I can’t believe it’s already been over 4 years since L.A. Noire first came out. I remembered hearing a great deal about it at the time, and really wanted to play it, but unfortunately back then I didn’t have a PS3 of my own. I’d almost completely forgotten about it until we were in Game Stop the other day and it was on sale for $5. So I finally decided to pick it up and try it.
I haven’t even gotten close to finishing it, I don’t think, but I really love it already. The story is based in post-WW2 Los Angeles, and the main character is a former decorated Marine and new cop. You start playing as a patrol officer, and immediately head off to a murder scene, which by going above and beyond to solve, you quickly begin to move up the ranks of the force to detective. From there you start investigating cases one at a time, including some homicides reminiscent of the Black Dahlia, and…that’s as far as I’ve gotten. And sorry, but I’m loving the story-line so much I don’t want to spoil it for myself.
The game play on this is really interesting to me. At each crime scene you actually get to walk around and inspect all of the clues, even sometimes looking at things like bottles on the ground that have no relevance to the case. To me this adds a nice sort of realism to it; if I were at a crime scene I’d probably scope out those bottles too, just to be sure they weren’t clues. You can also inspect newspapers, which will play a short video that seems to be relevant later to the overall story. Right now where I’m at, I can’t tell. When interviewing and interrogating suspects and witnesses, you have to actually pay attention to their facial expressions to determine if they’re lying – and then back up your accusations with the correct piece of evidence to succeed. Occasionally there are brawls and shootouts, but they are always relevant to the case or dispatch call you’ve answered, and you aren’t fighting bad guys on the street for no reason.
The one thing that gets me is the driving. It’s a family joke that I’m awful at driving games [editor’s note: this is a very true statement], and so far this has been no exception. Especially since you have to actually be careful and drive fairly regularly. Your end of case report card takes into account injuries, vehicle, and city damages, then dings you if they are high. It makes you actually care and not run over mailboxes and pedestrians. I’ve been stopping at red lights, which in a game made by Rockstar Games is pretty hilarious to me. The other day before I took on a case, I just spent time driving around and getting used to the controls. I’d had a bad experience with a car chase, and I wanted to try to improve. In any other driving game, I’ve never had to care about running into things, and I love the challenge of having to try harder in this one.
At the time this game was a big deal because of the facial software it used to capture actors’ expressions and realistically portray them. That mostly becomes a factor in interviews and interrogations, because you have to determine based on facial features how to respond to their answers. That’s actually one of the things I like most about the game, because it can be quite challenging. The hardest one I’ve had so far was an actress – I could never tell when she was lying or hiding something, which I think was intentional, since an actress would be better at hiding expressions. The best part about the facial capture though is spotting actors that you recognize and trying to remember where you’ve seen them from.
I was never a huge Grand Theft Auto fan, but I’m incredibly happy I decided to give this game a shot. I love mysteries, and getting to solve crimes as a detective in a noir-style game is a blast!