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There's a million stories in the naked city. This is some of them.

  • May 19, 2011
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L.A. Noire is the latest game from Rockstar, best known for games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. It’s a game that’s both very similar to those and very, very different.

The main character of the game is Cole Phelps (Aaron Stratton, best known for his role as Ken Cogrove in Mad Men). Phelps is a WWII vet living in 1946 Los Angeles. He has recently become a police officer in the LAPD. He starts out as a beat cop and slowly works his way up through traffic and on up the ladder. Throughout he’s solving cases, chasing bad guys and driving really old cars really fast.

I cannot think of enough good things to say about this game. Let’s start with the acting. It’s top-notch, and it’s not just voice-over work. It’s actual actors filmed and inserted into the game with motion capture technology. This technology is especially noticeable in the faces, which frequently look very “real”. In fact, it’s also most important there as you have to analyze the body language and facial expressions of suspects and witnesses when questioning them. When you do so, you can decide if they’re lying, telling the truth or that you doubt their story. I do rather wish the game came with a “bluff” option, which would have been very handy and is a typical tactic used by police.

Beyond the acting, there’s also the environment. Actual cars from the 1940s are used. This is good and bad. Good, because they certainly look great and commandeering a Ford, Packard or Chevy is much different than, say, jacking someone’s Faggio like in the other games.On the other hand, the cars handle like you’d expect 1940s cars to handle. This is entertaining at times, but believe me, when you’re in a high speed chase and trying to corner with one of these, you’ll long for a modern vehicle.

And then there’s the city. Los Angeles in the 1940s was a fascinating place, and this game does a great job of capturing what the city must have felt like back then. You see Red Car trolleys, signs for Nixon, and a total absence of TV-related things (though I passed several radio repair shops). It’s a very noir kind of city, and this game does an excellent example of showing you a noir LA.

As for the cases, they’re pretty straight forward. You find out about a crime, go investigate the crime scene, talk with people and make a collar. Pretty A, B, C. But along the way, you’ll get calls on the radio that enable to you go deal with street crime which is, frankly, a bit more entertaining in many ways. Also, unlike the other games made by Rockstar you can’t just pull out your gun and start shooting or run over everyone in sight. You are a cop, after all. So usually if you want to go shooting, you’ll want to handle as many of these street crimes as you can.

Overall there’s nothing I really dislike about this game. I look forward to playing more and to the inevitable sequel and expansions. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go out and hunt down some criminals. My name’s Phelps, and I’m a cop.

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About the reviewer
C R Swanson ()
Ranked #59
   I'm an aspiring writer and reviewer. I run a blog, I'm working on a novel and spend my free time reading and playing video games. I also spend waaaaay too much time and money on movies. … more
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About this video game


L.A. Noire is a video game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 developed by Team Bondi in conjunction with Rockstar Games and published by Rockstar Games. L.A. Noire is set in Los Angeles in 1947, with players being challenged to solve a range of crimes.
As the title suggests, the game draws heavily from both plot and aesthetic elements of film noir – stylistic films from the 1940s and 1950s that shared similar visual styles and themes including crime, sex and moral ambiguity and were often shot in black and white with harsh, low-key lighting. The game uses a distinctive colouring-style in homage to the visual style of film noir. The post-war setting is the backdrop for plot elements that reference the detective films of the '40s (as well as James Ellroy's novel L.A. Confidential and the Curtis Hanson film based on it), such as corruption and drugs, with a jazz soundtrack.

L.A. Noire is also notable for using Lightsprint's real-time global illumination technology, as well as Depth Analysis's newly developed technology for the film and video game industries called MotionScan, where actors are recorded by 32 surrounding cameras to capture facial expressions from every angle.

LA Noire is the first video game to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.
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Number of Players: Single Player
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Team Bondi
Console: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 17 May 2011 (NA)
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