Review: L.A. Noire

“Take a seat sir,  I’d like to ask you a couple of questions.  Where were you last night at approximately 1:35AM?  Really?  You’re lying.  What gave it away?  Your quizzical look and lack of confidence in your answer.”  Maybe it was the constant looking around the room that gave it away or the fact that he rolled his eyes after he answered.  Whatever it was, you caught something and that’s the beginning to reading someone in L.A. Noire.  You start off as Cole Phelps, the traffic cop working your way through the different divisions eventually landing a detective role.  This murder mystery takes place in 1947 and your objective is to hunt down a killer on the loose all while looking for clues, analyzing suspects and making the right choices.  The bar for quality gaming has again been raised by Team Bondi and Rockstar Games. Detail is important and capturing even the most subtle movements will separate you from other gumshoes.

Capturing the face. Recognizing every wrinkle in a person’s face or a seeing a slight gesture of someone smirking can be a difficult task in video games.  In L.A. Noire, MotionScan makes that all possible and it’s one of the greatest development additions to a video game that you’ll appreciate.  MotionScan allows the emotional performances of the actors portray the story and allow it to unfold in a brand new way.  The most minute detail will assist your interrogation based on which path you decide to take.  I found myself really analyzing every detail on a person’s face.  In my opinion, the face tells the story.  You’ll find some blinking uncontrollably to moving around in their seat.  I loved the blend Team Bondi incorporated of realism and virtual reality making L.A. Noire my breakout game of 2011.

Crime Scenes are worth a look. The crime scene is the starting point for your missions and where you begin your investigation.  Whether it’s a murder in the park or a hit and run, all missions begin with a cut scene of the crime scene and the events that took place all while leaving out the major clues done purposely.  When examining the slain bodies Cole puts his finger over the points of interest.  As you move his finger around you can focus on searching for clues left behind by the murderer.  Once you find a clue, the camera will focus in and your controller will vibrate letting you know to stay on the target at hand to unlock that clue and add a new entry into your journal.  Once you have discovered all the evidence in that area, you will hear music letting you know to move on.

Interrogation 101. The most fun you’ll have is questioning suspects and witnesses.  As you gather more clues on your case, you’ll encounter the one-on-one questioning’s that can make or break your success.  As you fire off questions to your witness, he or she answers and gives their side of the story.  Based on their actions, way of talking or sometimes bland answers you can test your detective skills in one of three manners; “Truth, Lie or Doubt”.  But before you jump down the witnesses throat, you can view your notebook to look for clues based on their story.  Again, look for hints in their eyes.  Liars tend to be a bit more fussy than straight shooters but not always.  Once you choose one of the three options, you’ll hear some musical notes.  Those that sound like a harmonic positive sound mean your accusation was correct.  Answering enough correct choices will either propel you to the next clue or in some cases have the witness confess to something he wasn’t planning on letting out of the bag.  Select a wrong answer and the witness will become frustrated in you and claim his innocence.

Nabbing the Accuser. OK, so you’re sure your Interrogation is going just the way you want.  Your suspect is dodging every specific question with a vague answer.  Now’s the time to accuse he or she of lying with some hard evidence.  Once you choose “Lie”, the suspect will then ask you what exactly you’re accusing them of.  At this point you’re notebook will open and you will need to select the correct piece of evidence to prove the accusation.  Whether it’s a book of matches or information gathered like a boot size, your suspect will crack at the seams and confess or back-peddle but to a point.  Some suspects are pro’s and will not admit to the crime.  So stay on them because you’re evidence will be enough to throw them in the slammer, admitting or not!

Intuition is all you got. L.A. Noire features intuition points which will help you during your case.  Leveling up will gain you more points and allow you to properly interrogate those in question.  Personally, I tend not to use the intuition points because you’re (mostly) on the right track.  But when you do during the questioning, you’ll have the option to either ask the Social Club community based on a percentage next to each answer i.e Truth 25%, Lie 50% or Doubt 25% or removing one of those three answers leaving you with a 50-50 chance of getting it correctly.  Using your Intuition during accusations will eliminate all the incorrect items leaving you with just the piece of correct evidence.

Linear game experience for everyone. Very rarely did I run into a jam in the game.  Since the game is somewhat linear in a Sandbox world, you will find that going from case to case that you will never fumble or fail.  I’d like to think there was an aspect that if I questioned the wrong person or if I forgot a clue hidden in the garbage, I would not “pass” the mission.  Sometime failure is needed to allow the gamer to feel his good choices had some credibility behind them.  Buy not incorporating this type of gameplay, you’re rewarding those who are mediocre to below average detectives.

At the end, a case rating. After each case you’ll be judged on how well your interviews went.  Remember where I mentioned “Truth, Lie or Doubt”?  Yeah, answer those wrong and you’ll be penalized.  Be sure to find every clue at each site.  Lastly, avoid hitting pedestrians and damaging city property those will cost you too.  You’re given experience points that will help you level up and move onto the next division within the Police force.  Your case rating is not vital to the game however it’s based on well you handled yourself and the case.

Stop, or my mom will shoot. L.A. Noires mini games offer plenty of fun away from the mail storyline.  Once your in a Police car (w/ radio) you’ll be asked to assist in a Street Crime.  Most of these Street Crimes involve heading to the scene of the crime and assisting fellow officers.  I only recently discovered that you can fire your gun in the air to contain the assailant.  Aiming your weapon at the perp, you’ll see a circle fill.  Once filled, you can apprehend the criminal.  But alas, most times the Street Crime mission ends in bloodshed.  I was confused to see at the end of ever Street Crime mission Cole calling in the coroner.  Followed by a body bag entering the back of a hearse.

Odds n ends. Some of the cooler features not commonly mentioned in other reviews is the ability to play L.A. Noire in true nostalgia fashion. Under option, change the “Display” to “Black and White” for that true 1940’s vibe. For those fail mission attempts you’ll have the ability to Action Skip. If you’ve seen the scene once, you probably don’t want to see it again and again and again. And if you’re looking to test your gaming skills you can turn off Aim assistant, Cue Music and Cue Hints. I prefer this a la carte style of gaming difficulty because you can choose how difficult you want the game to be.

Pros
– Facial recognition (MotionScan)
– Large scale sandbox
– Mini missions (Street Crimes)
– Great soundtrack

Cons
– Linear Storyline
– Repetitive missions

Final Thought: L.A. Noire has added a new element to the gaming world. The creative minds behind Team Bondi and Rock Star have adapted the breakout technology behind MotionScan and it’s a better place thanks to them. Far too long have video game character faces dragged the lackluster emotions behind their fierce voices. There’s no denying gamers are visual people and MotionScan should be a requirement in ALL future games . I applause Rock Star’s “out of the box” and intuitive skills.  For this reason, L.A. Noire should be a game everyone should experience.

9/10

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