L.A. Noire Review

LA Noire

LA Noire
This review may contain spoilers.

This is going to be a hard review to write, especially with trying not to include spoilers (the warning is there for a reason though). If you read my quick thoughts on the game after spending a few hours with it Tuesday, then you know what I initially thought of the game. I loved it; it was fresh and different, and the world was beautiful. Now that I’ve finished the main story, I’m not exactly feeling the same way.

Exploring 1947 Los Angeles is still an absolute joy. I really can’t heap enough praise on Team Bondi and Rockstar Games for the job they did in recreating L.A. All the scenery is gorgeous, perhaps the best I’ve seen in a game of this size. The MotionScan technology is still an amazing and revolutionary piece of tech for the video game industry. The realism, when it works, is stunning.

L.A. Noire tries its best to blur the line between film and game, but in doing so actually manages to shatter the realism illusion. There was a part where I was carrying a rifle and kicked a door in. This triggered a cinematic that showed me kicking the door in with my pistol drawn. Steal a car and drive it to a scene, do the investigating, and low and behold there’s your cop car waiting for you despite it not being driven. These may sound like trivial matters, but in a game going for realism and attention to detail, they shouldn’t happen.

LA Noire Screenshot 01

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to L.A. Noire’s numerous flaws. The city streets are filled with some of the worst drivers and dumbest pedestrians that I have ever seen in a video game. Your horn or siren does absolutely nothing but make noise; other cars will cut across lanes for no reason, pull out in front of each other and you, and scrape up against one another. Pedestrians will run out in the middle of the road, forcing you swerve to avoid hitting them although there’s usually another car around doing something stupid and you end up hitting it. For a game that punishes your case rating for harming civilians or causing damage, you would think better care would be taken to insure the AI weren’t complete idiots.

There’s also plenty of frustration to be had with the game not cooperating. Asking your partner for help? You may have to ask a few times before he finally says something. Accidentally pull off before you partner gets in? Don’t be surprised if he stands on the sidewalk looking stupid until you get out and then get back in. It’s also easy to get hung, briefly, in cover. In short, there’s a lot of little issues that add  up to detract from the overall experience of what was the first game to be showed off at a film festival (even though at one point very late in the game, during a cutscene, I saw a folder floating in mid air opening and closing like a bat flapping its wings until it magical scooted across the screen and into the hands of a character).

The gameplay itself gets to be repetitive after awhile, and while some may say that’s true of all Rockstar games, there’s really very little here to break that feeling. The majority of the time you’re walking around picking up or examining clues, a lot of which are of no relevance to the case, and then questioning suspects. If not for the amazing and realistic facial expressions, and the terrific voice work, this process would not be nearly as fun and would lose its appeal much faster.

At this point, despite everything that I’ve said, I still really enjoy the game and would still give the overall experience a little bit higher score than what I’m actually going too. My biggest problem with L.A. Noire isn’t the little game bugs and glitches, it’s the story (and this is the part you might want to be weary with spoilers). The game starts off really good, but it falls apart. Once you complete the homicide desk (desk number three of five), you have seen the best of L.A. Noire and it is all down hill from here.

Homicide features the best cases in the game and the most intense. There’s a series of murders of females, and you’re left examining the evidence and trying to determine if its individual murders or a serial killer. There’s excitement here and even a little sense of urgency. This desk is then highlighted with a case that completely breaks the repetition by offering up a series of riddles and action sequences. It’s just a shame the momentum gained during this desk completely falls a part and the story becomes a complete mess with only a moderately satisfying conclusion.

LA Noire Screenshot 03

I could write a lot more about the story and the ending, and may very well write an opinion piece on it someday soon, but I don’t want to get into obvious spoilers. Suffice to say the late game “twist” or shift of focus really only serves to purposes: leave you confused, and make you dislike the main guy despite his being a good cop in a city of corruption.

Each case feels like an episode of a TV series, and it’s pretty convenient since once it was over, I felt like I had just played/watch a TV series that started good, had a really strong mid-season, and then completely jumped the shark at the end.

The action sequences provided during the main story are good and compelling, and the unassigned cases that I’ve experienced so far have all been quick and fun little bursts of action, and ultimately the game could have used more of this. Looking for clues can become tedious and the questioning loses its appeal near the end once you get into cases that just aren’t as good as the ones that come before it.

Despite the mess that becomes of the story (a real shame given that the game known as Red Dead Redemption had one of the best stories in a game), there’s still a lot to like about the game and some great moments (watching an idiot suspect you’re chasing drive his car right onto a train track just in time to get nailed was hilarious, even if I probably won’t be able to see it again.) As a video game, there’s some great stuff here, but a lot of flaws too and they add up. It’s not the epic masterpiece the hype may have led you to believe, nor is it as awesome as the first several hours would make you think it is. But it is a game worth experiencing.

L.A. Noire gets a three out of five: GOOD.

11 thoughts on “L.A. Noire Review

  1. Pretty much how I feel about the game. 8 even feels a little generous although it’s not like thing is a POS.

  2. I’ve just lost interests in this. I know I’m in trouble when I’m forcing myself to fire it up.

    I’ve heard a lot of rumblings about how the game shows promise and then falls apart and that the so called ending is a complete disgrace. If I’m already losing interest now, it just doesn’t bode well for me so I’m off to sell it.

    If I were reviewing this game myself right now, past any hype and such, I would give it a 6/10.

    I feel like I’m playing a dry run for something that COULD be developed into a more expansive and ambitious concept. If they make a part 2 for this thing it needs to have a better balance of free world RDR/GTA-likeness meets the Sherlock Holmes detective stuff which frankly this game was advertised and marketed like hell as.

