Portable open-world gaming.
That’s what the Switch is really starting to showcase. And while from a power perspective it might not be in the same ballpark as PlayStation 4 Pro or the recently-released Xbox One X, it’s not without its own grunt, as we’ve seen recently with the likes of Super Mario Odyssey
, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
and, of course, the mammoth The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
For the Nintendo loyal, open-world gaming has largely been left to the franchises mentioned above, with Nintendo’s last two consoles being alarmingly dry of a lot of third-party games. Very specifically in that camp lies open-world rockstar developer, err… Rockstar
. Thankfully, they’ve nudged their way back into Nintendo’s stable, kicking things off with a wonderful port/update of the largely Aussie-developed L.A. Noire, and on the Nintendo Switch, the game is glorious.
Firstly, it really hasn’t aged. And on Nintendo’s new console, it’s as good as it ever was, thanks to being able to take it out on the road with you (in case you’ve had enough couch time but don’t want to leave an investigation unresolved). New additions on the console see players being able to utilise motion control via the system’s Joy-Con controllers (undocked, obviously), as well as its touch screen. In fairness, both additions can be seen as a bit gimmicky, but that they’re even there suggests Rockstar wanted to not just give players the option, but that they’ve gone into the original game and tinkered beyond just porting it across.
With the Joy-Cons evidence can be manipulated through their sensitive gyros, and it actually feels pretty natural to utilise them in this way. The problem is, once you’re out of your crime-scene investigation sequence, the game slips back into familiar third-person open-world gaming territory where our years of pavlovian solid-state controller reliance returns, and we remember just why “waggle” is now a dirty world in videogaming. However, this isn’t so much a dig at the game or the inclusion of such functionality, because as mentioned earlier, it’s simply a player-choice option -- the game can be played in its traditional console-style form as well. It’s more an observation of how we’ve moved away from such interaction. But really, I digress.
The true hero with L.A. Noire is still in its robust characterisation of the game-world and, more importantly, its inhabitants. Those facial animations are still LEAGUES ahead of anything else currently out in the landscape, and the acting that carries them further remains as top-notch as it was six years ago. It’s all amplified when playing portably, too, because the Switch’s screen helps maintain a more crisp presentation due to its size. It’s a testament to how hard Team Bondi and Rockstar worked on the game, despite the development furore that followed its release, and everyone who worked on the game should be very proud that it remains a benchmark across so many areas, even in this era of super-consoles, PCs and 4K TVs.
For those of you who never played: Here’s a super-quick rundown of what you missed. L.A. Noire is an open-world adventure game that could be described, loosely, as a sort of ‘evolution’ of classic point-and-click PC adventures. It follows a WWII vet-turned-detective in Los Angeles who investigates a series of murders and crimes that are not so glamourous. These investigations are handled by players combing crime-scenes for evidence and through witness and suspect interrogation and questioning. Investigation sequences are bridged through an open-world traversal system with an incredibly-detailed 40s-era LA LA Land.
Despite this ‘open-world’ the game was criticised for lacking in gameplay diversity, in much the same way MAFIA II was, with the open-world side of L.A. Noire being seen more as a superfluous, albeit gorgeous, addition. However, there are those of us who prefer to be thrown into period set pieces when attempting to suspend disbelief, and when you consider the fidelity and revolutionary nature of the investigation and interrogation side of the game and how well the characters carrying that side of it are portrayed, having said set pieces as open and inviting and realistic as they were (and are, in this case) wasn’t just welcome, it was downright necessary.
That being said, the missed opportunity here is for the team that carried this port across to Switch (and Xbox One and PlayStation 4) to not have added a bit more content. The game was fantastic as it was, but it did lack in a bit of variety outside of just living the tortured life of Cole Phelps, especially when you consider the nature of most other open-world Rockstar games. But it’s not overly a detriment to the product as it stands, it just would have been cool to see some new, expansive activities to do in the game’s still-gorgeous game-world. And while it’s currently available on the other two super-systems, we reviewed the game on Switch and, if you own one, suggest you look to the little console that could for your L.A. Noire experience. It’s a wonderful fit on Switch and shows there’s a mature lifeline on the horizon for Nintendo, and the Nintendo loyal above the age of 15, ahead.