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L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire

PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Developer: Team Bondi Official Site: http://www.rockstargames.com...
Publisher: Rockstar Games Classification: MA15+
Release Date:
20th May 2011
L.A. Noire

Genre: Action
Developer: Team Bondi
Official Site: http://www.rockstarga...
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Classification: MA15+
Release Date:
20th May 2011
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L.A. Noire Review
Review By @ 11:17pm 16/05/11
California screamin’

Shrewd detective types will have already spotted that L.A. Noire lacks the words "Grand", "Theft" or "Auto" in its title, thereby making any comparison between the two a futile line of investigation. Granted, when placed alongside one another in a line-up, both games share suspicious similarities: they revel in free-wheeling cityscapes, gat action and the swapping of cars like underpants. But grill L.A. Noire for an hour and this canary will sing a different song, revealing a modus operandi that shares traits with PC adventure titles like Police Quest.

There's also the matter of tone to consider. Protagonist Detective Cole Phelps isn’t the typical Rockstar hood that sports the sort of civic-mindedness that’d make Alex De Large look like a Rotarian. Not only is Phelps a WWII war hero, but he's a by-the-book pillar of the policing community - a good cop in a very, very bad town.

He certainly knows how to typewrite with a Thompson, but your ability to read a criminal's face and to Phoenix Wright their lies with contradicting evidence will be your best weapons here. Every chase sequence, vehicular shenanigan, gunfight or punch-up in the game bespeaks of AAA polish, but ultimately they’re secondary concerns. If you do want a bit more adrenalin there’s the option to responding to forty odd 'street crime' radio dispatches. Otherwise, uncoordinated players are given the option to skip any campaign-related action sequence if they choke three times.

We see this hand-holding as a sensible way to prevent bottlenecking for the more cerebral-minded folk, though we suspect there'll be whinges over the design choice voiced from the red cordial crowd. Their solution is obvious: if it offends you, exercise some restraint and don't use it.

Though the action in L.A. Noire is mustard, it's spread on noticeably thinner than most other Rockstar productions. As surprising as it sounds, this never felt like an issue, as Team Bondi’s vision is classy enough not to shoe horn in arbitrary action for the hell of it, and is an interactive noir(e) movie that proves to be utterly enthralling in its own right. MotionScan -- Bondi's truly groundbreaking face capture technique -- is the real deal and a true landmark moment in gaming. Offering perfect lip-synch, Hollywood scripting and emotionally nuanced performances - the depth of the characterisations had our inner-child gobsmacked in sheer, evolutionary wonderment. We’ve all come such a long, long way from shitly-acted FMV, or faces so low-poly they looked like a bad origami nightmare. The ‘games are art’ crowd have a full-house up their sleeve with this.

We’d be remiss though, if we didn’t mention that Phelps is quite a slow-burn character, at least when he’s compared to Niko Belic, Max Payne or John Marston . He's well worth the time investment however, and as he’s warming up the supporting cast of dizzy dames, passive-aggressive partners and war veteran sociopaths keep this la la land mesmerising. The set design, lighting and era authenticity is also pitch-perfect and we watched as a few times L.A. Noire effortlessly draw in non-gaming mates who happened past the TV.

Much like a good HBO series it's incredibly addicting watching the twists unfold as you connect the dots between physical evidence and felon. Phelps' tumultuous career whisks him to multiple LAPD departments too, and has you fully interacting with a wide variety of heinous crime scenes in cool pre-CSI ways. And we say ‘pre-CSI’, because Phelps has a hilarious habit o scooping up smoking guns with bugger all care for fingerprints. What makes the sleuthing extra (possibly morbidly) appealing is that many of the murders are co-opted from real-life police files. You’re even given the chance to tackle the notorious and grisly Black Dahlia serial murders.

