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 Forsaken's Review of L.A. Noire

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Forsaken Lament 44
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PostSubject: Forsaken's Review of L.A. Noire    Wed Aug 24, 2011 8:11 pm

Forsaken Lament's Review of L.A. Noire

By: Forsaken Lament 44 for FTW Gamer's Network
Platforms: 360, PS3, PC (To be released)
Release Date: May 20th, 2011
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Genre: Open World Adventure, Cinematic Mystery
Rated: Mature

L.A. Noire is a difficult game to review. It was difficult just to figure out what genre to place it in. The source of that difficulty stems from just how different L.A. Noire is from most any game out there. Even if you've played Heavy Rain-another "cinematic mystery" game for the PS3-I'm positive you'll still be caught off-guard by the uniqueness of this game. What Team Bondi of Sydney, Australia has put together is an atmospheric and dramatic thriller that starts slow but ramps up the pressure as you go on, tempting you to stay up late searching for answers, just like any good mystery novel.

L.A. Noire Launch Trailer


As most everyone knows by this point, Noire is a Detective game set against the backdrop of post-WWII L.A. You play as Detective Cole Phelps, a Veteran of the War in the Pacific who seeks to continue serving his country through joining the police force. While you start as a basic patrolman, you quickly rise through the ranks of the LAPD based upon a number of cases which you are charged with solving. While you begin your work as a Detective at the not-so-exciting Traffic desk, you quickly move on to the more invigorating Homicide, Vice, and Arson desks. While the game does start off slow, each desk is more or less a series of self-contained cases which become increasingly interesting, especially as you begin to discover a grander narrative beyond each of the contained cases.

Each case is introduced through very cinematic cutscenes reminiscent of old-fashioned crime thrillers from the late 40's and 50's. From that point the player is tasked with traveling to the scene of the crime and investigating for evidence. Evidence is found by exploring the area and listening for musical chimes, which indicate a suspicious object. Mysterious music plays throughout the investigation, and ends when all clues have been found. Collecting evidence is engaging, as clues are closely inspected for more information, such as finding a serial number on a suspect's gun. Having said that, my only complaint is that the game tells you when you're done with the investigation, whereas real investigators would have no such convenience.

The closer you look, the more you'll discover.
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From there, all evidence, locations, and Suspects are kept track of in Phelp's notebook, which serves as the menu interface for the game. Using the clues obtained at the scene, you ascertain where you must go and who you must question in order to get a better idea of just what happened at the scene of the crime. This is where the game really begins to shine.

A great deal of attention was brought to Noire when the Developers revealed its revolutionary motion-scan technology, and rightly so; real actors give real performances and it shows. The camera focuses on suspects' faces with incredible detail; displaying everything from suspects' nervous twitches, shifting eyes, and lip biting, giving you a clear idea of how honest their answers really are. I still recall determining that a man was lying after seeing his Adam's Apple expand and retract following a nervous gulp. This amazing feat is not only a testament to this new technology, but also to the actors, many of whom are top notch in their roles.

Interrogations can be tense and difficult *Warning, mature language*


Questioning and interrogations are more than just looking at suspects' faces, however, as Noire is a game which requires a great deal of thought. Throughout the interrogation, the player must be mindful of the found evidence, and the ability to back up any accusation made against the suspect. The player has three choices when a suspect makes a claim: They're telling the truth, you doubt their answer (which more or less means they're not telling the whole story), or they're flat out lying. Choosing one of these options will have consequences, especially as you need proper evidence to prove that they are, in fact, lying. If you don't have the proper evidence, or make the incorrect choice, the suspects will often laugh at you, taunt you, and fail to take you seriously, which can harm the investigation as a whole. While you have help from earned "intuition points" which can narrow options or ask others for help, getting through an interrogation is realistic and tense, especially as there is no going back once you've made a choice. You cannot restart an interrogation once you've started it, adding more pressure and challenge to the situation. One of my minor gripes with this segment is that the game determines only one piece of proof for each given lie, despite the fact that other evidence may also be proof of a lie. This leads to some confusion, but doesn't keep the interrogations from being a fun and rewarding aspect of the game.

