Game Review: "LA Noire" is the Cat's Meow

Juxtapoz // Tuesday, 17 May 2011
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Our Video Game Editor, and overall Guru, Nick Lattner looks at one of the most buzz-worthy video games ever created, the Rockstar Games/Team Bondi LA Noire. And the verdict: you will not be disappointed. LA Noire hit stores today, March 17, 2011.

LA Noire Review

Wise guys beware, LA Noire is on the scene bringing a unique style of gameplay and CGI that will have you forgetting that you are in control of the game. Just out on the market, LA Noire (Rockstar Games/Team Bondi) is an open-world style game, with a detectives’ spin, where you play the good guys this time. Considering most games of this genre have you wrecking havoc across the four corners of the map, this one takes noticeable more "White Knight" approach to things.

 


You start off as a beat walking cop whose trying to get a leg up in the Precinct, and move to a detectives desk. Through a lucky break, you score some points with the higher-ups, and soon start working your way through the different divisions at Police HQ, starting at Traffic Division with the higher hopes of making it to Homicide. But don't think that just because you start off in Traffic Division that they are not going to be throwing some hard balls at you. This game has more adult-themed cases than you can shake a stick out, take for instance the fact that one of your first 5 cases is a Traffic accident involving, drug abuse, murder, and statutory rape. Yes, you read that right, including the torn panties you find in the woman’s purse at the scene of the crime. Pretty grim stuff to say the least.

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But that is the way this game plays it's cards: fast and loose. Giving you a sense of what it may actually have been like to be a gritty detective in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Language is just as rough with swear words that could make a sailor blush, but without being vulgar or abusive of the effect that kind of language can have on a scene. Now one contradictory portion of this game, is the inherit want to smash around town in a, excuse the reference but, Grand Theft Auto fashion. Racing around city streets like I'm Vin Diesel just comes naturally nowadays. But as the game will warn every chance it gets, you are part of the LAPD, and sworn to protect the people, any injury or damage you cause to the city, will be reflected on your end of case score. While this does make you feel more like a "cop", it does take away from some of the appeal of trying to rush to a crime scene sirens blaring.

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But what I found was I was able to fly around town (narrowly missing re-enacting a seen from road warrior) and still get a high-rating on the case in the end. However, you don't even have to drive if you don't want to. They give you the option of allowing you to give your partner the opportunity to drive. This expedites travel to some of the farther destinations, and they still managed to work mini cut scenes into it so you still get the back-story/small talk you would have gotten if you drove yourself.  But the game is so much more then a drive from Point A to Point B killing spree. And that is where the enhanced graphics come into play.

Using a technology called MotionScan, they were able to get subtle facial movements to look so realistic, that you are tasked with actually reading faces during interviews/interrogations. You talked to suspects and victims alike, and choose one of three options in order to proceed with the conversation, Truth, Doubt, or Lie. Which one you choose determines how the line of questioning will proceed. But be warned, accuse someone of lying, and you better have picked up some evidence to prove it, or the will shut up, and shut up fast.

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This is not only frustrating, but prevents you from finding out much needed information to continue to solve your case. ACTUAL CONSEQUENCES, AMAZING. So many games make tasks like these optional, in the sense that if you fail, no dirt off your shoulder, but if you succeed, you get a prize. Not in LA Noire. Your prize is doing your job, and if you do your job poorly, it becomes that much harder to accomplish.

 

Often times, I found myself wanting to replay a case after realizing that I could have gone a different direction questioning a suspect, and gotten a completely different result to the case. Don't get me wrong, the killer is still the killer, but you may have missed his accomplices in the matter. Now you do get some help in the form of a tool they call "Intuition," a chance to increase the odds in your favor of finding evidence, or picking the right line of questioning.

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Although helpful, I often found myself hoarding these "Intuition" points, in case I got stumped later on down the case. Relying on my keen powers of observation, or as I learned not so keen, I often was wrong when accusing people. But that happens, right? You move on and hope that the particular individual that you were questioning was not the Case Breaker you wanted. And don't worry, there are PLENTY of cases to play, and witnesses to question.

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Over 400 actors were cast and captured using the MotionScan Technology. That’s one complete Blu-Ray disc, or Three XBOX discs(depending on the system you play. A lot of content, and I can see why. The faces move in such a way that it almost seems eerie to think that they aren’t actually talking directly to you. Small lip quivers, to the avoidance of eye contact, all lead you down a trail of perception and deception that you must navigate.

 

So much more than an open world, wreak havoc, shoot first, ask questions later style of game, LA Noire really takes this style of games to the next level.

LA Noire is available now on XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3.

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