It was a Raymond Chandler Evening
There are a few caveats to remember when you sit down to play L.A. Noire from Team Bondi and Rockstar Games. One, itís not trying to be a sandbox open-world game with limitless freedom and opportunity to do everything. Two, itís not trying to be the next GTA and three; it has pacing that will probably put off most action fans. L.A. Noire is a game that encourages you to use the Grey Matter and not your trigger finger.
With those things in mind, itís time to see just what makes this latest third person city based crime thriller really tick.Story
Youíre cast in the role of decorated war hero Cole Phelps who joins the LAPD after he returns from the war. After a while as a patrolman he rises through the ranks into the first of several LA Detective crime desks and begins to uncover a multi-threaded story of corruption and intrigue set against the alcohol and jazz soaked backdrop of LA in 1947.
To go into any more detail would be a major spoiler so youíre just going to have to play the game!General Gameplay
To call L.A. Noire a revolution in gameplay isnít correct, what it is though is a sharply dressed package in the best suits that money can buy. Itís got what it takes to stand amongst the triple-A titles and surpass them with clever mechanics and high production values. In other words, it might not be a revolution but itís an evolution and a damn fine one at that. If you donít play L.A. Noire at least once in your life, youíre missing out on a vital step forwards for games and game technology.
Never have I seen a game before that manages to really nail an open world environment combined with a linear story and narrative, and make it work enough to engage you from beginning to end. L.A. Noire has a lot of the sandbox elements that weíve seen before in GTA-Clones but manages to make sure it doesnít become swamped in endless repetitious small-fry tasks, like delivering pizza and taking a buddy out for a beer.
The whole of L.A. is there in breathtaking detail, recreated right down to the signs and the packaging of the era. This is basically every Noir based movie, book, TV show and more presented for the gamer to enjoy and immerse themselves in 1947. I could even hear the old narration of Raymond Chandler books in the crisp writing, but enough of that...this is what L.A. Noireís gameplay is all about.
The controls are simple enough to use, similar to GTA and Red Dead Redemption but the system has been tweaked so that thereís a minimum of button presses to learn. Driving is easy, shooting is simple to do and chasing down suspects consists of you holding down sprint and running like mad after the bad guys, with Cole automatically navigating his way through the environment, leaping fences, scaling walls, ladders, drainpipes and so on. Itís all very easy to do and refreshing that thereís no need to press a button to jump.
Brawls are also simple to play, holding down the left trigger puts you in brawling stance and from there you can block by holding down X, dodge by tapping X and counter by tapping X at the right time, then hitting A after to perform a powerful move. Fights are also context sensitive and thereís always a chance that Cole will use some part of the environment to put the hurt on a mook or two. You can grapple with Y and perform a finisher with B when the opponent is winded or stunned.
Driving is good, the car handling varies from vehicle to vehicle but it doesnít feel too loose or too tight. Itís a good mix of handling and game style physics that makes the car chases in L.A. Noire fun and exciting. The police vehicles are some of the best handling and they let you use the hand-break to great effect in a chase. There are Street Crimes (40 in total) that are small chunks of action-based gameplay designed to allow the player to take a break from solving the cases and range from a simple bank job shootout to a complex car and foot chase that ends with a brawl.
Each one is fun and each one nets you XP which helps Cole rise in the Ranks of the LAPD. As you unlock a new rank youíll gain rewards, these can be new Outfits (that often confer bonuses), Hidden Car locations and Intuition Points (explained later on). Amongst other things, there are 20 ranks to attain in L.A.Noire and getting there isnít easy, it will require a good grasp of the gameís investigation and interrogation mechanics as well as the ability to think like a detective and put clues together.
Itís possible to replay Cases through the main menu and unlock a Streets of L.A. mode that lets you patrol and answer the call to stop Street Crimes that you might have missed in the various desks.
The desks in the game are Patrol, Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson. The desks of Burglary and Bunko were cut from L.A. Noire and may be offered as DLC further down the line since both Team Bondi and Rockstar have plans in that regard. Donít worry though, because even though some of it was cut so that it would fit on 3 Xbox 360 discs or 1 Blu-Ray for the PS3...the game is still going to eat around 40 hours of your life if not more when you add in everything else to find.
L.A. is a huge city and you can freely explore it. If you donít want to drive there you can set a custom destination and hold down Y when next to a car, this will let your partner drive and youíll skip to the destination, perhaps after a little banter. This is so you donít miss out on vital clues and interactions as youíre moving from place to place.
It auto-saves and thereís no way to save the game manually like in GTA.