I’ll be the first one to admit when I’m wrong, which isn’t very often, but in the case of L.A. Noire my first impressions were mostly wrong. Now that I’ve spent many hours playing Rockstar’s crime drama I, like the rest of the gaming world, am now on board with this innovative game. Noire’s gameplay really does start to grow on you after a few cases, and now I can hardly stand not playing it. LAN does have some technical hiccups, but the overall experience is one that you probably shouldn’t miss if you like to consider yourself a well rounded gamer.
The Awesome: Mo-Cap Technology, Writing, Gameplay
The Not So Awesome: Technical Glitches Galore, Wonky Driving and Shooting Controls
L.A. Noire’s most admirable feature has to be its amazing use of M0-Cap technology to capture lifelike performances from the cast of actors that bring this game to life. I wouldn’t say that L.A. has the most crisp and technically sound graphics that I’ve ever seen, in fact I still think Heavy Rain has better looking visuals, but I haven’t seen a game that pulls off realistic facial expressions in the same fashion as Noire. Rockstar’s move to have every actor’s performance digitally captured pays off in spades once you let your mind immerse itself in this “who done it” game of solving crimes in a late 1940’s Los Angeles setting.
The technology is truly amazing and it gives L.A. Noire a realistic crime drama feel that isn’t too far off from what you’d see on TV, or in a film. The characters still don’t feel completely real (mainly due to awkward body animations), but for a videogame they’re top notch. I implore you to check out the short video below on the tech that Rockstar used to create the lifelike performances in L.A. Noire, because it is a very impressive operation for a videogame.
The penmanship in L.A. Noire only helps to sell the mo-capped performances that the game’s actors pulled off in the sci-fi looking chamber to record their parts. Outside of the first patrolman based missions I haven’t been able to put my controller down while working through the game’s cases, and this is mainly due to the fact that each case has a great story tied to it. I’m not one for today’s seemingly saturated TV market of crime drama shows, but L.A. Noire’s case system keeps me coming back for more like a die hard fanboy.
The writing also plays a major part in the interrogation scenes, which through the masterful facial expressions paired with the creative dialogue become a true test of your sleuthing skills. Each NPC you interview presents a wonderfully written response for each choice (Truth, Doubt, Lie) you are presented with, and their implications are far reaching. If you don’t choose the correct choice there’s a great chance that you’ll miss out on some clues that you need to help solve the case. This is what makes each interrogation exciting; the back and forth exchange of threats and personal accounts that are crafted by the writers in a way that you’ll never feel 100% confident about the decisions you make. It really makes the mundane task of just talking to NPC’s quite enjoyable, and it’s another aspect of L.A. Noire that keeps me coming back for more cases.
L.A. Noire’s Interrogation Scenes Showcase the Game’s Brilliant Writing
When I mention gameplay in regards to L.A. Noire I’m not referring to the mechanical parts of it. Rather I’m referring to what makes this game unique in a saturated open-world market. Noire still follows the open-world basics of excessive driving, less than stellar shooting sequences, and a whole lot of ancillary missions to keep your tiny brain occupied, but the overall experience is miles apart from Rockstar’s other open-world titles like GTA and Red Dead Redemption. What makes Noire’s gameplay so different is that the focus is on the cases, and not so much on the day to day BS like watching TV and going home each night like GTA and RDR. I never found myself becoming overwhelmed with tasks to pull off that didn’t have any type of impact on the game’s main story.
There’s a great balance of investigative gameplay, which encompasses combing through a crime scene to find evidence, which you can use in your interrogation of each case’s suspects. Sprinkled in with the investigation work you’ll also be presented with street crimes that can range from gang shoot-outs to coaxing a suicidal bozo from jumping off of a building. These street crimes do a great job of breaking up the case work, and give you a little more action to bite off versus the more cerebral investigative/interrogation gameplay.
Investigative Side of L.A. Noire’s Gameplay
These two unique types of gameplay help to mix up the open-world genre in a way that my ADD-enabled mind can get behind. I never felt that sense of burn out from having to replay a driving mission 20 times, or having to reach a certain location within a certain time limit. Noire’s gameplay mix really does at great job of keeping gamers from getting too exhausted with an overused gameplay technique.
The Not So Awesome
Technical Glitches Galore
One of the biggest downsides of L.A. Noire is that it is plagued with a myriad of technical issues. The game often lags out during some of the scenes be it heavy action, or simple conversation moments, to the point that your mind is taken out of the immersive experience. I’m talking super slo-mo to the point where you feel like you’re playing a match of Gears of War 2 multiplayer.
