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L.A Noire PS3 Review

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I initially believed L.A Noire was going to be similar to Ace Attorney Investigations where I collect evidence, interrogate suspects and drill my way to the truth. I was right. I did all those things, but I didn’t expect to enjoy that process more on Capcom’s handheld game. In fact, there was a lot about Team Bondi’s first game which didn’t resonate with me including the open world and the action they brought forth. I wouldn’t call the game a disappointment, but it was lacking in several key areas.

The one thing L.A Noire absolutely nailed was atmosphere and setting. It may have been nothing more than a backdrop to the action and story, but 1940’s Los Angeles was constructed with a lot of attention and detail. Even though the citizens weren’t living out there lives like in Red Dead Redemption, I still found the city an interesting place to explore and see. I even wished for museum styled description cards for each of the city’s attractions.

If I wasn’t such a fan of the setting, I would have been extremely disappointed by the absence of things to do in Los Angeles. I couldn’t cause much mayhem because as a cop, I wasn’t able to pull out any weapons outside of a mission. And crashing cars into one another sparked nothing more than a small engine fire. For those who were looking Grand Theft Auto styled chaos, L.A Noire would have been a grave disappointment.But I wasn’t looking for that at all. I knew L.A Noire was about the story, the cases and its cast of characters.

The police cases followed a very strict formula of gathering evidence followed by interviews and then laying down charges. Shoot outs and car chases were frequently spliced in as an attempt to mix things up a bit, but they too fell into a pattern. That was ultimately my problem with L.A Noire; the flow of the game was far too predictable and — quite frankly — boring.

As World War II hero, Cole Phelps, I started off as run of the mill cop and working my way through different detective desks. I thought the homicide desk’s cases would have been the most fascinating, but it was the exact opposite. They dragged on for far too long and offered very little stimulation. It turns out the vice and arson cases were when things began picking up. Corruption, drugs and betrayals by nearly everyone involved made for a much more interesting second half.

I never fully grasped the interrogation process — more specifically the “Doubt” option. I knew what the “Truth” option was all about, but I was never sure when to “Doubt” the suspect or when they were telling a “Lie”. As it turns out, in most cases, the “Doubt” served like the “Press” function in the Ace Attorney series. It was used to find out more information, but unfortunately I was punished for “Doubt”ing when I wasn’t supposed to “Doubt.” The end result was a guessing game where I was left wondering how things could have been. Instead of reinventing the wheel, they should have used the systems employed by the Ace Attorney series. They could keep the current “Intuition” life-line system though. It was interesting to see which of the three choices the online community thought was correct.

In a decade’s time, L.A Noire will be known for the game with creepy and — at the time — realistic facial expressions. It looked unbelievable, but the uncanny valley effect was in full force here. It always took a moment to acclimatize myself to new faces or even faces I haven’t seen for awhile.

Thankfully the actors and actresses behind these performances made it really easy to get past the eerie factor. They were great which isn’t too surprising considering the talent. There were instances of overacting and ridiculous tone shifts, but I lay blame on the director for those missteps.

I went out of my way to get the PlayStation 3 version of L.A Noire after reading some unflattering things about the Xbox 360 version. If this was the “superior” version, then I’d hate to see what the other version was like. If I decided to let my partner do all the driving (fast travel), I could have side stepped the framerate issues and other technical snafus that cropped up, but then I wasn’t out seeing the sights or apprehending bank robbers in side missions, which as I said, was something I enjoyed.

I mentioned that I was “apprehending” the bank robbers, but that’s a lie. I ended up sending a lot of these suspects to the morgue. That one coroner was the busiest fellow in all of the LAPD.

The list of areas which L.A Noire excelled at was short. It sold a convincing depiction of the city of angels set in one of my favorite time periods and they employed the most impressive facial animation technology to date. But that was it. The action was underwhelming and the investigation process was a big let down. There’s promise here and if Team Bondi can somehow gather talent (which could be a problem after reading the horror stories) they could make one hell of a sequel. It’s just too bad they didn’t do more in those seven years of development.

Verdict:
Worth a Try

Ratings Guide

For more information on L.A Noire, visit the official website.

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