L.A. Noire Solves the Mystery of Boredom

Ever wanted to be a detective? No? What the hell’s the matter with you? Well, if you’re normal, that would be pretty damn sweet right? Investigating crime scenes with the utmost scrutiny. Checking the dead body for any marks or wounds that might make the case. Telling your captain “we need to go arrest (insert man in political power)” and hear him say “(man in political power) would never do that! You’re crazy!” oh yeah. That’s the life. Welcome to that life. Welcome to L.A. Noire.

You play Cole Phelps, an L.A. cop in the 40’s, hot off the heels from fighting in the pacific theatre in WW2. It is an open world game, but almost doesn’t need to be. The cases are linear and there isn’t a whole lot you can do on the side except the occasional call from dispatch to go take care of a robbery or two. As you play the game and solve cases, you get promoted to detective and get to work traffic, Homicide, Vice, and Arson. Some job are better than others (Homicide is always a thrill), but the game does a good job of keeping the cases different so you won’t get bored.

Once you get to the scene, you’re given as much time as you please to roam around the crime scene and investigate clues. You’re welcomed by a little rumble of the controller every time you pass by a piece of evidence that might be crucial to the case. The game allows you to pick up objects and use the thumb sticks to turn it every which way to look for any clues that might be written or engraved on it. These quiet moments are very satisfying and really does a good job tricking you into thinking you did some awesome detective work (the hallmark of any great game). As you investigate, every clue is automatically recorded in your notebook. Everything gets recorded pertaining to the case at hand: The locations of the crimes, People of interest (suspects), and clues. This comes in handy during the interrogations.

After investigating (or before, but that’s sloppy) you can talk to your suspects and ask them questions. When your suspect answers your question, you have three choices. You can say he/she is telling the truth, doubt the answer (meaning you don’t believe him but don’t have any evidence to prove it), or say they’re lying. Claiming someone is lying requires you cite a piece of evidence in your notebook that proves they are a dishonest scumbag. Every actor in the game had their performance captured with high definition cameras to ensure a realistic experience during questioning. Their face looks eerily accurate and you can see the subtleties of their performance. It is a little blurry and not perfect, but it certainly does it’s job. If they have something to hide, they usually won’t look you in the eye, or they’ll appear nervous. Some of the actors overdo this more than others, but I guess some people are better liars than others in real questioning too, so it kind of works out.

Sometimes I ran into a problem where I would present a piece of evidence to prove the suspect is lying, but I guess it wasn’t the “correct” choice. I had this happen to me while playing Phoenix Wright as well. Sometimes, certain pieces of evidence make sense in my head as a contradiction, but i guess no one else shares the same logic. Only time will tell if this is my problem (probably) or everyone else’s, but it did get slightly annoying knowing that some of the evidence choosing was guess work rather than the pure logic of your investigations.

Another slight qualm, the story misses its mark a few times. Without giving too much away, the main character makes some questionable decisions that puts his name in jeopardy and seems unprovoked. It isn’t until this point that you realize they haven’t spent that much time building the characters enough for you to really care. Every so often, the game will flashback to the war, but all of these sequences are short and almost feel like they’re just spewing information rather than telling a story. This all leads up to an ending that will leave you with a feeling of “um… okay.”

The gameplay is more than solid and makes for an amazing experience, and if you’re from the L.A. area, the world is very accurate. There are no freeways, because it’s the 40’s, but you’ll be able to navigate the streets if you spend enough time downtown. The face capture technology is new and unique and offers gameplay that would otherwise be impossible (plus if you’re a big fan of Mad Men, it’s almost a complete reunion). Despite the troubles I have with some of the clues or the story, this game still deserves to be bought and played. There are very few games in existence that allow you to feel like a detective and even fewer that does as good a job as this. With the promise of DLC, it’s a game you’ll enjoy having on your shelf for months to come.