L.A. Noire is a single-player detective game from Rockstar Games (best known for Grand Theft Auto) set in post-war Los Angeles. The main character is an ex-soldier Cole Phelps, now an LAPD detective, digging out a new life in the corrupt city. As he climbs the through police ranks Phelps must discover the truth behind a string of violent murders, drug related deaths and arson attacks. In doing so, he slowly uncovers the unattractive underbelly of the city and a conspiracy involving prominent city officials.
Gameplay revolves around inspecting crime scenes and hunting for clues. Once you have enough evidence you then have to arrest your suspects. Sometimes they go quietly, but this is rare. Usually they chose to run either on foot or in cars leading to car chases through the excellently rendered city. Shoot-outs are also a main feature of the game and the combat system is reasonably good and very similar to third person action found in GTA.
During interrogations the realistic animation captures every nuance of an actor’s facial performance, allowing you to figure out if they are telling porky pies or the gospel truth. It soon became obvious to me that despite my initial lack of skill during interviews the story moved along anyway and I was only putting my ranking at risk.
The story is excellently written with a very engrossing plot. Cut scenes are well-directed and voice acted – some hark back to Phelp’s not so illustrious army career and some present plot developments via stories behind newspaper headlines. Jack Kelso, another GI, is also a playable character towards the end of the game. Kelso was in the army with Phelps and the two are not friends, but end up working together to uncover the conspiracy by the end of the game.
While excellently presented this game is not a hard-boiled GTA. There is very little repeat playability in the game and at times I did feel like I was on rails being shunted from one plot point to the next. I did not complete many side missions as I thought I would get ‘free play’ around the city at the end of the ‘campaign’ – this is not the case and I advise anyone intending to play this game to do as much as possible from the word go. Respond to as many police radio alerts as possible and try to read all newspapers (I missed one of the twenty or so) and find fifty gold film cans around the map (I found one).
I experienced only one ‘bug’ where the story seemed to have stalled because I had not found an important clue. Once I had found some cigarette stubs in a garden things carried on along the invisible rails in an orderly fashion, and this demonstrated clearly to me that this is not a true ‘open world’ / sandbox environment; however it is a stand-out immersive and atmospheric single player experience nonetheless.