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November 28, 2017

LA Noire - Review

When LA Noire released back in 2011, it took the game world by storm with its incredible facial performances and a gameplay system that was all about how much attention you paid to things, 6 years later the game is back, but does it hold up?

The story has not changed from the original release, you play Cole Phelps a police officer from 1940’s LA who, after taking some initiative gets promoted from beat cop to detective. After teaming up with Bekowsky and learning the ropes, it is a fast rise through the departments for Phelps, until he meets Else, a German lounge singer and his soon to be mistress, but when corrupt officials start to be discovered, they use Phelps’ relationship with Elsa as a means to distract and escape, causing Phelps to be demoted. While working new cases, Phelps still decides he has to do the right thing and solve that last case he was working before he was demoted and as such uncovers a very large conspiracy. The story is not too great, its very easy to pick how it plays out, but the level of attention each character is given, helps to make them worth sticking around for, plus they help make the story interesting.


The gameplay is not quite open world, but at the same time, it is not linear either, it’s a combination of the two, which works best for it. Across the game, you will explore a number of locations in Downtown LA and its surrounding neighbourhoods, some of which have a bit to do, others not so much. Each of the neighbourhoods is created with a lot of attention, from small little signs in shop windows, to the large billboards that dot the city skyline, all combined, it makes for a great place to explore. Exploration is something you will do a lot of, as when you discover a new location, tied to the case you are working on, you will need to look around and find all the clues, doing that lets you discover what people are hiding.

When it first released, the facial work was so advanced, that it was a challenge to decipher how people were reacting to your questions, slight little ticks or rapid blinking were things that had never been in a game before, at least to such detail. That system makes the jump over to the Switch version and almost all of the time it works great, people will look away if they are trying to lie to you, or they will get smug or angry if you accuse them without proof. Walking around each location can be a drag, Cole moves very slow and if you try to run, he does this light job run, until you leave the crime scene space and then he runs proper. Picking up all of the items in a location does get tiring fast, purely because you can pick up so many pointless objects, but its not until Cole makes a comment about it not being relevant that you realise. Overall the investigating and interviewing/interrogating people is just as outstanding as it was 6 years ago, the problem lies with everything outside of that.


When you travel from location to location, you can drive yourself or have your partner of the time do it for you, the problem is if you drive yourself, you need to deal with some very airy car mechanics and if you get driven, you get warped to the location. Normally driving yourself is the way to go, however there are times when you need to get involved with a police chase and because of the fluid handling, there were a lot of times when trying to swerve into the car I was chasing had me just do a really sharp turn and miss them entirely. Sadly, when you are on foot in a chase or shoot out, they don’t improve much there either, when running Cole can take a few moments to stop moving if you let go of the stick, but then getting him to turn around requires you to push in your intended direction for a lot longer than you might think, on foot quick turns are not Coles best, which is the opposite to driving. Shoot outs, while they are fun, are a mix of mostly ok cover based shooting and flanking, which when you get into the groove works well enough, the problem is that each time you load a new case, you are defaulted to a pistol and everyone else has rifles or shotguns, so your almost always at a disadvantage.


A lot of the visual details the series was praised for when it first came out are here still and they look as good as they did back then, characters facial expressions are wonderfully rendered, meaning those subtle looks are sometimes the only clue you will have between discovering the truth or a lie. The catch is however, that they are only truly right in a handful of moments, any regular character chats, the animations can get iffy at best and distorted at worst, resulting in lips and teeth coming together to create nightmares. For the most part though, the visuals are fine, with one major issue, the Switch only renders so much content in view at a given time, in downtown LA, it results in builds two blocks over being a mix of normal and blurry textures, which are replaced as you approach, noticeable, but not game breaking. Step out into the suburbs or industrial sectors and things get really bad, there were times when I would drive at tops speed, only to have to slow down as the game would have a giant black blob for the road, while the rest of the world would then start to appear, ground, houses, trees and then all the details, it was quite strange, and this was happening less than a block between myself and there.


Audio wise, the performances are great, each character, be they a main or just someone standing to the side of a crime scene are all acted with conviction, which at the time was not common. The sounds of 1940’s LA are also great, the ding of the traffic lights as they change, the high-pitched air raid sounding police sirens and such, all help sell the world. I just wish the music was of a higher quality, no matter how I tweaked the settings, I could never hear it properly.


LA Noire on Nintendo Switch is a fantastic game, sure there are some performance issues in both fps and draw distance, but the entire package still comes together to create something great. If you have never played it before, like myself, then you need to give yourself the option to do so, but returning players will still find a lot to enjoy here as well.


Review copy provided by Rockstar

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