PlayStation 3 Game Review: L.A. Noire

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.

The Hype

L.A. Noire is a gritty, single player detective game set on the infamous streets and in the smoke-filled back rooms of post-war Los Angeles. Designed and developed with a nod to the classic film noire movie genre, L.A. Noire blends crystal clear graphics that bring the iconic look and feel of the era to life, with a combination of innovative technology and unique gameplay that allow you to solve crimes through interrogations and investigation. Additional features include: five LAPD based crime desks to work, the ability to analyze the case as well as suspects for clues, an accurate block-by-block recreation of eight sq miles of 1947 Los Angeles, multiple difficulty settings and more.


Amid the postwar boom of Hollywood’s Golden Age, newly minted detective Cole Phelps is thrown headfirst into a city drowning in violence and corruption. Utilizing groundbreaking new technology that captures an actor’s facial performance in astonishing detail, L.A. Noire is a violent crime thriller that blends breathtaking action with true detective work to deliver an unprecedented interactive experience. Interrogate witnesses, search for clues and chase down suspects as you struggle to find the truth in a city where everyone has something to hide.

Against an overarching plot of violence and betrayal, L.A. Noire challenges players to solve a series of self-contained cases as they work their way through the ranks of the LAPD. Each case features a distinct storyline with a beginning, middle and end, and each successfully solved case brings new challenges and leads Cole closer to the true story at the dark heart of the Los Angeles criminal underworld.

Key Game Features

  • Solve a variety of cases across the crime desks of: Patrol, Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson
  • Search crime scenes for clues, question witnesses and interrogate suspects as you search for the truth in each case
  • Use your wits to analyze suspect’s behavior and separate the truth from the lies
  • Experience a stunningly accurate block-by-block recreation of 8 sq miles of 1947 Los Angeles
  • Rise up through the ranks of the LAPD from a beat cop to other positions as LAPD detective Cole Phelps
  • Solve brutal crimes, plots and conspiracies inspired by famous crimes from 1947 Los Angeles, one of the most corrupt and violent times in the City of Angels’ history
  • Multiple difficulty settings give players of all abilities the chance to step into the shoes of a detective in postwar L.A.

The Reality

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 is also available on Xbox 360 with a planned upcoming release on 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.

Review: L.A. Noire

Where to Buy: Amazon and other stores

Price: $59.99

What I Like: strong narrative, strong acting talent, action sequences, solid complimentary materials, great authenticity, motion capture characters, interrogation scenarios utilizing MotionScan technology, available investigation techniques, no time limts,

What Needs Improvement: some odd transitions, a few action sequences have unnatural limits, distracting rankings/notices, occasional glitches like partner getting in the way, checkpoint saves instead of any time progress saves

Source: Personal copy

Categories: Gaming, Reviews

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