L.A. Noire Xbox One Review

December 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Xbox One, Reviews & Features, Xbox

Publisher: Rockstar Games  Developer: Team Bondi/Rockstar Games  Players: 1  

Genre: Action, Adventure  Age Rating: 18+  

Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

If you ever wanted to play a game in which you feel like a real policeman, then this could be the game for you. Set in late 1940’s Los Angeles, you control Cole Phelps, an army vet who is now a cop and quickly rising through the ranks thanks to his track record of bringing in the baddies.

Beginning as a simple cop, you rise through various ranks, each offering different styles of gameplay and difficulty. Starting as a Patrol cop, you are given simple crimes to solve, and if you please your bosses enough, you’ll soon find yourself making your way up through to Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson.

As Cole rises the ranks, he is teamed with multiple partners, each of whom have a typical, 1940’s chauvinistic attitude.

Gameplay is about solving a case, which are basically short ‘stories’ about peoples lives and their many questionable actions, and there are a number of ways to help you solve them. Mostly it’ll start with you wandering around a crime scene, examining dead bodies and gathering clues and potential leads. Cole will also be required to search the homes of any suspects or witnesses, and he can pick up anything that the controller vibrates to, suggesting you investigate that area more closely. Cole can pick up items that are vital to the case – or that are just there as red herrings – and you can rotate his hand to examine items that he is holding more closely, the camera panning in on any indiscreet inscriptions or writing that you may not see otherwise. Cole can also stand over and examine dead bodies for extra clues, such as the types of  wounds on the body, missing items, or correspondence that picks up a lead.

You’ll then have to follow up on any leads, and these can include questioning witnesses, both the guilty and non-guilty, of which your responses will result in either gathering more vital clues, or leading the investigation astray, much to the chagrin of your boss. To interrogate a suspect or witness, you’ll be making use of the evidence you have jotted down in your notepad, and can use it to prove whatever the person has said to be false. You can choose to take a nice approach to the person, though often this won’t get you the information you require, but can be used to coax someone to continue talking about a subject. You can play the bad cop, pressuring a person into giving up vital information, though sometimes this tack may result in them shutting down towards you. You can even accuse a person of being involved, and this is where your evidence is used, to prove that the person could be lying. Mostly it is about choosing the right response to the responses the person gives you, by watching their body language and trying to determine whether they are lying or telling the truth.

Whilst for the most part gameplay can feel quite slow, there are some instances where action will take place. A suspect might make a run for it, in which you then have to chase them down, climbing up ladders or sliding down pipes on the sides of buildings, rushing up or down fire escapes and even saving hostages that suspects grab in desperation. You may find yourself in a car chase, your partner attempting to shoot the wheels of the escapees vehicle while you try to control your own car, or gunning down roomfuls of people eager to protect their shady dealings. L.A. Noire stays true to its concept throughout, and although at some points it can start to feel rather formulaic, each police department that Cole rises to manages to mix things up, keeping gameplay fresh and bringing you something slightly different.

What L.A. Noire can be praised for is the motion capture of the voice actors faces, which look as good today as they did when the game was first released back in 2011 – it’s surprising that more games don’t use this technique, as it certainly helps characters feel much more human. Faces are very expressive, helpful for when you have to interrogate suspects; observing body language is key to choosing right or wrong answers, and the intricate motion capture helps you to decide if someone is lying or telling the truth. Whilst graphically there has been some worthy upgrades in this remaster which includes better textures and 4k support, the visuals have still seen better days. The facial movement, on the other hand, is very impressive and does hold up even today.

The remaster includes all the additional content that was released for the game over the course of its life, which means 20+ hours of gameplay in all.

However, whilst for the most part the game is very much enjoyable to play, one aspect of the game design is questionable – I felt the open world was rather pointless. It is a huge map, but there is barely anything for you to do in it. There are hidden vehicles for you to find, landmarks for you to discover, and you can even pick up emergency calls and arrive on scene in which something dramatic is happening, but mostly I found myself ignoring these as the main story itself was engaging enough – if anything, the side quests only distracted from the main story, slowing down the pace. The open world is put to use for some of the cases, for Cole to chase down bad guys, get into car chases and visit landmarks that a serial killer sends him to, and whilst there is a lot of hustle and bustle, I felt the open world was very empty and not necessary at all, and the developers maybe should have taken a Hitman approach, condensing cases into smaller, separate open areas instead.

I was also slightly disappointed that there aren’t many consequences for your own actions, such as for sending the wrong person to prison, losing a suspect and then having to find them through other means, or even failing a case instantly if you lose a suspect altogether – the outcome is always the correct one, no matter what decisions you make.

Besides this, L.A. Noire is still very engaging, the mystery of each case keeping you compelled to play, and what is here is enjoyable and does manage to make you feel like a real detective; a mature game for a mature audience.