Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed on Xbox One X), PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch (Switch review coming soon)
Publishers: Rockstar Games
Developers: Rockstar Games, Team Bondi
MSRP: $39.99 on Xbox One and PS4, $49.99 on Nintendo Switch
After six years of silence and the studio behind the game, Team Bondi, ultimately shutting down shortly after the release of their one and only game, any hopes for a sequel were pretty much shot. Luckily, Rockstar Games has released a remaster of the original game.
There are flaws present in the game ranging from the story to various technical issues, but overall L.A. Noire’s remaster is just as enthralling as it ever was. The best way to refer to the game is that it’s a flawed masterpiece which may seem redundant but it’s truly something special.
An enthralling and mature story filled with tales of sex, drugs, and violence:
L.A. Noire is an incredibly dark 1940s detective noir set in the City of Angels that follows a World War II vet by the name of Cole Phelps. After the war was won, Phelps returned to L.A. and began working as a beat cop. He’s a straight arrow determined to work his way up the ranks of the LAPD but he isn’t perfect even though he may like to think he is. He’s a pretty arrogant guy who gets his hands dirty when he needs to and makes a lot of very critical mistakes that lead to some serious consequences that affect his life both at work and at home.
As young Phelps works his way up from patrolling the streets to different desks like Traffic, Homicide, Vice, and Arson, he becomes exposed to the grime that covers a city that is regarded as nothing but paradise to those who haven’t removed the wool that has been pulled over their eyes. It’s the home of Hollywood, beautiful landmarks, and so much more. This is the city where dreams are made and hearts are broken, a city of sex and drugs, a city that is riddled with crime and corruption.
You’ll see everything from a simple shooting all the way to dead women found thrown in the street after being raped and having their bodies mutilated and carved into. L.A. Noire isn’t for the faint of heart but those strong enough to stomach some of its horrors are in for a treat, especially if you’re one of the people banging the drum of “Single player games are dying” because it’s purely story and character driven. This is a meaty 15 to 20-hour game that captures the pure essence of what it means to be a worthwhile single player game, thanks to its well-written cases that leave you intrigued by their mysteries and the excellent cast of characters that are held together by the performances their voice actors give.
There are some questionable elements to L.A. Noire’s writing in the way of character’s doing things that seemingly feel out of place for who they are but in the end, the good outweighs the bad in terms of story.
A unique take on the point and click genre:
L.A. Noire’s gameplay mostly revolves around solving crimes by finding evidence and interrogating suspects or witnesses. It’s up to you to solve these crimes and put the right person behind bars, you can even convict the wrong person if you’re not careful enough. So, it’s important to pay very close attention to every single little detail and this is where L.A. Noire truly shines.
When the game originally released in 2011, Rockstar and the now defunct Team Bondi used a technology that tracks every single movement on actor’s face no matter how subtle it is. Not only does this help provide really cinematic cutscenes where every single emotion is captured perfectly, but it is used as one of the key gameplay mechanics. When players interrogate suspects, they’ll have to watch a character’s expressions and movements, as well as listen to their voice to determine whether they’re telling the truth, holding back a bit of information, or lying to save their skin. More often than not, this system works incredibly well and relies more on the player’s intelligence than just being good at pressing some buttons to beat the game. You have to use your critical thinking skills to solve the crime and it’s really a shame we don’t have more games like this.
There are some moments where the game feels like it’s holding your hand too much and like you’re just being lead through a story where your actions don’t have any long-term consequences, but ultimately the game does a great job of making you feel like a detective who uses logic and other mental skills.
The game shows its age but also makes drastic and wonderful improvements with its visuals:
The one negative thing about putting so much detail into each and every single character in 2011 is that it seems as though the remaster didn’t update the characters as much (perhaps in fear of taking away from character expressions). Aside from their almost uncanny valley-like faces, character models look dated. The hair of most women, in particular, is flat and fairly ugly, it looks like a dead bird is just glued to their head. Most of the time it seems silly to think that developers like Crystal Dynamic are putting so much time and effort into making Lara Croft’s hair look super real, but after revisiting L.A. Noire, it’s obvious why developers began putting a lot of focus on hair.
Aside from the dated character models, L.A. Noire is noticeably more beautiful. On the Xbox One X, colors are brighter and pop off the screen, textures are vastly improved, there are incredible lighting effects, and cars have subtle details like reflections that seem to work in real time as opposed to faking a reflection like some other open world games.
The game does suffer just a bit on the technical front with pretty noticeable pop-in and a less than stellar draw distance, but the game makes up for it with a rock solid frame rate that never appears to dip and quick load times. The pop-in is most noticeable in L.A. Noire if you’re gazing off into the distance while speeding through the streets.
Some new features that longtime fans may appreciate:
There are no significant additions to L.A. Noire like Grand Theft Auto V’s first-person mode which changed the game completely (there is a special VR version of the game that rebuilds seven cases from the ground up for VR coming in December on HTC Vive), there are some new changes and minor additions that will likely please longtime fans. The biggest addition is a photo mode, which is not as in-depth as the photo mode in other games, but it gets the job done. L.A. Noire has some frustrating restrictions like not always being able to move the camera a full 360 degrees around Cole Phelps which can result in having a difficult time properly placing the camera in smaller rooms with lots of objects.
The ‘Truth’ and ‘Doubt’ options in interrogations have been changed to a more appropriate selection between ‘Good Cop’ and ‘Bad Cop’ which works way better than pressing ‘Doubt’ and having Cole explode on an old lady out of nowhere by calling her an old hag.
Fans will also appreciate the fact that there are some new collectibles to discover and outfits to unlock, the new collectibles include novels and records which are incredibly well hidden if you’re out to get all the achievements. I only came across two of the novels throughout my entire playthrough, so players will likely have to look them up if they aren’t keen on scouring every single corner of Los Angeles.
If you have yet to experience L.A. Noire, it’s a really fantastic game with spectacular writing and unique gameplay which makes this remaster worth the buy for newcomers. It’s not a perfect remaster, it’s held back by some questionable writing (very limited occurrences of this) and various graphics restrictions, but this is the ultimate way to play L.A. Noire thanks to the overall enhancements and additions. Hopefully, one day we’ll get to play a sequel to this underrated gem from Rockstar Games.
Note: L.A. Noire was reviewed on an Xbox One X, performance may vary on other consoles/Xbox One models.