If you’ve played any Rockstar games in recent years (Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption), then I feel you had a good idea what to expect out of the style and action gameplay of LA Noire. You play as Cole Phelps, a World War II hero starting his career as a beat cop on the streets of 1947 Los Angeles. So you’re thinking GTA: San Andreas minus about 50 years? Not quite. This time you are on the other side of the law. I believe playing a detective instead of a criminal will bring in a wider audience than the appeal of a raging criminal wreaking havoc on a city. This is probably what appealed to me most about the game. Not that I didn’t enjoy the Grand Theft Auto series. I would gladly buy the next iteration day 1, after how much I enjoyed the missions in GTA IV. But the notion of a slow paced, crime/thriller with the GTA game engine sounded very promising.
The game animation is getting the most attention because of the use of MotionScan technology to capture subtle movements in the actor’s facial expressions. 32 high definition cameras are set up and the actor sits in the middle performing their dialogue. This allows for the player to base their interrogations on both character dialogue and behavior. Interrogations proved, at least to me, to be the most difficult aspect of the game. You are given three options in response to a statement by a victim/witness/suspect: truth, doubt, and lie. In order to accuse someone of lying, you need to have evidence correctly linking the lie. This is sometimes flawed because if you accuse someone of lying, their next statement will tell you to prove it, but depending upon what they ask you to prove, it might take you away from the piece of evidence you had in mind. It only happens a few times throughout the entire game, and sometimes for the better, but you can’t always base a lie just on their previous statement. I tried basing lying mainly on eye movement, but that method didn’t serve me too well.
Overall, I think the interrogations are incredibly fun, however disheartening it is when you score 0/4 questions correct. This leads to one of the complaints I have seen about the gameplay. If you fail an action sequence (suspect escapes or you die, etc.) you immediately have the choice to restart. However if you fail an interrogation, there is no option to re-interrogate the person. The case continues onward with fewer clues open to further the investigation. So there is much more leeway for mistakes in the action than mistakes in the more challenging interrogation segments of the game.
The game has no multiplayer mode, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I don’t believe there was a big following to either the GTA IV multiplayer or Red Dead Redemption. So you can complete the story mode as well as a series of 40 side missions called “street crimes” in 15-20 hours of gameplay. While this means that many will inevitably flip the game rather quickly for the trade-in value, the developers have attempted to combat that by leaving two series of desks out of the game which will later become DLC.
The street crimes are often short shoot-outs or car chases that you can either access by responding to calls over the radio while driving a police vehicle, or access through free roam mode in the cases menu of the game. The focus of the game is 5 desks: patrol, traffic, homicide, vice, arson. Each desk pairs you up with a different partner and while the early cases are individualized, the later cases are more contiguous which keeps the game flowing and they get more involved/challenging.
Being a racing game enthusiast, I can’t say I enjoyed the driving sequences of the game. Whether because of the limitations of using 1940’s era vehicles, often slow and bulky, or the seemingly inept ability for citizens to get out of the way when you come barreling down the street, siren blaring, in pursuit of a suspect or traveling from one location to another. While you can fast travel by having your partner drive, finding hidden vehicles and film reels, solving street crimes, and discovering landmarks all play into achievement hunting. Since you are on the good side of the law, there are no cops to chase you as your wanted level increases from car crashes or vehicular manslaughter, but property damage and car damage are calculated and factor into your overall rating for the case. (You are given a case report at the end, which tells you how many clues found, questions correct, tip for improvement and a rating scale from 1-5 stars.)
The story has some interesting plot developments that keep you interested throughout the 21 cases. There are 13 newspapers that you can find in the main story locations which add backstory to the seemingly unconnected plot lines moving toward a crossroad by the end. There are also flashbacks to your time in the war which give more character development and story. I’m curious to see how the extra DLC desks will play into the story of the game.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed the role of the crime scene investigator/detective. There are many characters in the game to keep it fresh and interesting. The gameplay is solid albeit frustrating at times. But I’m looking forward to re-playing those cases I scored poorly on to see if I can accuse the correct suspect this time around and not get chewed out by the chief… The pace might be slow for some, you can definitely take your time scouring for every clue in the case, and going back and forth between the log of dialogue and your trusty notebook of clues during the interrogations, but I enjoyed the balance between cut scenes and action. I never felt bored during the cases, I was engaged in the game and excited to continue to see where the story was heading.
If I had a rating scale, I’d give it 4.5 carrots out of 5.Tags: GTA, LA Noire, RDR, review, rockstar