to those random crimes in the city; some will claim they can be repetitive or a whole lot of nothing, but again, isn’t this most indicative of the job? The game rewards the patient and observant. You can’t be driving like a maniac; any inflicted damage on the city or its inhabitants will be reflected in a report upon the current case’s conclusion. It’ll also tell you what you might’ve missed. So if you want to be “Valorous,” you have to be – no doubt about it – a public servant.

The worst thing that can be said about L.A. Noire is that it lacks a sense of identity. It doesn’t really know what it wants to be. It really is half one thing and half another. But even the half that gets some criticism is good, if not great, and the other half is just plain mesmerizing. The writing and dialogue is second-to-none in video games, the detective work is fulfilling and even addicting, the atmosphere and environment is unbelievable, the performances can be downright stunning, and those faces alone warrant a purchase. The control can feel a little sluggish and the driving a little a loose, there are canned chases, and the interview process does have a few kinks, but the end result is a fantastic accomplishment. If we adopt a forward-thinking attitude, it’s this accomplishment that stands apart:

If we consider this new facial animation technology, we recognize that we’re ushering in a new level of humanity in the realm of interactive entertainment. Interpreting faces and body language is what we do every single day. It adds much of the luster that makes us emotional, sensitive creatures. Hence, the possibilities for any game that involves a story are that much broader.

The Good: Facial animation is revolutionary. Voice acting is superb. Immersive environment and atmosphere. Great writing and dialogue. Case solving can be addictive. Solid overall gameplay and presentation.

The Bad: Small graphical problems. Old-fashioned gameplay issues like scripted chases. Control feels a little cumbersome.

The Bad: “Car driving repeatedly into a wall…that’s unfortunate.”

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CrusaderForever
CrusaderForever
10 years ago

Nice review Ben! I agree with all your points. So happy I bought this game. There is a lot to get addicted too. Solid game!

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
10 years ago

^^^ Fast reader, whole review in 2 minutes huh? Impreeeessive.

Victor321
Victor321
10 years ago

Based on my personal experiences, usually when there's a new review posted on the site, it's on the reviews section first (of PS3, PSP or PS2) then on the front page.

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
10 years ago

If that's the case then I apologize, if not then I stand by my original statement. I love scanning the reviews I catch early and see people who comment only after the Review has been up for like a couple of minutes.

CrusaderForever
CrusaderForever
10 years ago

Hmmm, no human can read that fast right? Weird critique.

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
10 years ago

Well yeah they can, I just think they might find it hard to understand as reading every other sentence might ruin a correct perception of the article… that's all.

Douchebaguette
Douchebaguette
10 years ago

@ JMO – You're just butthurt since you couldn't comment first. Admit it =P.

Underdog15
Underdog15
10 years ago

Took me near 2-ish minutes…

Just sayin'.


Last edited by Underdog15 on 5/20/2011 9:22:42 AM

TheCrazyMerc
TheCrazyMerc
10 years ago

Awesome review!

FxTales
FxTales
10 years ago

I had a little chuckle to myself, I went out to the mailbox a moment before and my copy had arrived, I come onto here and see the review is up and I thought good timing.

Great review, I know what to expect and what to look out for, so I can sit back and enjoy it for what it is.

Claire C
Claire C
10 years ago

Really great review. Better than many I've read. =D

Some just don't seem suited for this type of game. =(

Lord carlos
Lord carlos
10 years ago

excellent
i"ll be enjoying this in a few hours 🙂

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

I have so many games to play. Honestly how does anyone go through dry spells this generation? Ugh…I hate being old and busy.

Oh and thanks for the review, as always your reviews are a pleasure to read.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

Old and busy.

…bah, now I'm depressed.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

And you're older and busier than me!!

frylock25
frylock25
10 years ago

sigh

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

Baaaaaah. LOL

kevinater321
kevinater321
10 years ago

🙂

tes37
tes37
10 years ago

This really is an amazing game. I almost passed on the pre-order and I'm glad that I didn't. The facial expressions and voice acting are way better than I anticipated.

You've done an equally amazing job with this review Ben.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

You really like Kiss?

tes37
tes37
10 years ago

In the 70's they were okay. How they managed to compete with Led Zeppelin during that era for the number one act in the world is beyond me. I just thought that Peter Criss would make a good avatar because an avatar is similar to a mask.

Godslim
Godslim
10 years ago

they have some good songs
but are no iron maiden!

Oxvial
Oxvial
10 years ago

I heard this is overheating Ps3's(old models) and 360's ,some of you has already this problema?

CrusaderForever
CrusaderForever
10 years ago

I have had zero problems and I have a 80GB fat PS3.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

Ya, I've read that too. IGN has a step by step fix for it.

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
10 years ago

I don't know why it would, it would spin no faster than any other game. And I'm certain they didn't make it so the HDD cranks to a ridiculous 30,000 RPMs either. People on the internet are crazy.

CrusaderForever
CrusaderForever
10 years ago

I guess I should say a 500GB, just meant 80GB version when I bought it.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

@JMO

Well it's being reported by both Joystiq and IGN and plenty of others on forums so I don't really see why you would think it's just some crazy people on the internet.

Like I said IGN has a step by step fix if anyone is having this issue.