The 'get out of action' free card offered in the action scenes is obviously there to minimise the frustration for the puzzle-minded gamer. Impatient action junkies are offered a similar courtesy in the form of intuition points that may be earned and spent on un-stumping a minor part of your investigation: be it pointing out evidence, or narrowing down your conversation guesses. The biggest challenge available for hardcore gamers isn't mere progression; rather it's in getting full marks for every case by picking the ‘tells’ of your quarry, and then discovering the optimal permutations of inquiry and procedure. L.A. Noire also lets you replay cases at any point (in case you slap the cuffs on the wrong guy) and is non-linear in the sense that leads and arrests can be pursued in any order you see fit. That said, the overarching plot and chapter endings will turn up the same conclusions and career shifts.

Other player aids are much more subtle, such as the deployment of smooth jazz during evidence searches. Musical cues are blended into the exposition music and point out interactive hotspots, even aurally differentiating between fresh clues and ones you’ve previously seen. Once you’ve exhausted all avenues in an area, you’ll get a handy ‘all-clear’ flourish as well. It's masterfully slick ideas like this which will keep your ears as well as your eyes pricked to attention, and it has the added benefit of keeping the HUD almost non-existent.

The OCD level of detail present in the closer environments boggle the mind, as do the expansive streets of your 1940's sandbox. Full credit where credit is due: this is the most detailed Rockstar city yet created and it never stops feeling like a genuinely lived-in space. Even still, beyond some collectibles and hidden cars to unlock, Team Bondi has overshot for era accuracy, but some may feel they’ve under-delivered on incidental interactivity. Phelps, for example, never catches up with his family and friends, nor does he pursue any hobbies outside of mobster-perforation and fedora retrieval. In our weaker moments, we attributed this shortcoming to Team Bondi accurately representing the superficiality of Los Angeles. Otherwise, we put it down to their dedication to crafting a superlative 16 hour main plot. This, for the record, will leave you roughly at 60% completion with no side-quests attempted. That’s pretty respectable.

Putting our patriotic pride aside and judging L.A. Noire as any other title, it’s plainly obvious that it has been nurtured into being by loving hands and is easily of AAA quality. The merits of Team Bondi’s inaugural game are many. It is a mature and riveting piece of entertainment that pushes the boundaries of what a digital performance can be in a videogame. It’s also a frankly amazing period piece that offers the most meticulously-detailed cities, 1940s or otherwise, that we’ve ever seen. But most of all, with the power of MotionScan it has managed to do the unthinkable: fuse the cerebral challenge of an old school adventure title with the reflex-intensive DNA of a sandbox game. It’s the perfect marriage; perhaps the only one in Los Angeles.

Though it may be thin on the extracurricular activities, Cole Phelps’ journey from flatfoot to crime-buster is the interactive equivalent of a good whodunit book. Once it begins, you won’t be able to put it down. Team Bondi's take on the crime thriller genre is unique, unforgettable and well worth stepping over the police cordon -- and out of one’s comfort zone -- to examine. As to whether L.A. Noire has the legs to be an iterative franchise in its own right, I’d suggest to you that this broad has gams ‘til Tuesday. At the very least it deserves to be the inspiration for a great many copycat titles. Though, without MotionScan, it’s difficult to imagine how anybody will replicate this.
What we liked
  • The most life-like humans in gaming. Period.
  • Mature, adult themed plot
  • A stellar mix of puzzling and action
  • Deployment of smooth jazz
What we didn't like
  • Phelps’ character takes a bit too long to grow
  • More incidental interactivity wouldn’t have gone astray
  • Not enough people smoked. It was the era of human-chimneys
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 08:13am 17/5/11
sounds great. But seeing as it's all about the story I'm going to wait until they re-release it in a year or so with all the pre-order add-ons and DLC content for the full experience.
Posted 08:52am 17/5/11
No PC version = GAY!
Posted 09:49am 17/5/11
^ so so gay
Posted 10:13am 17/5/11
Actually sounds so much better than what I was expecting, tonnes of places are giving it really good reviews and it actually sounds more like the sort of game I'd get into, more adventure and story and less time-wasting sandbox crap. Damnit, I wasn't going to get it, but now I'm interested
Posted 10:28am 17/5/11
^ so so gay

