My earliest gaming memory involves cruising around Liberty City while running over prostitutes, killing innocent civilians, and using vehicles as battering rams just to see shit explode. That's Rockstar Games for you. However, if you expect the same from L.A. Noire, you're in for a disappointment. Instead of running around raising hell, you are the law itself. Rockstar fans needn't worry, as the game still features plenty of car chases, gunfights, and a trademark Rockstar open world goodness. Team Bondi has created a sophisticated crime drama, with the right mix of technology and compelling narrative.
Shouldn't have eaten that vada pav.
Introduction And Plot The game is set 1947 Los Angeles, long before it was taken over by mafia-backed Hollywood studios. A time where crime and corruption were widespread and wearing a fedora hat didn't necessarily label you a douchebag. Our main man is a certain Cole Phelps, an incorruptible, Silver Star decorated world war veteran fresh off the academy. Solving cases helps Cole evolve from a patrol officer to a detective, while unravelling the dark, criminal underbelly of L.A.
It's incredible how well the game delivers a complex narrative without resorting to long cutscenes. The plot plays out like a television series divided into cases, with each case an individual story helping you connect the dots to the final puzzle. The immersive plot is backed by excellent voice acting. The game puts you through five departments - Patrol, Traffic, Homicide, Ad Vice, and Arson. Each desk exposes you to different kinds of cases. The traffic desk involves relatively mundane hit-and-run incidents, while homicide deals with investigation of brutal murders. It's a pity that homicide cases are downright monotonous though. You end up doing the same thing all over again, case after case. Fortunately, things get better when you get back to the Administrative Vice desk, which brings you the world of drug trafficking and bookies.
The cars resemble vintage '40s models. I just wish they didn't handle like them.
Gameplay And Graphics The driving mechanics haven't changed much from the GTA series. The cars are slippery and the steering is too sensitive. Brace yourself for insults from your partner for loose driving, especially during high-speed car chases when you just can't help running over a pedestrian or two. Speaking of slippery cars, damage modelling is quite satisfying. The cars bear the brunt of your incompetence with the wheel, which is well reflected with dented bodywork and broken headlights.
There is a way out though. You can save yourself of the handling agony by making your partner drive to the destination, but doing so skips the commute altogether. This entails missing street crimes and collectibles altogether, which is a major downer for trophy whores.
Combat in L.A. Noire uses a basic cover system and implements snap-on aiming mated to awkward buttons. It's tolerable at best, and gets the job done for the occasional combat sequences. Guilty or not, almost all suspects make a run for it when they see cops approaching. This where the dozen or so foot chases come in. These could have been fun if they weren't so linear and repetitive.
Hanky - check, chloroform - check...
However, none of these drawbacks matter, because the game has an ace up its sleeve. When it comes to the actual sleuthing, the game turns in to an old-school point-and-click adventure. The cases range from petty crimes to mass murders - many of them linked to real-life events from that era. The main plot is slowly established through a series of episodic flashbacks from Phelps' war days, and through stories published in newspapers you collect over time. You can also free roam through the city solving street crimes (side quests), which are called over the dispatch. They get boring after the first few times though.