L.A. Noire: review

With the backing of Rockstar, Australian developer Team Bondi set out to make a different kind of game. Drawing from stylistic detective and gangster movies of yesteryear and boasting revolutionary facial animation, does L.A. Noire earn a commendation or does it deserve to sleep with the fishes?

Set in 1940s Los Angeles, L.A. Noire places you in the role of Cole Phelps, a decorated war hero making his way up through the ranks of the LAPD. Players achieve this by getting involved in crime scenes, looking for clues, piecing together puzzles, tailing people, interviewing witnesses and interrogating suspects.

It would be a mistake to approach L.A. Noire expecting an experience similar to anything else backed or produced by Rockstar. Though it may look and play like a GTA game (with its open world setting, gunplay, tedious collectable hunting and minimal optional extras), Noire is very different.

Most of Noire will have you involved in the various steps of investigation, with the interviews and interrogations being the key selling points due to the aforementioned facial animation technology. Boasting the ability to accurately capture an actor’s face (if by accurate they meant everyone looking like they have a lisp) the game expects you to watch their reaction to Cole’s questions and thus be able to guess whether or not they are telling the truth. The doubt option is particularly vague, and can at times have totally random outcomes. Optional musical chimes will tell you if you have guessed correctly (though you can guess by what is said either way).

Unfortunately there are problems with this questioning system, beyond the obvious flaw of instantly telling you whether you were right or wrong, and this is just the first of many things which will slowly eat away at the enjoyment you will have with this game.

The first problem is that accusing somebody of lying is only successful if you have proof to back it up (realistic at least); but there are times when you have multiple pieces of evidence which, while all circumstantial when separate, prove absolute guilt when combined. The game does not allow you to do this and forces you to guess which it wants you to pick. There is no game over for going down the wrong route in a conversation and things will play out differently based on what happens, but it is incredibly frustrating when you are not at fault.

There are also ridiculous accusations of murder thrown about by Cole if you spot a provable lie of minor importance. The game cannot tell the difference between you believing someone to be a liar and believing that they are a murderer. It feels as if Team Bondi has assumed that the player is unintelligent, to be blunt.

The worst crime occurs during the homicide cases when a string of murders happen under the same circumstances. It is infuriatingly obvious even within the first case that a serial killer is getting away with murder and that you are going after the wrong people, yet the game arrogantly thinks it has fooled you – culminating in one of the most boring climaxes to a plot we have ever seen. It even goes one step further by lying to the player. Cutscenes at the start of the homicide cases show the murder happening and go so far as to use character models of suspects within the case carrying out the kill, even though it later retroactively changes the continuity of this to nobody’s surprise.

Another major gripe is in the replay option. There is no harm in getting through a crime scene or a questioning session without being perfect; however those who want to strive to get perfect five star ratings without resorting to following a guide will be the most frustrated of all.

Noire uses a similar checkpoint system to GTA IV, yet it only applies if you die or otherwise do something that utterly ruins the case (kill a hostage by mistake for example) yet there is no option to reload a checkpoint if you want to try again at correctly spotting all lies. The game expects you to restart the whole case if you want to do this and of course even if you get through the interview you messed up there might be more within the same case you weren’t sure about. It becomes an endeavour into punishing trial and error, the game presumably (wrongly) assuming that you will enjoy constantly restarting when trying for perfection.

We would be less harsh on the core mechanics of Noire if it had something else to fall back on, but all there is is a limited range of very repetitive, short cases that are spread across all desks which you will not be inclined to replay. The one area it shines in is the voice work which, for the most part, is stellar.

L.A. Noire succeeds only at failing to achieve almost everything it attempts to do. We applaud the concept but scorn the outcome. The core mechanics are flawed, the slow pacing and predictability of the plot remove any momentum to push you towards the end, and the bottom line is that there is not enough to do and what is there just isn’t interesting enough.

If you are looking for a superior lie-spotting, crime-solving experience we would recommend the Phoenix Wright games (not that they are flawless by any means). If you don’t mind a game which thinks you’re unintelligent and has very little to do in it, then by all means buy L.A. Noire.

 


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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

13 comments

  1. HeavY /

    This is one of the most stupid reviews I have read. I hate when webistes give a good game bad reviews based on stupid things Like “If I interview someone and make a mistake, I can’t go back to the past and select a different option”
    Go back to your basement and keep playing COD online, which you guys gave 8 for Black Ops and 10 to MW

  2. Cadattack123 /

    I disagree with this review 100% this game is GOTY contestant i think is just mad because there isn’t enough shooting and it isn’t like GTA

  3. HOC /

    Don’t let the lame people who need every game they like be a 10/10. This is a great review.

    It’s a detective game that doesn’t let you do much detective work without the answers being shoved into your face or the game being incredibly lenient. It fails right where its focus is. And the shooting and car chases…..meh.
    That’s an F grade game in my book.

    Again, great review.

    • HOC /

      **Don’t LISTEN to the lame people

      (Not “don’t let” lol)

  4. 1Gamer /

    I completely agree with this review. This is the most truthful review in my mind on this rather mediocre game.

  5. LOL /

    Probably the lamest review Ive ever readen in my entire life.

    A pathetic reviewer trying to publish his so called webtrash. Probably dont know even understood the concept of the game. Go back to your Modern HACKfail 2, little kid. When youre 18 years older make another review of this.

    Also, judging from the picture, your mom made your milk already! Dont go to bed too late!

    • Ian D /

      I think only one of us is coming across as a child and it isn’t me. I will take it as a compliment that you’ve incorrectly thought I’m young based on my picture though. I’m 28 for the record.

      As pointed out above – I didn’t like Modern Warfare 2. Please read things to avoid looking stupid in the future.

  6. Brett /

    This review is really harsh. The game deserves more as I’ve never came across anyone disappointed by Team Bondi’s latest work. The technology, gameplay and overall settings is very different to what junk comes out these days. It looks like this *reviewer* cough, on this *blog* had a hard time playing it and failed only blaming the game for his mistakes. Please don’t waste peoples time with this useless review.
    The game is not perfect it’s not utter shit as you set it out to be.
    Plus your *blog* gave Brink a good score? Are you serious?

  7. Ricochet /

    Sorry but this review is totally misleading to your readers. Sure, no game is perfect and there are areas that could have been improved upon but to give it a four means that a game is unfinished, buggy and almost unplayable – putting it in the same leagues as Iron Man, Too Human and Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach volleyball and that is just not true. That is the equivalent of scoring Modern Warfare a 4 because of its ridiculous plot and story line but completely ignoring its contribution to FPS multiplayer gaming. I can only think that the reviewer gave it a four to attract attention to his review.

  8. KrazyFace /

    Woo-Hoo! Ruffled feathers eh!

    Oh and, big ol’ Internet LMAO at the poster LOL for inventing the word “readen”, well done there mate!

  9. Stephanie T /

    Cool, thanks for the honesty. Scores for super hyped games like this tend to be inflated so I’m surprised to say the least. I’ve been on the fence with this one, and still am, but I will take your opinion into consideration before making a purchase. If I do it’ll be when it’s cheap. Your review does give me the urge to go out and get Ace Attorney though…

  10. steven g /

    wow, what a reaction!

    Gotta say the game does have some really nice story telling and art style. But a lot of the other cool features are really skin deep. As with heavy rain, it feels the developers made too much of an effort to fuse film with interactive media and it does not always work, nor is it required.

    im 50% of the way through, am enjoying it, but its not GOTY for me.

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