L.A Noire is a neo-noir crime game developed by the Australian developer Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games. The basic premise of the game is that you are a war hero, who has comeback for fighting in the East against the Japanese during WW2, and has taken up defending the streets of Los Angeles by joining the L.A.P.D. Your career consists of going through the police department bureaus (desks) of Traffic, Homicide, Vice and finally Arson.
The open world is gloriously recreated in L.A Noire. I was quite shocked by the detail of the environment and the realism of late 1940 L.A. The map is huge and getting around does take some time. Luckily, on cases, you can make your partner quick drive to locations which is a massive plus. I would love to carry on praising this game but something occurred to me while I was playing. This game is as much fun as having Abu Hamza as your volleyball partner. The main formula of this game is very reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed (i.e. you do the same god dam thing in every mission). It plays out like this. You get told to go to a location. You get there and either the guy welcomes you or he runs away with the latter resulting in him going to questioning. If he hasn’t decided to bolt you tell him to sit and wait while you look for clues. Now this is where things get very dumb. The suspect sits and watches you collect credible evidence against them and says/does absolutely nothing. It is like they want you to arrest them. The way the evidence is collected is to wonder round the room and wait for a vibration from the controller. This kind of removes all skill while searching for clues. The developers think they are being clever by throwing red hearings which usually involves you inspects completely random objects like cooking utensils that makes you look like you are on a weekly shopping trip and not really solving big crimes. One you think you have found all the clues (made apparent by the odd “detective music” stopping) you then “question” the victim.
I use the term “question” very loosely here. The big sell for this game was its use of new facial technology. One thing this technology managed to do was to make really weird characters. The bodies look dated while the faces look ridged with life like eyes, mouth and eyebrows. The only way to explain it is to imagine if a human could mate with a video game character and then Botox their face into submission. The whole idea was to judge who is lying by the faces and the evidence. However, I found half of the characters I questioned had facial expressions that looked like they were ripped from free B-movie films up on youtube made by twelve year olds and the other half I questioned had extremely still faces. I mean nothing moved. There was nothing to go on. I can't fault the characters too much. The voice acting was one of the best I had experienced. I could believe these people existed. I just wished the visual side of things matched up the voice strength.
You have three choices in getting answers from the suspects. It was either you thought they were telling the truth, a lie (which always needed evidence), or you had doubt but no evidence. For some reason a lot of the time suspects cracked immediately when you had caught them out even when the evidence was sketchy at best. I also found some evidence worked well together but I could only pick one item to catch them out with a lie which often let me with a 50/50 chance of success. To help you throughout the game intuition points can be gained through getting questions write but these rarely come in large quantities.
Suspects lie about the dumbest things. I can't decide if it is Team Bondi just trying to use the face tech and poor writing but it makes the characters responses quite unrealistic. Why lie about something that doesn’t incriminate you and is totally random? A little off topic but I often found conversation (in interrogation or general chit chat) throughout the game to be very odd. It often had no natural flow and in some rare occasions was just bloody weird. I remember the time of being in the bus station with the guy yelling “What the Hell” at his paper. That’s fine, until he started asking “are you going to be ok”. I was almost expecting him to start rocking and stroke the paper like a baby. I was trying to be incognito (following someone) at this point pretending to read the paper.
Back to the standard formula, once you have asked the question you get sent somewhere else for the whole process to begin again. It started to become a chore after the first two hours. You get into this monotonous routine in cases that let me not even carrying what was really going on. I just became bored and what didn’t help was the generic story. The homicide cases were the best stories and the overarching story was brilliant (except for the end being less what the f**k and more what the who) but the other cases were really dull. I wasn’t expecting massive car chases and TV styled buddy cop kind of game but the cases could have been at a fast pace. The pace was just too slow. To put it into perspective the first Twilight film has more pace to it than this game.
This game isn’t all that bad. It has a lot of replay value with the open world, finding cars, doing random police chases/shootouts……. The list goes on. Also the shooting mechanics work quite well. The controls take some getting used to but getting in and out of cover is easy and there are no issues shooting while in cover. Shot damage looks very realistic and each hit looks like it does some damage to that part of the body. The general physics and driving mechanics of the game are very well done. Cars feel sluggish but this is a good point as the cars feel like they should do in that period. It is a pain but nice to see that you progress in each case is graded with vehicle and property damaged taken into account.
It is sad that these positives are overshadowed by a poorly executed system. The game had so much potential but it feels this game was created merely designed to just show of the new motion caption technology which is true to say as other reviewers pointed out about the character models ( “Left them dead from the neck down”). I personally found the technology to make the faces look odd and unnatural. It is sad to say but the one thing that kept me playing was so I could write this review. The main problem with this game is sheer boredom. It is good to try out the novelty that is the facial motion capture technology but that novelty doesn’t last very long.
(p.s. It is worth noting that the score represents my overal experience ,mainly did I find the game enjoyable to play, because there are parts to this game the developers have excelled in)