Monday, June 13, 2011

Losertext Review: L.A. Noire

What’s up guys, S.F. here bringing you another wonderful Losercast…or Losertext in this case? I’ve been working on some new ideas for the blog so in the meantime thought I’d type out a review for one of the games that has been soaking up so much of my time lately. L.A. Noire…or Rockstar’s penance for the sins of the GTA and Manhunt games they are so famous for as I’d like to call it. This game released about a month ago which means I’m actually reviewing a newer release. OMG!!! A relevant game review; say it isn’t so!

This game places you into the shoes of Detective Cole Phelps of the LAPD during the late 1940s and early 50s. Your mission is simple, clean up this town one case at a time. As you progress through the game you will work a wide variety of cases as you progress through 4 different desks; Traffic, Homicide, Vice, and Arson all await your detective skills. Each case starts up the same you watch a cutscene showing the crime, then a cutscene showing the case being given to you and you’re A.I. controlled partner (sorry no co-op in this one), and then you are off to the crime scene.

Upon arriving at the crime scene you will be briefed by other policemen and the coroner if available and begin one of the biggest aspects of the game, investigation. You will walk around the scene of the crime, or places on interest later on, and look for clues to establish who the criminal is. This essentially boils down to a scavenger hunt with you holding onto your controller waiting for it to vibrate. When your controller vibrates it means you have found an inspect-able item and Cole will pick it up and take a look at it. Now most of the time this will lead to a clue being added to your notebook for future reference, but other times it will lead to it being a piece of trash, Cole will smart off how it isn’t needed, and you will waste your time. I understand having some of these items in the game to throw you off, especially if you turn off the vibrations, but if I’m in a kitchen investigating, I do not want to pick up the wooden fork and ladle that aren’t covered in blood. Also while in an area with clues still to be found music will play, when you find all the clues it goes all Legend of Zelda and stops letting you know to ignore any other vibrations and move on.

This leads to probably the most important part of the game the interrogations. Here you really get to see the graphics budget at work if you didn’t already. When questioning someone their faces move in a very lifelike manner. This is due to Rockstar utilizing MotionScan technology which places 32 HD cameras around the actors as they deliver their lines in order to capture even the most subtle of movements. After asking someone a question you will be asked to decide if they are telling the truth, are lying and you have proof to validate your claims, or if you doubt them which is essentially saying “you’re lying, but I can’t prove it”. Making the correct choice will give you more information and open new line of questioning, while making the wrong choice can close venues of questioning and make your job harder.

To help you though are intuition points which are earned as you rank up in the game, these points serve one of three purposes. They can remove a wrong choice from a line of questioning, allow you to reveal all remaining clues in the area you are currently in, or ask the community which choice they picked. You can have up to 5 of these stored up at a time, for the most part are very useful when in a tough situation.

After questioning a few people you might find yourself in a hostile situation. Enter the 3rd aspect combat. I know combat taking a backseat in a Rockstar game it sounds crazy, but hear me out. When engaging suspects its either by foot, car, with your fists, or with a gun. The first two are pretty standard you chase the suspect down and bring him in. The 3rd is a pretty standard punch out setup. Finally the gun play is…shallow, with a much smaller arsenal of guns as in other games you will mainly be using your pistol. If you are able to go back to your squad car you can get a shotgun or Tommy gun (if you get the free DLC) for a little more punch. The games uses the GTA 4 cover based combat controls, and you will need it as you can only take few bullets before everything goes all black and white.

The variety of the cases is what makes this game unique, as each desk provides new challenges, a new partner, and a new story. The lack of a morality system might be a turn off for some people, but I like it here. You are supposed to be the good cop righting the wrongs, not a crocked cop trying to bring the city farther down. The MotionScan technology is nice and the city is bright and detailed. Though it isn’t the prettiest game out right now it still looks good even if just for the MotionScan faces.

That being said this game is touted as an open-world game…which it is NOT!!! The fact is while you can drive around the city there isn’t anything to do. Most Rockstar open-world games have a variety of side quests to do if you get bored with the main story. All there are in L.A. Noire aside from the main story cases are Street Crimes which are just smaller cases that all normally lead to a gun fight, and collectible hunting. Golden film reels, landmarks, and the 95 different cars of the street all are ready for you to collect. If there isn’t anything to do why roam the city there is no point. It feels very shackled down with the game almost saying, “Ok drive around you WILL do this case eventually.”

In the end this is a great game that pushes the run-and-gun style of GTA to the back burner and forces gamers to actually think like a detective. With a good sound track of jazz, some great actors behind the characters and cases that will make you want to play again not just to improve your rating on the case, but just in case you missed some new line of dialogue. L.A. Noire fills the unknown void of a great detective game in this generation. It just feels a little shallow with very little to do besides the cases. I look forward to the slew of DLC this game will have for it just to see what else Rockstar has cooked up for this start of a few franchise.

L.A. Noire earned itself an 8/10.