Sober Second Look: LA Noire

There aren’t a lot of detective or mystery solving games around, are there? (If you can think of any, leave them in the comments) Sure, we had Carmen Sandiago and the odd Sherlock Holmes game way back when for PC. But those were just your basic point and click, if memory serves me right. What we haven’t had, is a game that really makes you feel like a detective...thankfully, Rockstar has us covered with L.A. Noire.

The game is set in 1946 LA. You play as Cole Phelps, war hero and new detective for the LAPD. Throughout the game you’ll solve different crimes in different categories as the story progresses. (Traffic, Homocide, Vice and Arson.) The story is handled like any good detective story. Almost everyone is corrupt, nothing is what it looks like at first glance, and it all comes full circle in the end. Minor details and subplots become tied in much later and overall, you feel like you’re in an interactive detective movie. The writers at Rockstar deserve major props for this one.

LA noire Cole

So how do you make the gameplay feel more detective? Well, you make most of it clue finding and interrogation. You’re always looking over new crime scenes, always examining what you can to the last detail to find anything you can go on (like a real detective.) When you interrogate suspects, you’ll have a list of questions and evidence to refer to. After they give you an answer, you’ll have 3 choices: Truth, Lie or doubt. If you pick lie, you’d better have evidence to back yourself up! Because the game uses digitized actors, you’ll find that sometimes, you can tell someone is full of crap by looking.

LA noire tech

LA noire truthdoubtlie

LA noire crime scene

Reading facial expressions makes up a decent part of the game. If you get stumped, you can use intuition points. (which you gain by ranking up, finding clues, getting questions right, etc.) Your intuition will either ask the community (ranking most commonly guessed answers by %) or to remove 1 answer.

LA noire clue

LA noire corpse

You can also use it to highlight clues on a crime scene, though there are musical/rumble cues that will help you plenty. There will also be cases where you have to tail suspects, adding some mild stealth elements to the game (going incognito by sitting at a table with a paper, taking cover whenever possible while following, etc.) It might seem like a lot to deal with, but checking your notebook from time to time will keep you organized since any clues, people or points of interest will be recorded.

LA noire stealth

LA noire notebook

The controls for driving work as well as any GTA, but keep in mind you’re driving 40s cars, so if it feels limited, take the setting into account. The same goes for firefights. You’ll have a basic handgun (though you can download a Chicago Piano to keep in your car trunk for free) and you can use any weapons people drop (Tommy guns, shotguns, BAR’s, Semi-auto rifles, etc.) The controls for shooting again, can be compared to GTA. If I were to have one complaint, it’s that there’s no indicator to show how much ammo you have left, or at least what’s in your magazine (though you do have unlimited pistol ammo.) But when that’s the case, you’re more inclined to make each bullet count. The game is much more forgiving about dying than GTA, you respawn just before that segment starts. Unlike in GTA where you have to do the entire mission in one shot.

LA noire driving

LA noire shoot out

Even though the game is mostly detective work, there are plenty of street crimes that pop up throughout the game. 40 to be exact. They can range from anything to car chases, armed robberies, domestic disputes gone horribly wrong, etc. If you want the odd break from the cases or you just want to gun people down you’ll want to keep up with the street crimes. (Not that there aren’t cases where things will end up that way, particularly in the Vice desk.) All of these streets crimes, as well as the main cases can be replayed. If you’re a perfectionist, there’s incentive to replay the cases just to get every question right or find every clue. You’ll also find newspapers along the way which will show you some more backstory in the form of cut-scenes (all of which make more sense as the game progresses.) Even Cole’s time in Japan during WW2 ties in.

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LA noire gunman

LA noire car chase

In some ways, this game is quite refreshing from GTA (That said, I love GTA.) While you play on the side of authority rather than as a criminal, the game still has the same tone and sense of humour, making fun of society at the time. (Though not quite to the extent that GTA4 does.) This is while still having characters that are likable, despicable, corrupt or anything in between. The use of digitized actors makes for some great cut scenes and interrogations. Almost every performance is memorable and by extension, every case. While Cole Phelps might come across as overly righteous, you know he’s surrounded by corrupt incompetents, so you root for him anyway. Though even he’s not perfect (without giving the last quarter of the story away.)

Unfourtunately there aren't any radio stations to choose from, but random songs from the 40s will play while you're in the car. If that's your type of thing the music is great. Though every time "Into each life some rain must fall" starts playing, I half expect a Super Mutant to attack me.

I always appreciate a game that demands the play to payer attention to details, or challenge the player in a way that isn't akin to “shoot all the shit that shows up”. LA Noire is a very satisfying game in this sense. It’s fun, very well executed and it makes you feel like a detective. I really hope Rockstar decides to do another game like this. 9.5/10

LA noire club

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