When I was a child, I always imagined myself growing up and becoming a police officer after watching a lot of crime shows on TV. Back then the idea of chasing criminals, solving clues, finding evidence, interviewing witnesses and interrogating suspects was really appealing to me. The reality though was proven to be different and I never got to be an officer of the law, but thanks to L.A. Noire, I’m still able to somewhat live out my childhood dreams.
L.A. Noire is a neo-noir 3rd person sandbox game that was developed by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games in May 2011. The game was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The game for Microsoft Windows was developed by Rockstar Leeds and was released in November 2011.
The story of L.A. Noire revolves around Cole Phelps, an ex U.S. Marine Lieutenant who joined the LAPD after being discharged from service in the Marines due to an injury. The game begins with Cole at the Patrol desk in the Wilshire Division 7 police station as a new member of the LAPD. Your very first missions revolve around solving murders and because you are able to solve them successfully, the police department will notice Cole’s ability of investigating and solving crimes, and he will be promoted to the rank of detective. The rest of the game follows Cole through the various departments as well as showing the collapse of his marriage after falling for a German lounge singer.
The game follows a style that is known as Film Noir. Noir is French for black, so this means that these styles of films often have a black undertone to them but it could also reference the low-key black and white visual style. This style of film was popular n the early 1940’s and spanned to the late 1950’s.
L.A. Noire fits in this category seeing as it uses this style as well. The game is set in 1947 so it falls right in the middle of the Film Noir period, but not only that, the game shares a lot of similarities to the Film Noir era such as the visual effects and themes including: crime, sex and moral ambiguity. It’s not just that though, the game also has a distinct coloring style as well as the option to play the game in black and white like a proper 1940’s movie flick. But the plot elements that you come across also have a lot to do with the gum-shoe detective and mobster stories of that time such as the Key Largo, Chinatown, the Untouchables, the Black Dahlia and L.A. Confidential.
As I mentioned before, your very first case playing as Cole Phelps works as a tutorial level: the case helps you get to grips with the gameplay and how to find clues, not to mention interview witnesses, and follow up on leads as well as how to successfully accuse suspects and put them behind bars. It’s important to pay attention to your environment, seeing as it’s pretty easy to miss the clues scattered around. Fortunately, the game helps you with this, I don’t know how it is for the PC version of the game, but I reckon that the version for the PS3 works the same as the Xbox 360 version. Basically, what happens when you come across something that might be of interest in the game, it gives off a chime and (if you’ve got this option set) the controller will give off a slight vibration. Of course, not all the things you’re able to pick up are vital to the case, but Cole will make a comment about this so there’s no need to worry about knowing whether something is vital to the case or whether it’s just a random beer bottle lying around.
The graphics in this game are simply fantastic. All the characters that you come across are real life people. You might recognize a few of the faces that you see during the game. For instance, if you’re a fan of the TV series ‘Mad Men’ you will probably know that the actor Aaron Staton lent his face and voice for Cole and you’ll probably recognize the actor John Noble known for ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Fringe’. There are, of course, a lot more actors that lent their faces and voices to characters, far too many to name, so you might want to look up the cast list on the internet, and see if you come across more people that you recognize.
When you look at the rest of the graphics, meaning the city of Los Angeles, Team Bondi recreated 1940’s L.A. using the aerial photographs taken by Robert Spence, his career spans over 50 years–that means that he took over 110,000 photos of L.A. that the developers used to create traffic patterns and public transport routes as well as the location and condition of buildings. However, not all the details are historically accurate.
Onto the rest of the gameplay, I have to admit that I didn’t see any problems during the game at all, well other than one maybe. This was during the questioning of either suspects or witnesses. Now, you have three choices while talking to someone: you have to judge whether they’re telling the truth, whether they’re lying or whether you doubt the statements. It’s simple really, you select truth when you think that the suspect is telling the truth, doubt when you’re not sure whether they’re lying or telling the truth (this usually lets you get more details) or lie when you’ve got hard evidence that the suspect is lying.
This means that you have to pay really close attention to the characters that you’re talking to in order to see whether you can detect a lie. However, Cole’s reactions to your choices bother me sometimes, especially when you choose to doubt or think that the person you’re interviewing is lying. The thing that I noticed as odd is that Cole sometimes goes into complete overdrive when you choose lie or doubt–now with a lie that’s obvious, but when pressing doubt it’s odd. Sometimes Cole will start shouting at the suspect, making it seem like this person committed genocide or something, now I guess that this will help get more details on a case, but it does seem a little strange at times.
So all in all, L.A. Noire is a fantastic game. The graphics look amazing, the gameplay doesn’t get irritating or boring because of the side missions known as Street Crimes and there are other collectibles that you can find during the game. The fact that you also have a choice to cruise around the city in a car also helps take your mind off the cases for a while. All in all, this game is simply fantastic and the only drawback I found was the one I listed above. If you like to solve crimes in games, but want to be a more active part of the process, then this is most certainly the game for you.