||L.A. Noire Complete Edition PC Review
November 17, 2011 Will Synchronous Failure Garrido
Summary: L.A. Noire, as the name clearly states, is a video game built on the tropes of one of the greatest periods of American cinema: film noir. Developed by the now defunct Australian developer Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, this title has been out on consoles for a full six months before finally making its way to the PC. This “Complete Edition” of the game features improved graphics, keyboard/mouse controls, and every bit of previously-released DLC for free. But was it truly worth the wait? Read on and find out!
| Introduction||Page:: ( 1 / 6 )|
The somber melody of the jazz quartet danced with the mind of the troubled detective, his eyes diverting to the two suspicious men arguing in the corner of the club. They got up from their table and walked through the exit next to the stage, the detective not far behind. The tobacco haze gave way to rising clouds of steam outside. At the end of the alley were the two men, nothing but silhouettes in the poor lighting. A loud bang suddenly pierced the air followed by the violent slump of one of the dark figures. “LAPD, stop!” ordered the detective but the remaining silhouette vanished into the wilderness of shadows.
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L.A. Noire, as the name clearly states, is a video game built on the tropes of one of the greatest periods of American cinema: film noir. Developed by the now defunct Australian developer Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, this title has been out on consoles for a full six months before finally making its way to the PC. This “Complete Edition” of the game features improved graphics, keyboard/mouse controls, and every bit of previously-released DLC for free. But was it truly worth the wait? Read on and find out!
In this open-world sleuthing game, you assume the role of Cole Phelps, a U.S. Marine coming home from World War II to become an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. As you rise through the ranks from beat cop to senior detective, you will solve some of the city’s most harrowing crimes, ranging from traffic-related incidents and arson all the way up to homicide and drug trafficking. Despite there being several shootouts, car and foot chases, and hand-to-hand brawling, gameplay in L.A. Noire revolves mostly around finding evidence at the scene of the crime and interrogating witnesses and suspects.
It must be immediately noted that this is not a sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto, nor is it the cop version of Mafia II. LAN is, instead, somewhat of a modernized open-world adventure game, not very dissimilar from the point-and-click titles of old. You will be furiously clicking at everything around you to find objects you can interact with, patiently watching many cinematics, and intensely talking with NPCs to try and figure out their angle. There’s also a bit of light puzzle solving, critical thinking, and even some memorization, so this game may not appeal to everyone.
Even if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you should definitely try it out if you ever get the chance. The amount of work put into the game as a whole merits consideration by all who would call themselves a gamer. L.A. Noire features over twenty hours’ worth of voice work and physical, motion-captured performances by real Hollywood actors. Its revolutionary use of MotionScan technology -- involving 32 cameras that analyze facial expressions from every angle and translate them for use in-game -- provides an entirely new dynamic that propels NPC interaction right through the uncanny valley and into the realm of life-like awesomeness.
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| Gameplay continued||Page:: ( 2 / 6 )|
Developers from Team Bondi and Rockstar also painstakingly recreated a very authentic 1947 Los Angeles, going to great lengths in order to ensure historical accuracy. The same can be said of their representation of police procedure; if you watch the ”A Real Detective Plays L.A. Noire” video, you can see how a veteran police officer compares the gameplay to what he’s done throughout his career. However, not even a real detective can play the game perfectly. He made many mistakes in his questioning despite the fact that he had legitimate reasons to pick the choices he did. Therein lays the major fault and success of L.A. Noire.
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She moved her head! She’s lying!
Each mission begins with going to a crime scene and analyzing all of the clues. Then you question any witnesses and follow up on the leads you get. This invariably results in chasing after suspects or slugging/shooting it out and analyzing even more crime scenes. At the end of the case, once you have pursued all of your leads and gathered all of your evidence, you will have to charge a suspect with the crime. Most of the time there is only the one suspect, who may or may not up dead, so there’s no contention over who goes to jail. In some cases, however, particularly in the Homicide desk, you will have multiple suspects with the evidence equally stacked against them, yet you’re tasked with choosing just one to put the screws to. This is where the game gets really interesting, as you have to crack each suspect in interrogation and choose who goes to jail and who doesn’t, based purely on your personal opinion.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t have much of a bearing in the game. The biggest problem with L.A. Noire is how painfully linear it is. It’s possible to miss certain pieces of evidence and screw up a few questions, even skipping entire locations, with the only consequence being that the mystery is harder to solve. At the end of each mission there is a grade on how well you solved the case, along with some comment on how you could have solved it differently. This is merely a minor detail, though, as all cases must be solved in a specific manner and your inability to do so will result in failure. Like many adventure games, L.A. Noire often becomes trapped within its own obscure logic. What makes sense to you end up being something wildly different in the game itself.
