Videogame Review: LA Noire 360, PS3

LA Noire is a bit of a conundrum to review so lets do that whole question writer bit.  Should everyone who can stand the sight of a mutilated cadaver play this game?  Absolutely!  Is this game ground breaking and a glimpse into the future?  It better be!  Should the fedora and derby hat come back?  Duh!  Are half the mechanics in this game completely broken?  Unfortunately, a very sad but astounding yes.  Do I still recommend this game after all this?  Yeah I hate it when people ask a question in their opening paragraph and don’t answer until the conclusion either.

LA Noire delivers an incredibly solid experience.  There’s been a ton of talk and hype over the facial expressions of the characters and deservedly so!  The well written characters plus the facial animations deliver a new level of immersion I personally have never experienced.  The facial animation delivered so much immersion that when it came time for a character to do their Shrek-like walk or when a non-realistic sequence happened the mood was broken that much more.  Let’s just say when I had to fix someone’s InstaHeat while checking for clues, it really broke the mood of the piece.  Yes those odd puzzles that never happen in reality are randomly strewn throughout the game and are big moodbreakers.

About half the gameplay is playing detective which is done really well for the most part.  The conversation system is pretty fantastic once understood, especially for a developer’s first try.  Where it fails is that the player doesn’t always know what the character in the game is going to dispute when “doubt” or “lie” is selected.  The fun part of the conversation is determining whether the individual being questioned is a suspect or a witness.  The crime scenes are a joy to explore.  Inspecting corpses, checking foot prints and shoe sizes, or checking nearby trash cans, LA Noire is surprisingly enthralling and detail oriented.  Although often times when examining an object it is difficult to find the exact angle for the game to realize the necessary detail has been noticed.  The biggest problem is the controls drive the character like a tank.  The controls would probably be fine for an action game with the exception of gun aiming finesse but in an environment where the details matter like LA Noire, the controls just aren’t there yet.

Where the controls really fail is the gunplay, not that gunplay is even a required part of the experience.  Personally, I think a game where the bad guy could shoot the player but the player couldn’t shoot back but instead had to win with his or her mouth but would fantastic.  But that’s not LA Noire.  The game does give the player an option to skip most action sequences if the player fails them enough.  Basically the gun controls are Red Dead without the Dead Eye.  So pretty bad.  Luckily a degree of auto aim happens whenever the aim button is pressed, but get used to replaying the hostage situations as precision aiming is not LA Noire’s forte.

While I started out a pretty terrible driver once I got used to the driving controls I found them surprisingly appealing.  The map offers a ton of secret cars to unlock which I never really followed up on. Each car has a different feel so much so that I found myself using my police status to often obtain cars with better acceleration and turn ability from rather unhappy civilians.  The environment encourages legal driving but I often found this boring and simply blared the police siren and speed past traffic.  And yes by the end I could do this without hitting anybody.  It should be also mentioned that most of the civilian drivers will attempt to pull over to the right if they hear a police siren.

The parts of the game that hurt the most are often the on foot chase sequences.  It doesn’t take much for the player to accidentally hit an immovable object while the target climbs to a roof and then jumps to a not readily apparent area.  Roofs have limited places that the player can jump off or climb down and those places are often hard to spot.  There is also an option to tackle a running suspect but I never once out of the 20 plus hours of game got it to work.

The story of the game and progression is pretty fantastic for the most part.  All the characters are fairly believable except for most of the innocents that feel the need to run from the cops.  Cole is a very debatable character as to whether the player will like him or not.  Personally, I enjoyed him quite a bit.  All the partners throughout the different parts of the police force are pretty entertaining in both good and bad ways.  They all have different driving styles too.  One particular partner was a drunk and always runs the car into things for instance.  The entire ending sequence upset me quite a bit though.  No I won’t give any spoilers.  Basically the last couple hours of the game stop relying on detective and interview work and almost entirely move to an action game.  And the actual ending itself leaves a lot to be desired.

I would also be remiss not to mention that the sound department deserves an award.  The soundtrack is fantastic!  Fallout 3 and 4 fans will recognize a few tunes, but where the game really shines is the incorporation of music into gameplay.  The eerie music that plays throughout a crime scene until all clues are found at which point the music crescendos out.  The melodic bells that sound when an examinable object is in front of the character.  The way the music subtlety picks up during a chase or transforms with the witnesses mood during an interview.  Team Bondi’s sound department should be admired by sound engineers everywhere.

LA Noire is receiving a lot of positive response from pretty much everywhere.  Its a game that by all rights should be controversial but is being embraced with big open arms.  The facial animation is ground breaking but the gameplay is severely lacking.  LA is a living breathing city that the player can’t really interact with.  While this focuses the experience it also takes away from the experience.  But the detective work is absurdly fun.  So do I recommend this game after all this?  You figure it out.  All the clues are there.  Truth, doubt, or lie?

About MusiM
Musician, writer, Gundam model hobbyist, video game lover, host of The Carousel Podcast, and all with a day job.

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