L.A. Noire is a flawed game. Not only is there too much action (half the cases have a shootout, and a couple of cases have a small war going on - hence my body count of over 200, and EVERY case has at least one chase sequence whether that be on foot or by car) but that action is handled badly. The driving is difficult unless you’re just tapping the gas instead of flooring it, but in a chase sequence, you kinda HAVE to floor it - even though they’re using that unrealistic ‘Rubber Band AI’ where the guy you’re chasing slows down if you’re too far behind. When you’re not in a chase, driving is just tedious, so it’s best to let your partner drive as much as possible. That way, you miss out on street crime, but the street crime is nonsensical anyway. They basically have you driving to the other side of town for a random shootout (that should have been handled by ANY police car that was actually NEAR that location), and it ALWAYS ends with the coroner pushing a body in his truck and you looking on. I basically stopped caring for street crime after about 8 of them.
Similarly, the fighting in the game is overly simplistic. When you get used to ‘grappling’, you can end any fight in about five seconds: grapple and throw your opponent to the floor, then finish him while he’s down. Very repetitive.
The same goes for the interviewing mechanism: it’s far too limited. While the motion capturing allows for some subtle facial tells, it’s just too easy. Responses are too simple as well. If you think they’re telling the truth, you respond like a wimp. If you think they’re lying, you’re playing it suave and show evidence that exposes the lie, and if you don’t have proof you go into an ALL CAPS RAGE! Cole Phelps even does this when it’s really inappropriate - going off against a 15-year old that just got raped for instance.
In terms of gameplay, L.A. Noire leaves much to be desired…
Storywise it’s not without its flaws either. The game takes forever to go somewhere - you’re already at the end of the vice desk before the actual story behind it starts picking up. Until then you’re just solving case after case without real meaning. While some of these cases are quite good, it all feels a bit unnecessary. They’re supposed to be for character development, I guess, but the development is far too slow and - like the plot - only picks up near the end of the game.
In the meantime you’re solving mediocre traffic cases where the only plus side is being teamed up with a great partner (yes, I’m a Stephan Bukowski fan). And just when the cases start to become more interesting, you’re promoted to homicide, where both your captain and your partner are nothing but annoying, and where you’re solving all cases with inconclusive evidence that left me really dissatisfied.
During all this, all glimpses of the backstory come either from newspapers that show cutscenes featuring the worst character in this game (Dr. Harlan Fontaine, whose overenunciating only grates on my nerves) or from war flashbacks inbetween chapters.
The game slowly picks up the pace when you get promoted to vice (after a real bitter pill at the end of the last homicide case - possibly the noirest (most noir?) moment in the game). Not that the cases get a lot better, but the corruption becomes more and more visible. That’s rather easy when you’re partnered with the slickest dude in the game, the guy you’ll love to hate.
The thing is, near the end of the game, halfway through the arson desk, the game takes an unexpected turn: you’re suddenly playing as another character. While I get this decision in terms of the story, they might have included the occasional Jack Kelso-case earlier in the game. This just felt too abrupt and weird after some 15-odd hours of playing as Cole Phelps. Fortunately, the game’s really going full-speed by now, so you quickly get over your initial shock.
The conclusion of the game is a bit underwhelming but at least it’s reasonably satisfying. It’s all a little low on actual ‘noir’, though. I don’t know, for some reason, the entire game never felt all that noir to me - even when playing in black-and-white. For a game that uses that as its title, it missed its purpose a little. Disworld Noir pulled the noir-part off a whole lot better. Heck, Grim Fandango did a better job at it than L.A. Noire…
Despite all this criticism, though, the game is better than the sum of its parts, and if you spread out the cases a bit (i.e. not rushing through the game), it’s actually quite enjoyable. It definitely *feels* like you’re in L.A. at the end of the ‘40s and the sheer vastness of the city is impressive to say the least. The amount of motion capturing they did is just insane (and with great acting to boot!), and the game is by far the best-looking game I’ve ever played. It is simply beautiful!
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Time Played: Over 20 hours
Difficulty: Just Right