After a long development cycle and rumors of cancellation; L.A. Noire is finally upon us. Developed by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, L.A. Noire is set in the dark confines of 1940 Los Angeles. Does L.A. Noire break new ground with its impressive technology, or is it nothing more than a clone of Grand Theft Auto? Hit the break for our verdict.
L.A. Noire features some of the most impressive facial animations in the history of gaming. While some games do a good job of syncing lips and doing basic facial work, nothing really comes close to matching the system developed by Team Bondi and Rockstar. This technology which is called ‘MotionScan’ brings digital actors to life in a way that hasn’t been possible. With a few exceptions, no other titles have come close to replicating human emotion as consistently as L.A. Noire.
L.A. Noire centers on the story of decorated WW II veteran Cole Phelps as he ascends in the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department. The overarching story unfolds through case assignments. The more successful cases and this result in Phelps getting a promotion. Phelps starts off as a lowly Patrol officer and eventually with enough experience becomes a Homicide detective. Every case Phelps involves himself in is expertly written and ends up wrapping up into a satisfying conclusion.
It can’t be stressed how important the writing is to the success of L.A. Noire. Even though the actors do a phenomenal job of bringing the characters to life, the writing is really what initially sells it. As I said before the digital acting is phenomenal. L.A. Noire relies almost entirely on the cast, and the development team had to be extremely confident in the technology in order to develop most of the game through digital acting.
In a way, L.A. Noire is very similar to Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain. A good portion of the game is handled through in-game conversation wheels, though this is not indicative of the whole product. L.A. Noire does feature some great chase sequences, gun-fights, and brawling, however these moments aren’t as frequent as they could be. While they offer a good break from all of the dialogue and interrogations, there are just not quite enough of them. During cases, you can also respond to calls. Normally you’d expect these to be nothing more than padding to the overall experience, however almost all of them are interesting and help reinforce the idea that you are cleaning up the streets of L.A.
I can’t begin to give enough credit to Team Bondi for the atmosphere they were able to create in L.A. Noire. Obviously I wasn’t around in the 40’s, but based on how organic everything looks and feel; you could almost willingly accept their adaptation of the city. There’s a fine line between making characters appear lifelike and borderline creepy, and L.A. Noire succeeds in presenting us with some of the most compelling representations of mankind in a video-game.
There are some nagging issues in the presentation though, which include low-resolution textures in several key areas, and a camera that isn’t always as friendly as it could be. The frame-rate can also take a dive in certain circumstances, which is odd considering the overall amount of polish the game has. By and large, these are minor issues that don’t really hurt the overall package; however they are worth mentioning.
The audio is also deserving of praise. The actual voice acting is some of the best you will see in a video game, because everyone stays within the confines of their character. It’s not like every actor does a stellar job, but rather everyone does a good job, which is something that is extremely hard to find, even in a title with a large budget. This in turn results in a phenomenal acting job as a whole. The music is also superb, and really goes a long way to immersing the player even more into the world of L.A. Noire.
Despite some minor issues, L.A. Noire is by far the most engrossing title I have played all year. Team Bondi and Rockstar Games have managed to create a unique gem in a market over-saturated by military shooters. Whether you’re a fan of crime novels, or even other Rockstar titles; there’s something for everyone. L.A. Noire is an easy recommendation and one of the best titles to arrive in stores this generation.