In this detective crime thriller game, Rockstar Games builds on their existing strengths and technologies for a one player, detective crime thriller set in 1940s Los Angeles. The unique interrogation gameplay, black and white color schemes, and strong narrative place this action game at a high level.
Every good detective must interrogate various subjects and assess presented information. The game’s MotionScan technology adds a whole new level to the process. The actors’ facial expressions are filmed on 32 different cameras to blend each encounter into a complete analysis where players must decide what to believe as the main character Cole Phelps, an ex-Marine-turned-cop, played by Aaron Stanton (Mad Men).
The interrogations may prompt some outside coaching or minimal recollection of hints from films like The Negotiator or the television series Lie to Me while the game provides helpful advice as well. The eye movements, fidgeting, sweating, and focus all factor into careful assessments. After observing, players have three choices: lie, truth, and doubt. Accusations of lying require players to present supporting evidence. Take the time for a close analysis using the right stick during interrogations. Consider basic strategies as well like when the subject is reaching his or her limit with the questioning.
Need a lifeline? Just “ask the community” through the PlayStation Network. It will cost earned intuition points, which are based from the originating XP/experience points, but are worth it. Players can also uncover clues and eliminate bad choices during investigations. Players must be methodical, but not necessarily slow at crime scenes as well.
Dropped items, gory wounds, footprints, bodily injuries, and special clues can get very detailed in many cases. Exhaustive searches can save valuable time later, so players can proceed with the case sooner instead of backtracking back to the crime scene. Successful investigations yield new objects, persons of interest, and new locations.
Investigation involves walking around a crime scene and picking up clues whenever you feel a rumble and hear a chime. While that method of playing hide-and-seek with the evidence does hurt the immersion a bit, it’s better than the option to turn off the cues and go blindly, as a lot of potential evidence is tiny and almost impossible to see amidst the clutter on the ground.
A handy notebook keeps track of gathered information. Just press the select button to access. Players must map out destinations from the notebook as they discover them. This “auto-pilot” type feature makes navigation simple. Players can hop in the car or commandeer a vehicle (both triangle button) to get to know the city better. The game gets even easier with the handy “chauffeur” option, namely Phelps’ partner who drives players to each destination when holding the triangle button.
Phelps’ partners change as he moves through different divisions within the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) including homicide, arson, and vice. Hit the square button for a partner’s assistance. That’s what they are there for. They can also provide helpful back-up in firefights and fisticuff situations, which both involve simple and easily executable control schemes that won’t incite player panic.
Players also have the option to play the game in black and white color, which works well except when driving. When health gets low the color fade. When players are close to crime scene discoveries, the music prompts players with a strong musical burst or high piano key. The only visual elements that significantly detract from this experience are the game ranking status icons, which could have been regulated to the notebook instead.
The game contains 21 individual cases running approximately one hour and fifteen minutes each with several side missions. This content guarantees double-digit hour gameplay time to conquer the game while special items like newspapers bolster the narratives even more as well as the replay value.
Players have no time limits and can skip past sequences after three failed attempts – a fortunate option eliminating frustrating gameplay stoppage. The narrative has plenty of twists, forks, and surprises, which provides fluid appeal while progressing each unique story including some cases based on real historical crimes.
Other important and appealing elements include the occasional puzzle and special detective suits (ten total (four in downloadable content) enhancing special abilities, better aiming, additional ammo, and defensive powers)
The original music soundtrack includes a score by Andrew and Simon Hale plus original songs by The Real Tuesday Weld featuring singer Claudia Brucken. A second remixed music soundtrack includes songs by Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan.
The bountiful downloadable content includes special suits, bonus weapons, and bonus cases like “The Naked City” based in the vice department, which also includes a special challenge. A high replay value, well supported by a deep add-on content cache, and engaging gameplay will likely yield more sequels/spinoffs. The strong production work and stylistic gameplay overshadow the minor glitches.
L.A. Noire (***1/2 stars out of four) is also available on Xbox 360 and PC. Accompanying stories titled L.A. Noire: The Collected Stories are also available on Amazon’s Kindle reader. L.A. Noire also had the honor of being the first video game shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler