WGG Review Crew - LA Noire

Score: 90/100

The Good:  Amazing facial capture, acting, attention to detail
The Bad: Slow, repetitive mechanics
The Interesting: L.A. Noire's script is 2,000 pages

iWINuFAIL:  LA Noire is the latest from Rockstar Games, developed in collaboration with Team Bondi. Taking place in 1947 Los Angeles, the player controls Cole Phelps, a WWII veteran turned cop. Phelps is as gifted an investigator as they come, and quickly rises through the ranks of the LAPD, along the way seeing more than his fair share of murder, rape, and worst of all; corruption.

The main story is divided into 21 cases, those split across 5 desks. Each desk sees Phelps with a different partner, tackling cases ranging from homicide to arson. As the player moves through the cases, a larger story begins to take form, each case falling in like pieces in a large puzzle. Unfortunately, I’m afraid Rockstar may have spoiled us, because I was left a little disappointed at the conclusion. It’s better than what most game developers could give us, but we expect nothing but the best from RS.

The gameplay is divided into two major elements; action and investigation. The action is the driving and shooting, which works well, and anyone who has played a GTA game will feel very comfortable with 9.5LA Noire. However the game is overall much slower paced than other RS titles, so there won’t be as much action as the player may be expecting.

But this is a detective game, so it’s the investigating that really matters. Fortunately, it works well, very well in fact. Gathering evidence is simple, but requires that the player be meticulous and thorough in order to find everything. Oftentimes bits of evidence may seem unimportant in the present (such as a person’s favorite radio station), but will open up clues during later sections.

Questioning suspects is where LA Noire really shines. Using new Global Illumination technology, every tiny motion in a8n actor’s face is captured and represented in perfect detail on screen. When asking a question, the player must decide if the suspect is lying, telling the truth, or somewhere in between. The GI tech makes figuring this out more realistic. Even if you don’t have evidence to prove someone is lying, a simple break in eye contact can still give them away.

If there is one problem with the gameplay, it is that is feels very inconsequential. Rarely, if ever, can Phelps not catch the criminal, and even in these scenarios, the only result is a lower grading at the end of the case. It does not even have an effect on later sections.

As always, RS does a remarkable job of bringing the setting to life. Los Angeles is beautifully and dutifully rendered, giving the player a real, living city to play around in. When not doing a main mission, there are 40 ‘street crimes’ Phelps can respond to, each of these a specific mini-story with it’s own title card. To complete everything, and 5-star every mission, will take over 60 hours.

One facet of the game reviewers are neglecting to mention is the maturity of LA Noire. Games like Braid and Shadow of the Collosus are referred to as art because of how stylish and innovative they are. LA Noire is art because it is the first game that ever made me cringe at a corpse. Many games (often shooters) are referred to as ‘realistic’. LA Noire puts those all to shame, with it’s unflinching representation of the true horrors that exist in big cities.

The lighting is gorgeous. Noir is a French word meaning dark, and has such been used to describe old detective films that use dark, oppressive lighting to increase the sense of danger and mystery. LA Noire uses this to great effect, along with a stirring soundtrack of soft jazz, increasing in intensity whenever the action heats up. Phenominal script and voicework make this an all-around beautiful package.

Not everyone will like LA Noire. It’s slow, and most people won’t come back for a second playthrough. But if you can look past it’s few faults, namely the ending and handling of cases, this is a game definitely worth playing.


Score: 9.0 / 10

Mason M:  The time is 1947, when gangsters and various murderers ran the town and when the LAPD were actually competent, albeit slightly off kilter (contrary to those portrayed in Rush Hour). This is where you, Cole Phelps, enter the story. Phelps is a returning GI from WWII and wants to make the world a better place, and figures he should do so by joining the LAPD. Needless to say, things don’t go as they should, people are sketchy, and in general, many events occur that aren’t in favour of this better world. All in all, the story is very well done; even if I can’t describe very little detail, just take my word.

The gameplay in L.A. Noire is a solid mix of third person shooting, driving, and detective work. While the two first aspects are done well, and feel tight enough, the latter is where this game derives its unique feel and its enjoyment.

There are two steps to detective work. One consists of you walking around finding clues at a scene, using the rumble and sound cues to determine whether you should inspect the area or not. The other is interrogation, where upon the player must determining whether the suspect (or POI) is telling the truth, lying, or whether you doubt the story. The game does well explaining these, and the facial animation makes it easy to read people. If they look sketchy, then doubt, if you have evidence, lie etc. There was only two points in the game where I had to leave due to frustration, or exit to dashboard to reload and try again.

The real graphical problem with the game is the shading and lighting. The lighting in the game looks flat, and the downright atrocious shading can detract from the experience. This is slightly depressing, because the people look so realistic. As for the textures, they’re not super detailed but it’s hard when they have a whole city to construct. Overall, the graphics aren’t atrocious, and they are good, considering that the game was in development for a long time, meaning the engine became out-dated upon release.

In conclusion, L.A. Noire is an extremely well executed game that delivers on all of its promises and is only held back by some slight technical issues.

This game is hard to recommend to everyone, since I do realise that not everyone will find this appealing. But if you’re a fan of story games, drama, Mad Men, or period pieces, be sure to check this game out. I highly recommend this game to anyone who even is remotely interested in it.


Score: 9.5 / 10

Boss Kowbel:

Welcome to Los Angeles. The year is 1947; Murder and drug trade are rampant across the proud City of Angels. You play as Cole Phelps, an ambitious, young detective determined to survive in a town where the line between justice and corruption is paper-thin. However, Cole may not be the hero everyone can count on. Along the way, he must learn to confront the demons of his military past and present. What culminates is a conclusion so conflicting that it will remain with players long after the credits roll.

Despite the immersive storyline, the investigation aspect wears thin well before the final cutscenes. While I reveled in discovering every hidden clue at first, the concept felt more tedious than novel before the main story had reached the halfway point, but I’ve dealt with more monotonous endeavors in video games. Mass Effect 2’s planet scanning comes to mind…

The interrogation mechanic, on the other hand, is innovative and groundbreaking. Analyzing miscreants is crucial. Does a lack of eye contact and uneasy body movement mean the witness is lying or telling the truth? Knowing when to press suspects for information is vital to solving each case, and false accusations may shut down that branch of questioning completely.

Of course, what would an open-world game be without atmosphere? Nothing screams classic more than barreling down Broadway in a 40’s Cadillac listening to the Ink Spots. Eight square miles of Los Angeles have been painstakingly recreated, but there is nothing to accomplish in the city beyond finding hidden collectibles, visiting famous landmarks, or foiling petty street crimes.

L.A. Noire tells a gripping narrative of greed and redemption with several ties to the real Black Dahlia murders. The voice acting is top notch, the character animations put the industries’ best to shame, and the facial capture technology is revolutionary. Brief shootouts, chase scenes, and fist fights try to keep the action fresh, but these sequences add little to the overall presentation. The open-world atmosphere is worthy of the added Rockstar moniker, but after the main story concludes, there’s seldom reason to delve back in, even for some mediocre side missions. Make no mistake though; L.A. Noire is a game that everyone should experience, but its few flaws hold it back from a perfect score.

Score: 8.5/10

chad'spenis's picture

Goddamn, you guys rate highly!

 

I think WGG should be on the IMDB scale, where only 3 movies in history have a 9.

 

On that scale, I think this game should get 7.0-7.4. But that's just me.

brodyitis's picture

I think we should post WGG reviews for bad games as well. That way, it doesn't seem like we love the hell out of every game that gets released. Of course it's harder to get reviews for bad games, because not as many people play them.

Jevrio's picture

@brodyitis: Wrong. Very wrong. Modern Warfare 2 has a shitload of retarts playing it. If honestly find it good, both the 12yr old friendly multiplayer, and the just barely 4 hours long campaign, I feel sorry for you.

Same on Black Ops, just 5 hour campaign there, with an abit over half-interessting twist at the end.

No, I don't hate all Call of Duty games, just the newer ones.

RPGeesus's picture

I find it interesting what a divisive game this is. Everyone either loves this game, or hates it, it seems. Maybe that's what happens when there's something so new and unexperienced and people have real swings on their opinions.

chad'spenis's picture

@RPGeesus

I wouldn't call this game new and unexperienced. I find it run-in-the-mill actually. I've only played through about a half, but it hasn't wowed me thus far.

 

I'd call the Team ICO games or Grim Fandango or the Silent Hills new and unexperienced, just not this.

GTAComplete's picture

 L.A. Noire's script is 2,000 pages?? Wow, I could understand a thousand, but 2,000? Jesus.

GLaDoS 96's picture

L.A Noire looks spectacular, but I don`t think this one is for me.

LenZeppel1n's picture

I'm not entirely convinced that I want LA Noire yet.  It looks like it did a great job with the facial stuff, the atmosphere, and the mystery, but when I saw the action scenarios it struck me as GTA from the cops perspective.  And I hate to say it, but I'm not really a big fan of GTA.

felipepgcosta's picture

It's really not GTA from the cops perspective. I was actually kinda disappointed with this game, it is an open world game, but there's not all that much to do in this world. Sure, the city looks great and so does the characters with perfect lip sync, but after I beat the story and got the achievements, I have no interest in playing it again. The best parts are the interrogations, the motion scanning technology is really amazing, but... I was expecting something different. It doesn't fell like a Rockstar game... I guess I was expecting a GTA on the other side of the law.

Stuart MacPhee's picture

@chad'spenis

Ratings are subjective even though they are based on the objective facts in the game (like the mechanics, graphics, gameplay etcetera).  L.A. Noire, is a game unto itself.  The advancement in facial expressions are phenomenal -- you can actually pick out famous actors quite easily, and their microexpressions -- coupled with a wonderfully vibrant backdrop and setting.  Sure, the game may be slow at times, even monotonous, but that is the fundamental element to the gameplay because back in those post-war times (the Golden Age), being a detective wasn't easy.  Understandably some people just aren't going to like this game, and that can be said for every single game ever created, be it terrible or outright amazing; everyone has different tastes.

Regardless, I think this game is a massive jump in commitment to creating stellar games with fantastic stories (read: 2000 page script) and attention to detail.  It isn't "game changing" but it sure it wonderful to see which improvements over the years and this game really shows the love and nature people bestow upon a game when they want it to work and be a success (which it sure is) among the masses.

chad'spenis's picture

@Stuart MacPhee

But the thing is, I don't really think it is a massive jump at all in terms of story or even graphics. They used a new technique with plenty of potential, but it was hindered by the fact that subtle facial animations turned into a (slightly monotonous) gameplay gimmick.

 

even with the story-- as good as it is so far-- it is still only a B-movie noir emulation. There is no such character complexity that made films like Sunset Boulevard or Chinatown what they are, and Los Angeles is not nearly bleak or droll enough to be considered a true noir setting. I had the same problem with Red Dead redemption in terms of westerns. I applaud their tread into new narrative ground, but it is still only an homage, nothing more. System shock 2, silent hill 2, and grim fandango had far superior stories, and they are over a decade old.

 

But yes, ratings are subjective, so it is perfectly natural that my opinions differ.

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