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PlayStation 4 Review: ‘L.A. Noire’

I never played the original L.A. Noir. It was a game that I wanted to check out but for which I never quite found the time. It is therefore impossible for me to say whether the version that hit current generation consoles this fall is better or worse than the original. What I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that in its present form it isn’t terribly enjoyable.

The basic story of the game has you, the player, start off by stepping into the shoes of a low level L.A. police officer solving crimes. It is a detective tale and whether you’re a traffic cop or something higher in the ranks, you go from location to location, talking to suspects, looking at clues, and getting into one shoot out after the next.

It is a great concept but one which fails to be compelling. There are simply too many elements that don’t work, both big and small.

On the small side of things, the map is annoying; driving around Los Angeles is insanely dull; the controls are imprecise; and if you leave one car at a crime scene to check the place out, when you return a different car might be waiting for you (or, if the car was damaged, it will be magically repaired). The biggest of these “small” issues is the driving around L.A. Far too much time is spent in the car, winding through the streets of Los Angeles and when side missions pop up just as you’re approaching a location for the main mission, it could be a nearly five minute drive away (which then necessitates a five minute drive back) if you choose to pursue it, but good luck figuring out how far away the side mission is ahead oftime. It is true that some of this driving can be skipped—learning as much was huge—

but doing so necessitates missing these side missions. Beyond that, it is clear that a lot of time went into building the city itself and to miss it feels like missing part of the game.

The truly disappointing thing, however, is that even when you arrive on the scene for a mission, it isn’t all that enjoyable. Searching for clues (the game can, if you choose, vibrate the controller when you’re near one) is as dull as driving, especially when you pick something up only to be told that it’s irrelevant. And, while obviously there are irrelevant things everywhere in this world, finding a gun in a suspect’s house (even if a murder wasn’t committed with it), doesn’t feel irrelevant. For that matter, if you think a person may have been stalked, seeing cigarette butts at a location may mean the stalker was waiting there and again, isn’t necessarily irrelevant.  Disturbingly, the game recognizes this last fact and has cigarette butts count as a relevant clue if it plays into the story the game wants to tell.

Questioning individuals is no better. You are given the choice to be a good cop, bad cop, or to accuse the suspect with every question. Points are awarded if you choose correctly, but this pigeonhol

es you into pursuing the case as the game wants you to pursue it, not actually going about it as you see fit. Additionally, some of the accusations the game wants you to make to be “correct” feel fuzzy at best.

Once you think you’re done at a location, have asked all the questions and found all the clues, you can return to your car to go somewhere else. Your detective’s notebook will offer choices and often (but perhaps not always), crosses out places with which you’re finished. This means that if the location your leaving isn’t crossed out, the odds are that you are either coming back there later (because that person you just talked to is the guilty party), or you missed a clue and should check again. It is the game tipping its hand, and lessens the experience.

At least once in solving a case, the story that came out when I made the arrest indicated a bunch of facts that I hadn’t discovered at all. I had, seemingly, pursued all the questions incorrectly and failed to find out the reasons for the crime, but it made no difference when the arrest cut scene began, my character knew absolutely everything.

All in all, while the updated graphics may make L.A. Noir look like a modern, enjoyable, title, it just doesn’t pan out when you play. It is plodding, the cutscenes are annoying, the investigating isn’t a lot of fun, driving is meant to be important but is dull, and the way crimes are strung together into larger storylines is awkward at best. It is a great notion, but it doesn’t work in reality.

 

L.A. Noire is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Switch, and PC

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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