Wow you signed up to post that? I guess you're committed
Posted 10:29am 17/5/11
Yeah, I wouldn't really consider this a sandbox game. Sure, there's a big city you can explore, but the actual game is pretty structured.
Posted 10:30am 17/5/11
i know what i'm doing this weekend.
Posted 10:59am 17/5/11
^ so so gay

Wow you signed up to post that? I guess you're committed

lol, some people feel very strongly about the matter
Posted 12:42pm 17/5/11
^ so so gay

Wow you signed up to post that? I guess you're committed

I've actually been signed up for months, this is the first time I've felt the need to comment. Short and directly to the point, what's wrong with that? better than a long paragraph of swearing and console bashing...
Posted 06:08pm 17/5/11
Well not its not, What would be better is some well thought out feedback with substance and rational thought displayed through out.

Instead, you displayed the maturity of my 8 yr old.

Well done.
Posted 06:17pm 17/5/11
Itching to get a copy of this game. It's getting consistently high scores in reviews, and sounds like a refreshing change from the general pewpew that passes for gaming these days.
Posted 06:32pm 17/5/11
Not enough people smoked. It was the era of human-chimneys

Heh if that's one of the worst complaints then it's making me want to buy this game now.
Posted 06:40pm 17/5/11
Well not its not, What would be better is some well thought out feedback with substance and rational thought displayed through out

i chuckled at this :D
Posted 10:19pm 17/5/11
roll on thursday!
Posted 06:27am 18/5/11
bit pissed Rockstar is not releasing games for PC, thats the platform they started off on. Do have an xbox 360 though .... so if it does not hit PC in a year or two might have to buckle in.
Posted 06:56am 18/5/11
It might have been where they started, but to be fair it was GTA3 that made them huge and that was a console game.

I hope this breaks street date today, I got a wide open day with nothing to do today but I'm busy tomorrow :(
Posted 09:52am 18/5/11
bit pissed Rockstar is not releasing games for PC, thats the platform they started off on.
Rockstar are the publisher, Team Bondi are the developer. And Rockstar's first studio, Rockstar North started off on the Amiga (back when they were called DMA Design).
Posted 10:00am 18/5/11
Way back when L.A. Noire was announced it was actually only going to be a PS3 exclusive.
Posted 10:07am 18/5/11
Yeah, Rockstar had nothing to do with it at the beginning. Sony were the original publisher, then they dropped it for some reason, then Rockstar picked it up and made it multi-platform. This is why PS3 was lead platform and looks so much better than the 360 release.
Posted 11:18am 18/5/11
Sony didn't drop it so much as Team Bondi asked them nicely if they'd mind if they moved to Rockstar. The lead of Team Bondi knew the Housers from way back, apparently.
Posted 02:58pm 18/5/11
Any word on MotionScan or something similar being implemented in any future PC games? Considering the praise it's been getting, it'd be nice to know. You'd imagine the idea would be copied by other developers ASAP, but is there anything official anybody may have heard of?
Posted 03:05pm 18/5/11
i think i remember reading that assassins creed revelations will be using the motionscan
Posted 03:30pm 18/5/11
Are you sure? The last two Assassin's Creed games used Image Metrics for the facial animation. That works very differently to Team Bondi's MotionScan technology.
Posted 04:18pm 18/5/11
Any word on MotionScan or something similar being implemented in any future PC games?

Nah, plenty on console though, you should get an xbox
Posted 05:47pm 18/5/11
At least you credit Team Bondi (onya guys!) - the actual developer - not Rockstar - the publisher like everyone else is doing!
Posted 07:25pm 18/5/11
How significant is the difference between the 360 and the ps3 versions?
Posted 07:28pm 18/5/11
Are you ask a 360 fanboy and a ps3 fanboy :P

In all seriousness the game was being developed as a ps3 exclusive before rockstar came along. That should say enough.
Posted 07:43pm 18/5/11
so was GTA4 but that didnt make any difference
Posted 08:06pm 18/5/11
How significant is the difference between the 360 and the ps3 versions?

