L.A Noire – Review (PS3)

L.A Noire has been 7 years in the making, with use of a brand new facial motion capture technology that has wowed almost everyone that’s seen it.

The game takes place in 1940’s L.A, with you taking on the role of Cole Phelps – recently returned from the war and starting out as a cop on the beat.

While a lot of people felt that L.A Noire would be a 1940’s GTA (much like Red Dead Redemption was a Western version of GTA in many people’s eyes) Team Bondi have crafted a much more linear experience than expected.

Your time playing as Phelps is mainly investigative and interrogation work, which in my opinion is a good direction for them to head in. Although you have freedom in the sense of not finding all the clues/messing up the interrogation etc your partner will often point out stuff you’ve missed and while you sometimes have the option of who to charge, just as often the game plays out regardless.

You do have the opportunity to break free in the city, however what you can actually do in this time is dictated by the side missions. By answering calls on your in-car radio (by pressing X) you can get a mission and be on your way. While you can leave the car when not on a side mission you can’t draw your weapon or hurt civilians, as this obviously wouldn’t be in keeping with the character of Phelps.

The investigative stuff in L.A Noire is pretty cool, with your character moving around the crime scene and checking out points of interest (highlighted by a rumble on the pad and a chime sound – which can both be turned off if you really want to go Noir 😆 ).

The interrogations really highlight the acting and the wonderful facial capture. While it’s not perfect it was certainly good enough to fool me on a few occasions. My main issue with the interrogation parts is that the ‘Doubt’ option wasn’t properly explained in my opinion.

When talking to people you have three options once they’ve made a statement; Truth, Doubt and Lie. From the options given I would’ve presumed Doubt to mean that Cole doubts the other character but isn’t sure. What it actually means is Lie but he doesn’t have a piece of evidence that backs him up.

This leads to several instances where Cole started screaming at a witness about lying etc when what I actually wanted was a gentle probe that may uncover more. It’s annoying even when you know what the Doubt option does when Cole’s response is so unpredictable.

Going back to the acting and it really is stunning at times. The stand out for me is LAPD Homicide Captain James Donnelly, played superbly by Andrew Connolly. He has to be one of my favourite video game characters of all time.

The story sticks to some Film Noir staples and, although a few bits niggle, on the whole it’s an enjoyable tale that plays out nicely.

L.A Noire’s soundtrack and score is also brilliant and really helps catapult you into a different era.

The game this most reminds me of is Heavy Rain, stunning captures of the actors and an interesting, if flawed, story. Unfortunately it doesn’t feature the numerous different endings that Heavy Rain does so you don’t ever feel the story is in your hands.

Everyone should play L.A Noire, it’s a bench mark title that has raised the bar for other games in terms of facial animation. Does that make it a classic? An outstanding game? I’m afraid not.

Rating: 8/10

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