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
10 years ago

Well yeah with the lower capacity HDDs in the model PS3s of yesteryear I suppose they are probably maxed out space wise after the install and are getting warm. A good move by you Crusader to upgrade the space.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

I have no need to upgrade my HD space thanks to wireless media streaming. GAWD I love my PS3.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
10 years ago

Sony and rockstar both came out and said neither te 3.61 firmware update nor LA Noire is causing this. It's on the PSblog If you want to read exactly what was posted.

chedison
chedison
10 years ago

me too Vertigo ;_; me too.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

Ched,

Are you going to get WKC2? I remember playing it briefly online with you and I would love to play the 2nd one with you, this time longer. I've heard they fixed a lot of the annoyances from the first one.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

The game clearly pushes the PS3 pretty hard, but I personally haven't had any trouble.

___________
___________
10 years ago

the game streams allot of crap from the HDD, all i could hear last night was the HDD going back and forth with the light constantly on.
i had a few freezes when i go into the psn store DLC page, but besides that its been fine.

LittleBigMidget
LittleBigMidget
10 years ago

Good review Ben. Wish I could buy LA Noire, but InFamous 2 comes first.

kevinater321
kevinater321
10 years ago

Ahhh Yeaaahh 🙂 Infamous 2 will be godly.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
10 years ago

Great review. I can't say I agree with a lot of it, but everyone has different ideas and opinions. On the other hand some things you pointed out are just plain facts and those I can't argue with, like the faces! I've seen so many people in this game it amazes me. I can't say who they are but they look all too familiar! It's fun! The technology is pretty great, this game definitely needed it to succeed and be as good a it is!

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

Ya, the facial expressions are amazing. I think I could trick my parents into thinking they're watching a movie similar to LA Confidential.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
10 years ago

Ha, LA confidential!

Well its pretty great that games have gotten to the point, or atleast that this game has. It's such a pivotal point of the game, I can't imagine what it would be like with out this technology.

MyWorstNightmar
MyWorstNightmar
10 years ago

I hope they use this technology for the next Red Dead Redemption. Would love that.

FM23
FM23
10 years ago

LA Noire is definitely my GOTY so far…its just different and fulfilling. Those negatives are clear facts, but for some reason I never noticed them, but I'm not sure this game needed to be open world in the first place. It's a liner game…kind of like Mafia II, but Mafia II wasn't a good game…maybe a decent movie, but weak ass game. LA Noire is a good game that could be a great movie.

kraygen
kraygen
10 years ago

Sounds like a great review for one sweet game. Just have a couple of questions.

Are the graphical issues, like the clipping, really minor and hardly noticeable? I mean from a 9.2 I would guess yes, but a lot of times you won't mention it if it barely ever happens.

Not a big fan of the scripted chase scenes honestly, with everything that went into this game you'd think they'd have moved past that. I'm sure it might not be a big deal, but it would still be annoying to me.

Overall it seems like a game I'm going to love quite a bit in spite of it's minor flaws, but since my money is beholden to Infamous 2 right now, LA Noire will have to wait.

FM23
FM23
10 years ago

I haven't noticed the graphic hiccups, but I had a glitch where my character was standing upright in his car…hilarious. And yes, the chases and on foot chases are staged, but this is no more irratiting than it was in Heavy Rain during similiar instances. It's still annoying though, but the game follows a linear can't stray away from the linear path arc like Heavy Rain. LA Noire is dry just like Heavy Rain, but it's a atmospheric piece of work, but outdated in alot of instances like Ben said. The shooting gameplay is as dull as in Mafia II in my opinion, but it really isn't that bad since the game isn't based on shooting unlike Mafia II.

And Infamous 2…that may just end up being the most entertaining game I play this year if it pans out the way I hope it does. If its like Infamous…then it won't, but all the new gameplay enhances make me anxious. Damn, can't wait for that game.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

The graphical problems and the canned chase scenes aren't really common. They're there but it's not like they're in your face all the time.

kraygen
kraygen
10 years ago

Awesome, I kinda figured, but had to be sure ya know. All very good news.

Personally I loved Heavy Rain and I quite enjoyed Mafia II.

Mafia II was exactly what I expected it to be and so I had no issues with it, plus I only paid $20 for it so I was a perfectly happy camper.

Plus when I first saw the video's for LA Noire I commented that it looked like an improved Mafia II so it sounds like I'll enjoy it thoroughly.

PharaohJR
PharaohJR
10 years ago

good review ben. its on my list to buy. my bredren jus got it i will ask him what he thinks bout it tomorrow.

only 2 people on my friend list have it so far i expected more but then again it was just released.

Ultimate_Balla
Ultimate_Balla
10 years ago

added to the must get list

CharlesD
CharlesD
10 years ago

Picked it up day one and so far am having a blast. Vice gets much more in depth and there are all sorts of hidden clues, secret stashes, and winding leads. Great review, as always. Just trying to take my time with this one and savor it while it lasts.

Lawless SXE
Lawless SXE
10 years ago

I can deal with the standard action dealies being standard. If you want that type of thing, then there are plenty of other games to choose from. Nah, this game is all about the detective work for me, and it sounds more and more promising as I read more about it. Can't wait until next weekend.

Also, loved the review Ben.
Peace.

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