LA Noire User Review
Players take control of protagonist Cole Phelps, a WW II veteran turned detective who works his way up through the ranks of the seedy two-faced Los Angeles police department. Players are repeatedly given a case that usually involves a murder and are tasked with investigating crime scenes, collecting clues, interrogating suspects and closing the cases based on the evidence that you gather. These are the core mechanics of the game.
Other than Heavy Rain, there aren’t too many games like this that forces players to interact with acts of violence after they have already happened, (as opposed to taking part in the act of violence) and piece together the events. Finding the clues, putting the evidence together and initiating a successful criminal interrogation is greatly rewarding. But it seems like nearly every case in LA Noire is exactly the same.
You find a person (usually a woman) who has been murdered, investigate the body, link it back to someone they know, investigate the homes of a suspect, pin the murder on them, the suspect runs, and then you chase down whoever is the perpetrator and arrest them. This happens repeatedly, and while some cases do break away from this formula, this happens so many times that it becomes very cumbersome.
The designers really try to make you feel like a police detective with a handy notebook to keep notes that relate to the case, the ability to pick up and examine objects and a unique interrogation mechanic. LA Noire is at its best during its interrogation scenes.
The players will have case notes that they’ve gathered, and they will interview suspects based on those case notes. Depending on how the suspect responds, players are given a choice as to whether or not they believe what the suspect is saying, doubt what the suspect is saying, or say that the suspect is lying.
Depending on the clues that the player finds at a crime scene, it will dictate how well an interrogation can go. It’s thrilling having to pick apart how someone said something with the intonation of their voices, their expressions, or looking up a piece of evidence that can determine if a suspect is lying or not. It’s an interesting game of cat and mouse between the player and the AI that is a lot of fun. I would always try to find as many clues as I could because I knew I’d have a better chance of finding the suspect for the murder with the more clues I had. The success of an interrogation is dictated by how well a crime scene is investigated.
However the end results are just so repeatable and suspects become interchangeable after a while considering that the set up for these cases are so similar. There are times when cases do come down to two suspects and the player is trying to figure out which suspect to charge, but that doesn’t happen nearly often enough and usually it’s just arrest one person after another that commits very similar crimes to one another. The shock value of seeing a naked woman’s body that has been mutilated wares off after seeing it four or five times.
I am not sure why Team Bondi made these decisions because even though these repeatable cases can feed into the minimalistic narrative, the player experience can become very dull because some of these cases are very cut and paste.
Like the objectives’ end condition, other mechanics that do not involve detective work feel arbitrary and tacked on. There are side missions that normally involve someone either robbing a store, or a domestic dispute, but they are generally the same missions over and over again that are basically ill conceived shoot outs that don’t feel realistic in the same sense as the detective scenarios. The shooting mechanics are loose and the guns are incredibly hard to shoot which is frustrating as a player. I wanted to avoid these decisions because they are all very similar and add nothing to the game.
As are the other side missions in this game involving finding vehicles that you can just get into and drive for yourself. This isn’t justified at all considering you as a player are controlling a straight laced police officer. It seems merely like an excuse for the players to search for the cars solely to look at the incredibly photorealistic world that Team Bondi created, but it simply isn’t enough because it feels like a waste of time and adds nothing to the aesthetic of the game. The cars are a pointless resource because you can’t even go back to them after you find them. I avoid these as well, and Team Bondi needs a better reason to explore the sublime world it created.
Overall, LA Noire is almost two different games. The detective work is great, but can become very underwhelming while standard third person action and gun play feel like a completely different game that really pulls the player out of the experience.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.