Here’s the only L.A. Noire review you’re going to have to read prior to tomorrow’s release date, May 17th, 2011. And here’s a preview: this is one hell of a game.
In Rockstar and Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire, you play Cole Phelps, low ranking patrol on the LAPD. Right from the outset you can tell that Cole, voiced by Mad Men’s Aaron Staton, has much more on his mind as he has a talent for turning low level cases into murder and corruption cases we’d see in your typical noire movie.
There is an inherent problem with the Noire aspect of this game. It’s based off movies like the Maltese Falcon and Chinatown but those movies are only an hour and a half in length if not a little more while this strives to be an expansive video game that encompasses a cop’s rise to the top. It seems like every case is just meant to bring you to the top of the food chain and advance your career. You’d think there’d have to be those other little cases at least hinted at but they seem to not exist. While Jack Nicholson can have that one big case, that isn’t doable in a video game that strives to be that sort of character’s whole career without something missing.
This game also feels an awful like Grant Theft Auto except in the 1940s. And that’s not a bad thing. The map is the same, the graphics are the same (more on them in a bit) and the city has the same feel with the great expanse of locations to visit. There are even bonuses for visiting famous landmarks such as the Hollywoodland sign.
The graphics from the normal camera angle don’t look much more advanced than what you’d see in GTA IV. But close up they’re ridiculous. The mouths move in such an authentic fashion that you can tell Team Bondi put a tremendous amount of effort into that aspect. The clothes, faces and actions of the individual characters are fantastic as well. The environments look fine close up but nothing spectacular.
The gameplay is less run and gun than Grand Theft Auto. It took me until the fifth mission to have to shoot a gun. You’re just not allowed to in most situations. It’s the 1940s, not everybody on the streets has a gun. It’s a matter of chasing, tackling and interrogation, which is way more exciting than you’d think. There is a problem as it’s hard to discern the difference between the “doubt” and “lie” options but unfortunately that’s the way it goes. You have to pay close attention to the characters to tell if they’re lying. It’s really based on voices too but you really have to play to understand.
While the world isn’t as big as in some of the GTA games despite Los Angeles’s expanse, it really doesn’t need to be. You’re much more confined to the story in this game as opposed to GTA. Being the good guy instead of the bad guy kind of prevents you from running over pedestrians (who actually make a decent effort to get out of the way) and inciting collateral damage.
You can’t just run around willy nilly since you’re a cop and you have responsibilities within the story. I would’ve liked more of an opportunity to choose my cop’s persona but the people around you change and it would be pretty hard for a cop to rise within the story without him having the personality of Phelps.
Like Grand Theft Auto, it’s really the environment that sets the game apart. There are some gameplay problems like cover not being consistent and minor stuff like that but when it comes down to it, you’re a policeman in the LAPD in the 1940s, investigating movie lots and all the other bad guys around the glitz of Hollywood and really there’s nothing cooler than that.