This becomes particularly frustrating during the questioning process. You are given three choices when talking to a witness or a suspect: you can believe what they’re saying, doubt it, or claim it’s a lie and provide proof in the form of a clue you previously found. You do this by observing the facial expressions of the NPC you’re questioning and deducing their motivations. Frequently, the “tells,” irregularities in their behavior or movement are exaggerated, which makes detecting a non-truth very easy. But other times, they’re just over-acting when they’re supposed to be telling the truth, which can sometimes makes questioning unnecessarily difficult. ‘Doubt’ and ‘Lie’ will frequently blend and become more of a guessing game as to what you should pick, especially if you were not thorough enough in gathering evidence. That’s where the main difficulty in interrogating people stems from
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On the other hand, interrogations are also the main source of fun for L.A. Noire. You cannot play it casually or half-awake, as it demands your utmost attention at nearly all times. The game’s strict demeanor ends up involving you very intensely, which may end up in your emotions becoming tied to your character’s. Indeed, you will feel a rush of excitement when you successfully question someone and a flood of dopamine when your frustrating work pays off with an arrest. L.A. Noire succeeds in immersing you into a very unique experience and the repetitive tasks actually end up becoming quite addicting.
| More gameplay, story||Page:: ( 3 / 6 )|
L.A. Noire offers you the ability to skip most action segments -- such as pursuits, shootouts, and brawls -- after you fail them three times. This is a good thing because most of these sequences are pretty poor. Shooting is weak and artificial-feeling, with some of the worst sound effects I’ve ever heard. The driving physics are worse than what you would find in an arcade, from a chain-link fence completely stopping you to the car flying over the moon if you driving over a bump. Even worse, the game automatically adjusts where you walk, so you will be fighting the controls more than you will your enemies. The game essentially makes it abundantly clear that none of that is the focus of the game, which is actually perfectly fine.
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It’s not a game, it’s an interactive movie
The best of what LAN has to offer is in its storytelling. At the start of every mission you are treated to some grand camera work on top of some very natural and compelling dialogue. You will flashback to when your character was a Marine and, over the course of the game, learn his dark secrets and the intricacies of his personality. Where L.A. Noire really shines is in how realistic all of the characters are; despite a lot of clichés and predictable plot lines, everyone has some depth to them and the voice-acting is really second to none. Even the pedestrians feel like they’re real people as cars and NPCs accurately react to your actions and live out convincing virtual lives.
This is mostly thanks to the MotionScan technology. Everyone doesn’t just feel real – they are real. The animations are incredibly life-like, with centers of gravity and inertia, actual manipulation of objects (the folding of origami paper cranes is one impressive example), and the inclusion of subtle tics and personality quirks that separate L.A. Noire’s characters from the plastic action figures seen in most video games. This can sometimes veer from incredibly cool to creepy and even terrifying, though; the developers should have put more work into how females look because the game’s poor facial textures make half of them look like monsters. This is amusingly reflected in a network statistics presented by Rockstar, where gamers overwhelmingly trust men over women when it comes to telling the truth in LAN.