In addition to the investigations and interrogations, Noire has its fair share of action as well. Many suspects would rather run or fight back, leading to a slew of GTA-style car chases, fist fights and shootouts which can be a great deal of fun, if not slightly repetative. Just like GTA4, you can take cover behind objects during a shootout, and tapping the aim button automatically traces the nearest target. Vehicles control as you'd expect them too, and there are nearly 100 different vehicles to discover, all of which handle differently. There are also 40 different "street-crimes" which will be announced on the dispatch as you drive from location to location. One odd thing about Noire however is that should you fail a chase or other action more than 3 times, the game gives you the option to skip it altogether, which could lead to these portions not being taken seriously. While it's understandable that the game's primary focus is on sleuthing and the like, the realism of the game is hindered by this option. The game also allows you to free-roam the streets of L.A. in search of Landmarks and hidden vehicles, which can be interesting, but a bit dull as there isn't much else to do in the city.

L.A. Noire is perhaps one of the most realistic and absorbing games I've played. The streets of 1947 L.A. are masterfully recreated right down to the various landmarks L.A. is known for. In my various travels throughout the rather large city, I'm not sure I saw one repeat-building throughout the entire game. Now that's not to say they didn't exist, but Team Bondi did such a stellar job re-creating the city that you feel as though you exist in a living, breathing place. Bondi also did their historical homework in regard to costume design, architecture, music, vehicle design and cinematic style of the cases all magnificently harken back to the late 40's and the Noire genre of film. Of special note is Andrew Hale's amazing soundtrack which creates the ambiance of the era, and enhances the drama and suspense of the game. In all, these elements combine to create a game which feels almost more like a motion picture than a videogame.

1947 L.A. in stunning detail
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Conclusion
L.A. Noire is a moody, atmospheric game that defies the stereotype which characterize most of Rockstar's games. Gun fights and car chases do exist, but they take the back-seat to the story driven plot and criminal investigations. While this is an open world game, do not expect to mow down civilians or go on a killing spree; as this is a far more subdued experience. That is not to say this isn't a mature or exciting outing, however, as the cases deal with brutal homicides, mafia warfare, and a growing conspiracy which causes you to suspect even your closest allies. Noire admittedly starts off slow but picks up steam half way through the game, tempting you to keep on playing into the wee hours of the morning, eager to find answers. While the game might not be for everyone, it is sure to appeal to those who seek a compelling narrative, fantastic visuals, and an altogether new experience.

Score

Presentation-9.5
The game strives for a realistic, classic Noire feel and it attains it. Interface is realistically located in Phelp's notebook and you are rarely transported from the world of the game, enhancing the feeling of being absorbed in the atmosphere.

Graphics-10
Rockstar's Motion-Scan technology will likely alter the way future games are made. Actor's faces are realistically portrayed, giving the actors an opportunity to truly get into character for a video game performance. (Of particular note were Arron Stanton as Phelps, and John Noble as Leland Monroe.) City and vehicles are rendered beautifully with almost no framerate issues.

Sound-9.5
Andrew Hale's amazing score creates a sense of tension and intrigue as his melodies are reminiscent of the jazzy tunes of the era. Voice performances are stellar, although NPC's often repeat the same few lines when encountered in town.

Gameplay-9.0
Investigation and Interrogation controls are simple, yet effective. Badgering suspects is fun and rewarding, however car chases and shoot-outs do get a bit stale over time.

Lasting Appeal-9.0
The game clocks in at about 25 hours in story, 30 if you're a completionist. There are plenty of collectibles around town, as well as 40 street crimes to play. Still, there's not much reason to go back once the main story is complete, save for perfect interviews.

Overall-
L.A. Noire is an overall great experience which may take time and patience, but an engaging story makes it well worth it. 9.6

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PostSubject: Re: Forsaken's Review of L.A. Noire    Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:40 am

I think you've rated it a bit too high, especially for the Lasting Appeal. Also Gameplay isn't that great, all you do is walk around a crime scene until the controller vibrates.

I feel the game tries too hard to be like GTA with the chase segments and the driving to each location. Strangely, I think if it was more linear if would have been better.

Maybe 8.x, but then again, I don't own the game, I've just played it at a friend's.
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