There's no SSAO in the 360 version, which is pretty obvious in a lot of scenes. It's also on 3 discs.

Posted 08:15pm 18/5/11
Are you sure? The last two Assassin's Creed games used Image Metrics for the facial animation. That works very differently to Team Bondi's MotionScan technology.

nah i wasn't sure so i googled it. apparently they are using something called Mocam.

The game developers also utilized a new motion capture facial technology called Mocam which GI described as : “intriguing amalgamation of traditional animation, performance capture and the fascinating new style of performance on display in games like LA Noire.”
Posted 10:26pm 18/5/11
Wow, PS3 version looks much better. Even though I'd usually get multi-platform games on 360 I think I'm gonna have to go with PS3 for this.
Posted 10:28pm 18/5/11
just watched a 14min gameplay vid on kotaku. i think i'll have to purchase this one.
Posted 10:38pm 18/5/11
Posted 01:04am 19/5/11
Shame that this seems like such a good game. I don't own a console anymore.
Posted 02:38am 19/5/11
Real gamers take sickies on thursdays
Posted 09:31am 02/6/11
Posted 06:07pm 04/6/11
Just finished it, awesome end to an awesome story.
Posted 06:45pm 04/6/11
I haven't quite finished it yet, but I'm up to the bit where you play as Jack Kelso, and I'm kinda wishing he was the main character all along, he seems to be a much better character than Phelps. I don't find Phelps very likeable at all. Like I said, I haven't finished it yet, so I could be in for some disappointment because I'm already hoping if theres a sequel its about Jack Kelso and not Phelps (though the way its going atm, Kelso could likely end up dead by the end of the game).
Posted 07:21pm 04/6/11
Kelso is awesome! Once I started playing as him I found myself unable to put the controller down and played through to the end. I liked the way they slowly turn you against Phelps.

It also didn't hurt that I just finished watching all the seasons of Mad Men, so many familiar faces.

Does anyone know anything about the PS3 exclusive case? Did that come out in Australia, or was that just some sweetener for the yanks?
Posted 06:31pm 07/6/11
Just finished it, the first half the game kinda feels a bit slow and feels like it starts to drag a bit and get repetitive, but from Vice onwards its just awesome, love the story and the characters. And I guess my hopes for a Jack Kelso sequel aren't looking so bad after all!
Posted 07:14pm 07/6/11
I really enjoyed the first half, up until about halfway through homicide where the cases felt too similar and repetitive.

I loathed some of the story decisions later on, the fact that you put away all the wrong people through the entirety of homicide and it was all covered up and you moved onto vice. Halfway through vice it was obvious a serial killer was responsible so I felt bad because I was forced to charge the wrong people. Just throwing in one or 2 non-Black Dahlia cases would have been enough to alleviate this feeling.

Similar with vice, although I did charge a few guilty people I felt like I was being punished at the end for getting demoted to arson, for factors out of my control.

Looking back on traffic and the slip of the tongue DLC I played I much preferred the self enclosed cases that wrapped up with a conviction.

I think in the sequel they need to find a way of balancing the overarching story while still giving the player some sense of accomplishment at the end of a case.

Posted 05:24pm 15/6/11
Just picked this up and started playing it after knowing nothing about it a few weeks ago but seeing ads plastered all over the place. Obviously I read/watched a heap of reviews first, but they were all positive.
Real good so far.

Edit: Okay, so I've discovered three things so far.
1. You can't run over pedestrians
2. If you drive over a crime scene, that's kinda contaminating the scene.
3. You can't shoot a running suspect in the back :P

last edited by Raven at 17:24:46 15/Jun/11
Posted 05:07pm 15/6/11
Yeah, Kelso is a much more likeable character. I still haven't received my copy of the game yet though. :(
Posted 06:19pm 15/6/11
1. You can't run over pedestrians

you can. just reverse back over them when they dive away from you.
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