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The cases you will solve range from pretty straightforward and unoriginal to mind-bending complexity that would make any Lost fan sweat. As previously mentioned, if you aren’t keeping up you will be left behind and nothing will have any bearing in your mind. The game rewards the dedicated and astute, making L.A. Noire truly an old-school adventure game in fancy new clothes. Some of my favorite cases were the DLC missions that were included with the game, such as investigating the distribution of marijuana in soup cans and a humongous explosion at a factory, with all the industrial espionage behind it. There are a lot of overarching storylines that connect separate cases together, from LA’s infamous and unsolved Black Dahlia murders to the theft of surplus military goods and rampant department corruption.
| Graphics and Sound||Page:: ( 4 / 6 )|
L.A. Noire takes place in post-war Los Angeles, a setting that they’ve pulled off very convincingly. Old 40s pop songs and actual radio programs from the period can be heard while driving, and of course tons of racism and sexism can be seen everywhere. Throughout the game you will have a partner to aid you in solving crimes, which are incredibly well acted for the most part and likeable in their own unique ways. Most of these partners, though, are old, grizzled, and jaded, often serving up nuggets of unadulterated hatred for women and/or minorities. L.A. Noire will gleefully cross every single line and slap you over the head with how jarringly different life was in that era.
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This isn’t because the developers are milking the controversy angle or pretending to be edgy, however. Everything is convincingly portrayed as normal and acceptable, unlike previous Rockstar games like Grand Theft Auto where racism and sexism is highlighted satirically and in parody. Instead, L.A. Noire treats these sensitive subjects with respect and present them sort of as a history lesson. It serves to really draw you into the game and become fixated with all of the nuances of a different time period. The art deco architecture, beautiful cars, and use of real-world brands of products instead of fictional placeholders bring a lot of life into the game world.
As the game progresses, you will become more invested into the characters and the story. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you there will be moments were you will feel happiness for your character and moments where you will feel his pain and despair. Unfortunately, the game ends in an anti-climactic manner that feels very rushed. It’s difficult to look back at the game with a positive feeling after the terrible treatment you get with the ending, but rest-assured L.A. Noire is one of the pinnacles of video game storytelling. Not to mention, it’s a display of art, as evidenced by it being the first game to be showcased in the Tribeca Film Festival.
The game world looks pretty good thanks to Lightsprint’s global illumination engine, but the character models, in sharp contrast to the brilliant animation, look terrible. Facial shadows and textures are horrendous blobs that look indistinguishable from the previous generation’s games. The sound effects, with the exception of cars and guns, are pretty good, though. The highlight of the game, however, is its beautiful jazz soundtrack. I do wish it had more variety in radio songs or switchable stations like in Mafia II. There’s only so much of Hank Williams’ “Move It On Over” that I can take…
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What nearly ruins L.A. Noire, unfortunately, is Rockstar’s consistent track record of crap PC ports. The performance is dismal and, with the exception of anti-aliasing and a higher resolution, there isn’t much of a graphical improvement over the console versions. The game loves to crash a lot, too; thankfully it autosaves often, but even so, you might find yourself re-doing several interviews and evidence searches. The controls are a disaster, so it’s hard telling why the game was delayed for six months.
For those of you who would buy (or have bought) the Steam version of the game, be sure to run Steam as an admin or the game will refuse to launch. Lastly, the game installs the terrible Rockstar Social Club program from GTA IV, only this time it’s an in-game menu with the same interface as Games for Windows Live (though at least LAN doesn’t include that on top of it).
| Ballistics Report||Page:: ( 5 / 6 )|
Jaw-dropping facial animation. And really all animation for that matter.
Brilliant acting. Both voice and facial expressions, even if it’s a bit exaggerated at times.
Realistic setting. Experience a very authentic recreation of Los Angeles as it entered a brave new future.
Revolutionary new spin on the classic adventure genre. LAN is looking to bring adventure games back into the mainstream.
Excellent pacing and storytelling.
Natural dialogue and creative cases. Despite the occasional dud, cliché, and predictable outcome.
Requires thought and concentration. Don’t play if you’re just looking to tear apart L.A.
Terrible console port. Very little effort put forth by Rockstar in this aspect.
So-so graphics. Character faces are unimpressive despite their animations, game world lacks particle and atmospheric effects.
Terrible ending. An excellent story ends anti-climactically.
Poor and repetitive action sequences. Thankfully, they’re skippable.
Painfully linear. Too much of the gameplay is handed to you on a silver platter.
| Final Verdict||Page:: ( 6 / 6 )|
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