Reviews: LA Noire

Great premise, sloppy execution.

Being a decades-long fan of film noir and '40s Los Angeles, I was eagerly awaiting this melding of the two in an investigation-oriented sandbox game. The end result comes across as a bit of a disappointment, I'm sad to say. Before we get to the bad points, though...

The game's recreation of '40s LA is nothing short of stunning. The short-lived Team Bondi claim to have recreated 90% of central LA and some surrounding districts, and seeing is indeeed believing. Just driving around doing nothing in particular, and listening to the genuine period soundtrack is worth the price of admission... as long as you bought it on sale. The atmosphere is palpable, and it doesn't rose-tint anything. It is what it is. A pleasant, colourful exterior belying the worst aspects of Man.

And the character models and animation puts pretty much anything out there, including next-gen titles, to shame. In fact, chances are you're going to be suffering from "withdrawal" and become fixated on the comparatively shitty efforts of other games in provididing convincing facial animation. That being said, the process they went through to achieve this technical splendour seems understandably financially inefficient and probably played no small part in the project's considerable time spent in Development Hell.

As a story, however, it's juggling way too many balls at once and drops more than a few of them. The various cases often connect with pleasing results, and there's a good sense of continuity, but the main character's entire story arc just seems shoehorned in there. In the end, nothing much is learned about anything, and certain elements just seem cliched and derivative. And most of all, they commit the cardinal sin of incorporating the Black Dahlia mystery to laughably wall-banging results. The whole inclusion of BD, and how they choose to handle it, just seems to indicate the writers don't have enough faith in their own ability to tell a story, and rightly so.

Lastly, as a game, the actual fun factor is a bit on-off. It's fun sweating perps and witnesses and stuff, but the action-y parts just seem chucked in there for the sake of living up to the Rockstar legacy, and feel somewhat unsatisfying at that. It'd probably have been better off being a purely adventure-oriented sandbox game, flaws and all. A good attempt, if nothing else.

Good story but boring and reptitive gameplay

LA Noire is Rockstar's new game developed by Team Bondi. The game is primarily focused on being a L.A. detective and solving cases around the 1950s as Cole Phelps. The game provides a deep and rich story that is intriguing and deep. However, it makes a few missteps in gameplay that prevent it from being a five star game. The gameplay in LA Noire is very boring but not bad. It is this boring gameplay which makes LA Noire's experience very repetitive because the format of the cases are very similar as you will first find clues, then talk to suspects while finding more clues, and lastly catch the culprit. The format of the cases is what really drags the game down as they do not vary what so ever but there were some cases that were actually enjoyable and differed from the standard format. One cases that I like was the case at the end of homicide is a very intriguing case as you will be moving to different areas of LA to find clues left by the killer in order to catch him. However, these kind of cases are very few and far between and will require the player to play cut and paste cases to get to these much more intense cases. A minor quip, is the vagueness of the interrogation system in LA Noire and that doubt, lie, and truth can be a tad bit vague as Cole's responses are most of the time are very aggressive. Another issue with LA Noire, is the sandbox experience. LA Noire in my opinion should not have been a sandbox game because of the unnecessary driving segments and police radio missions do not add to the experience of the game since the drive segments are long and time wasting as you will need to drive carefully in order to keep you case rank high. Also, the police radio missions are again unnecessary because LA Noire is a mystery game and should not include third-person shooter segments. Overall, LA Noire is a game provides a deep story but with a overly repetitive gameplay that causes the game drag on and makes it unbearable to play. If you are one who likes games for their deep story then this game is for you, but if you like both story and gameplay then this LA Noire should only be a rent. In my opinion it does not deserves its high reviews just because its gameplay is incredibly boring and reptitive which makes it less of a video game and more of a really interactive movie. If I have to give it a score it would be a 3.5 out of 5.

The Spruce Goose of Games

LA Noire is long past the point now when its razzle dassle new motion capture facial realism might have impressed a gaming public. Even at the time, the state-of-the-art frowning was putting people off by leaning into uncanny valley territory. That in a nut shell describes LA Noire: every aspect of it is a mechanical triumph in terms of how much games have come along, but also every aspect has a serious flaw that ultimately puts people off.

LA Noire Is a game with a uniquely brilliant realization of Los Angeles...that you'll decide to skip because it becomes too tedious to drive through. It has a sophisticated approach to conversations...that will frustrate you because of the simplistic dialogue options and occasional bullshit leaps of logic to interrogation. It largely eschews the AAA game reliance on constant gun play for a more natural, realistic game...but ruins this with goofy mini-games in which you have to tight-rope walk across chandeliers or outrun bulldozers. You have a detective mystery in which you have to carefully interpret clues and make serious decisions...but it doesn't matter because however badly you do a job of searching a crime scene or interrogating suspects, the game will still lead you to the solution. There is a complex, weaving story with unusually deep characters...ultimately squandered to a plot that features guffawing villains who like to film their top secret, evil meetings, just so the hero can find it lying around.

LA Noire is astonishing, in terms of how big a risk a major studio took with it, how far out of their comfort zone it took the developers to design it, and how much experimentation had to be done to see it made. And for all of those things, LA Noire at least deserves to be respected. But that's what damages the experience in the end. all those new things, so refreshing at first, end up being unpolished, misused and badly implemented. I will always like LA Noire to a degree. And I will always be impressed by its vision - but it is a vision that is poorly realized and ultimately clumsy in execution.