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L.A Noire is unique, but repetitive gameplay and other minor flaws can't be overlooked

http://assassindx.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/la-noire-review/

LA Noire was without question one of the most anticipated releases of 2011, widely expected to be yet another masterpiece from Rockstar Games. The game is effectively a crime thriller, boasting state-of-the-art motion capture technology and a realist 1940's setting, so is immersing yourself in post-war Los Angeles worthy of your time and money?

Gameplay

The gameplay mechanics in LA Noire are largely similar to other current-gen Rockstar games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, so for those who have played either of those you'll largely know what to expect with the driving and on-foot controls for main protagonist Cole Phelps, a War Hero who decided to join the L.A.P.D once he'd served his country. There is no jump button however which is actually a blessing, no longer will you be stuck behind a foot-high wall after mis-timing a jump during a chase or accidentally launch yourself off a six story building.

Throughout the game's engrossing story you'll be given the opportunity to interview potential witnesses and suspect on a variety of cases, and for a lot of things people say you'll be able to decide if you think they're telling the truth, if there's an element of doubt in their story or if they're flat out lying, the latter of which requires you to back up your claim with evidence. This allows for exciting moments not only out on the streets, as interrogating people can make all the difference when it eventually comes to prosecuting a suspect. You can use something called intuition points to either see what the LA Noire community chose or opt for a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-style option which takes one of the three choices away. This can prove to be very useful but sometimes it does seem to be down to pure luck as to whether you've chosen the right answer.

As a detective it's all about unearthing the small details at a crime scene and at places that have anything to do with a victims last known whereabouts or the home of someone who might have had something to do with the crime. It's a compelling and satisfying process if you find the right piece of evidence to contradict someone's story, which ties in with my earlier point of simple conversations often becoming incredibly exciting and interesting.

As mentioned driving and on-foot controls are responsive and easy to pick up, as are the occasional shoot-outs and brawls you'll encounter throughout the storyline. You can effortlessly hide behind cover and take aim at the bad guys, and for those who don't have an accurate hand you can tinker with the auto aim settings to your liking. The only problem here is that shooting people in the legs can be as fatal as a headshot, so here's a tip - when chasing someone on foot you can fire a warning shot, but don't think it's a good idea to subdue them by taking out a leg. It'll often kill the person you're pursuing and you'll therefore fail the case.
Score - 9/10

Graphics

The advanced use of motion capture technology was one of LA Noire's big selling points, and for the most part it works well. Just watching people's lips move while they talk is a visual treat and while certain emotions aren't fully captured what they've accomplished is still a terrific achievement.

Elsewhere the city of Los Angeles looks fantastic, apparently around 90% of the in-game city is a replica of how the real thing looked in that era. The city is bustling and gives a real sense of authenticity, and you'll encounter typically suburban neighbourhoods, seedy jazz bars and beautiful mansions along with several landmark locations.

There are a couple of negative points to mention though, primarily with regards to realism. I might be nitpicking but it bothers me when driving to a location and the screen fades to black briefly, and you'll suddenly be approaching the building from the opposite direction - and sometimes not even in the car you were in just a moment beforehand. There are also some pop-up issues, such as with small details like flagpoles and lampposts appearing right in front of you as you're driving or long after everything else has loaded. This is a very prominent if you don't have the disk you are playing installed to your hard drive, so doing so is highly recommended.
Score - 9/10

Sound and Music

As has become synonymous with Rockstar Games the voice acting in LA Noire is fantastic. Each character is brought to life masterfully, and while our hero Cole Phelps can get a little intense at times for seemingly no reason and perhaps say things that the choice you chose wouldn't necessarily reflect (although a possible reason for this becomes clear through the occasional flashback to the war) for the most part the voice acting comes across as realistic as possible. However random conversations in the street aren't as good as seen in GTA IV for example, you'll encounter the same recycled lines with annoying regularity about how Phelps "seem like a nice guy" or informing you that you need to take a bath.

The music is typically 1940's jazz compositions, they adequately add to the immersion but I personally haven't noticed anything outstanding. Most of the 95 vehicles you can drive in the game sound the same as well, but how much of that is down to the lack of variety under the hood in 1947 or not is something I'm not familiar with, but to hear every engine sound the same is nevertheless a minor flaw.

Score - 7/10

Value

I've put about 12 hours into LA Noire so far, and as a guess I'd say I'm not quite half way through the game. I still have plenty of the 40 street crimes to do as well as explore the city in full, so to get the bare minimum game completion would probably take somewhere between 20 and 25 hours. You can also extend the experience by driving across Los Angeles yourself, you can ask whoever your partner is to drive for you a lot of the time which serves as a 'quick jump' to your destination.

As I write this the game is still brand new and thus retailing at full price, but it's a worthwhile experience and in my opinion an essential purchase. Despite this there doesn't seem to be much replay value, as no matter what the outcome of each individual case the storyline progresses in the same linear fashion.

Score - 8/10

Summary

+ Everything from car chases to simple interrogations is exciting

+ 1940's Los Angeles looks about as authentic as it can be

+ The facial motion capture is incredible

+ The storyline is engaging

+ Should take most people at least 30 hours to complete fully

+ Great voice acting

- Some graphics glitches

- Music and sound effects are largely forgettable

- Phelps can often become intense for no reason and not reflect your choices

- While the game auto saves regularly, you can't manually save your game

- There doesn't seem to be any reason to replay the game once you're done

- Early murder investigations are repetitive

Overall Score - 33/40 = 8.0 Gamespot score

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