    It wasn’t until you got to the reviews and user impressions AFTER the thing streeted that you found out that this game wasn’t even remotely like that. Obviously an informed customer isn’t going to rely on solely advertising and marketing, but let’s face it: The bulk of the preorders put down on this game were because people saw the name Rockstar, and EVERY single piece of marketing of this thing right down to the misleading “From the makers of Grand Theft Auto” conveyed the idea that we were going to see something with a healthier mix than what we really got.

    The advertising and marketing for this game has been HIGHLY suggestive if not outright misleading.

    This is why I think we so much disconnect with a lot of the reviews. Even yours to a point.

    IGN’s review stands out arguably the most.

    That reads like a game that should get a 6/10 and somehow it ends up with an 8.5. It’s like the reviewer had to try and convince and argue with himself in some strange denial way that, no this game really isn’t that great when we get down it, Rockstar’s name on the box or not.

    It’s almost like these outlets couldn’t find it in their hearts to score this thing what it actually deserves which is no higher than a 7/10 game IMO. And I’m being generous. I could probably put it at 6/10 myself at this point.

    No question in my mind the review outlets were expecting a game along the lines of what the marketing and advertising suggested: A hybrid game with GTA like aspects combined with being a cool detective. I’d love to play THAT game! There’s a lot of potential there.

    I think this game could have stood another good 6 months worth of work and roll it out in time for Christmas. Give me the best of both worlds. Let me be a cop working up through the ranks and I can be good cop, gray cop, bad cop, somewhere in between, have a lot of moral dilemnas and choices, do cool detective work…and let me have it all in a big free world where I can do what I want and suffer the consequences.

    ^^Isn’t that what everyone really wanted? When you see the name Rockstar isn’t that what you expect?

    You want to see something that takes this kind of concept and really executes it well and better than LA Noire does? Play Heavy Rain.

    I’m not the biggest fan in the world of some of the mechanics in it but overall, the thing is absolutely a masterpiece. Another must have for any PS3 owner. I finally bought it, too, a few weeks ago and somehow I lost an entire evening to it without batting an eye because it sucked me in. It’s absolutely brilliant. I can’t say the same for this.

    In this thing, the gameplay feels tacked on after the fact and obligatory in LA Noire.

    I suspect that was Rockstar’s contribution to this Austrailian studio’s effort. A studio I’ve never heard of by the way.

  3. Yes, that’s what I wanted. But I knew going in not to expect that. They made it pretty clear that you were a good cop and wouldn’t be free to go on a rampage. I don’t disagree with you though.

    I went back and forth during my review trying to decide whether it deserved a 7.5 or an 8.0. I went with 8 because I do enjoy the side missions, and the game only took a turn for the worse for me after the Homicide desk (which I think was excellent). If it could have maintained the excitement of the Homicide desk, it would have been higher. But it just became a mess after that, although thankfully not one that was dragged out super long.

  4. Hmm, honestly haven’t played it much since I’ve been working like a mad man but my initial impression was that it started pretty slow then picked up and I fell in love with the homicide stuff. Sucks to hear that it tapers back off after that. I’ll definitely give my final thoughts once I actually get a chance to play it through

    Glad to hear you liked Heavy Rain Q, I know the mechanics are a bit iffy but the story hooked me unlike anything I’ve ever played. One of only a handful of games in the last few years I played in more or less every free minute I had

  5. Already sold off Noire on Amazon. $48 before Amazon takes their cut, so I’ll get over $42 in my pocket when it’s all said and done. Fair enough. I won’t miss it.

    Heavy Rain is a masterpiece. It’s a Greatest Hits game so it’s cheap and it deserves to be supported with a wallet vote.

  6. I played enough of the demo of Heavy Rain to know that I wouldn’t like it. Unless there’s a lot more action in it, because all the demo was was mundane stuff and press this button now.

    1. What’s funny is: I felt the same way after the demo. I thought: “Awesome concept, meh execution.”

      But then I just kept tabs on it, saw the accolades, saw what a lot of people were saying, and it simmered somewhere on a back burner until a couple of weeks ago I was buying a few things on Amazon and saw it super cheap as a Greatest Hits and I figured: “Why not?”

      It takes a mood. I won’t lie. But when that mood hits, this thing delivers.

      Heavy Rain is something you almost don’t play as much as you just get immersed in. I don’t play it very frequently but the mood hits and I’m ready to move forward in it and progress the story some more…it’s like the best possible kind of interactive movie you can get.

      Somehow I turn around and 2 hours is gone in a flash because it’s just so damned intriguing and the characters so engrossing that it’s hard to get away from once I get involved.

      Even if I fire it up only once or twice a month, it’s going to be worth it.

      I’m VERY eager to see what the next trick is for this group of developers. The leap from Indigo Prophecy to Heavy Rain was substantial. The hat trick could be something truly incredible.

  7. If I see a price drop on it sometime this holiday season, like below $20, I may check it out.

    You make it sound a lot better than the demo, so that makes me want to give it a chance eventually. Ya know, you should write a review of it Q. 😉

  8. Great review. You have some valid complaints, and a lot of those little quirks (such as mentally inept pedestrians) bugged me as well. I still found myself sucked into the whole experience and loved the stylish flair it presented itself with. Hell, this game inspired me to pick up a few detective novels, a genre I would have never bothered with before. There is a pretty strong base set here, even with its flaws, and I have a feeling that the inevitable sequel will be a classic.

    Also, to go with the earlier comments, I agree wholeheartedly about Heavy Rain. I was initially skeptical about it, but once I got through the first few chapters I was hooked. It’s probably my favorite PS3 game that I have played so far.

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