Oddly enough, this freezing epidemic doesn’t seem to show itself during the heavier action sequences, so it’s almost as if the horsepower required to pull of the amazing facial expressions is the culprit when it comes to Noire’s lag issue. I haven’t had the game completely freeze on me, but the lag rears its ugly head enough that this should be considered a major oversight by Rockstar’s development team.
L.A. Noire Glitch Compilation (Not my video)
I wouldn’t call L.A. Noire’s second technical issue an actual glitch, but if you don’t install this game to your hard drive you’re going to experience some seriously long loading times. On top of that, your disk drive will sound like it’s trying to reach a new land speed record! Now if you install it, the load times decrease dramatically, but for gamers that don’t have adequate free space on their HDD this could be an issue. Not to mention that this game has 3 discs for the Xbox 360 version, so you’re looking at double digit GBs of space being eaten up on your console if you choose to install Noire.
The final technical issue that I’ve noticed during my play through is the fact that sometimes the game engine can’t render the world fast enough, so at times the backgrounds look like a fuzzy pile of puke. This seems to happen mostly during driving scenes, and you can literally see the game’s engine being choked to death while it tries to render distant settings. At one point I found myself driving on a road that looked like it just hosted the NYC St. Patty’s Day parade, because it was a lovely mix of brown, green, and other awful colors that make up someone’s puked up stomach contents. I’m not sure if this is a console thing, but it happens far too often not to get a mention.
Wonky Driving and Shooting Controls
It seems Rockstar wants to be known for making epic games that have less than stellar driving and shooting mechanics. If you’ve ever played GTA 4, or RDR you probably know what I’m talking about. Both driving and shooting sequences just don’t feel natural at all. In fact, they’re extremely twitchy even if you dial the sensitvity down. If there wasn’t an auto-aim feature built into the gunplay I think I’d still be wildly waving my pistol around like it had a mind of its own. It doesn’t have that precision like 3rd person aiming that you find in games like Gears of War. Plus, you only get some sh*tty white dot to use as your reticule, so good luck in picking anyone off in one shot from a distance, especially if you’re only using the default pistol.
Good Luck Aiming That Thing With Precision
The other aspect of the wonky shooting mechanics is the cover system. Most 3rd person games offer a button to take you into cover, which L.A. Noire does, but once you lock into cover it takes a small miracle to get out of it fluidly. You character sticks to cover like his pants and shirt have a love affair with every surface in this game’s environment. I don’t feel like I can gracefully move from cover to cover without getting stuck to something as if I rolled around in a pile of super glue.
The driving isn’t much better, so don’t expect to be able to do 80 mph for extended periods of time and weave gracefully through traffic without scratching your ride. It seems that the controls used to turn your car are overly touchy, which results in some unintended side swipes, and curbings that could cost you a 5 star rating on your active case. Whenever I’m in a pressure packed driving situation, such as tailing a suspect, I always feel like my car could crash at any minute due to the erratic controls. It’s not awful considering most of the driving can be fast traveled, but it makes manual driving that much more of a pain in the rear just like the shooting issues make the gunplay less than enjoyable.
Cars of L.A. Noire Don’t Utilize Power Steering
The Final Verdict
If you asked me my opinions on this game last week I probably would’ve told you that it’s another industry hyped turd that has a large fanboy following, but now my tune has changed completely. Yes, I can change my mind on certain games, and yes I do still think the opening sequences of L.A. Noire don’t do a great job of captivating gamer’s minds, but outside of the first hour this game is a gem. The amazing use of mo-cap technology brings the characters of Noire to life unlike any game I’ve ever seen. This is about as close as a game has come to mimicking real life actors in a digital space. On top of the game’s excellent writing this combo makes for a new and exciting experience. The technical glitches are annoying if anything, and don’t really hamper the game too much, so with that being said I give Rockstar’s L.A. Noire an EB 9/10.
If you’ve been looking for a new type of open-world game to play then I highly suggest checking this game out. In fact, head on over to this link and score your copy today! If you can get past the first hour or so I truly believe that you’ll see the genius of this game just like I did. It wasn’t love at first sight, but I can say that I now have an affair with L.A. Noire that is usually only reserved for the most excellent of videogame titles. Check out the trailer below if you still need some visual convincing. You’ve realized that I made a complete 180 turn around on this game from last week…
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