L.A. Noire is an industry defining game; a game which if there’s any good in the gaming industry, will go on to influence the way in which animation is created for years to come. Simply put, L.A. Noire could be one of the most important video games to be released in years.
L.A. Noire is set in 1940’s America, you play Cole Phelps, a man who’s recently returned from fighting in WW2 and enlisted in a rather corrupt LAPD – somewhat reminiscent of the one in L.A. Confidential. Whilst you start off as a low ranking patrolman, it’s not long before you move up the ranks into different departments such as Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson.
Every case in L.A. Noire begins at a crime scene; whether you’re searching abandoned cars, or desperately trying to identify a body, you will need to comb the surrounding areas to try and find as many clues as possible. This game rewards a methodical approach, not only by your rank at the end of a case, but also in the gameplay as if you miss a clue you’ll cut off entire avenues of enquiry or potentially not be able to pin a crime on a suspect at all.
It’s important to note that whilst some have described L.A. Noire as an open world sandbox, that’s not quite true. Even though you can walk & drive around Los Angeles, the gameplay is far more akin to the strongly directed narrative of Mafia 2 compared to GTA IV. The developer, Team Bondi, have woven a tight narrative which needs to be experienced in a certain way, so if you’re only looking for crazy open world shenanigans then this title probably isn’t for you. The driving mechanics aren’t too bad, and likewise the shooting is also serviceable, but on a whole they won’t set the world on fire.
The industry changing technology stems from the way faces are animated. When people speak to you, you can actually see all the nuances in their faces, these change depending on how they react to you, or more specifically, to the questions you ask them. As human beings we can all read body language, so the idea is that by reading peoples faces and analysing the clues, you should be able to work out whether a person of interest is being truthful. The game is impressively deep in this area too, as it’s not as simple as concluding that if someone doesn’t maintain eye contact they must be lying; for example, in one case we interviewed a lady who wasn’t being truthful, so we started throwing down accusations of obstructing a police investigation and instead of spilling the beans she clammed up completely. She wasn’t avoiding eye contact because she was lying, she was actually upset about the circumstances surrounding what had happened to her. It’s times like these in L.A. Noire that you really need to be thinking about the bigger picture and what is actually happening to the characters. We actually can’t overstate how brilliant this aspect of the game really is.
Aside from the main story arc, you’ll also find yourself responding to APB calls in which you’ll be tasked to help officers under fire, stop band heists, intervene in domestics, and much more. These are great little distractions that aren’t all the same, as each side mission has its own story and when you complete them you unlock intuition points, which help you in interrogations.
Whilst there are some technical hiccups and interrogations don’t always seem to pan out in a logical manner, what L.A. Noire does well is create a story so rich that you can’t help but get emotionally involved and actually feel compelled to clean up the streets of L.A.