|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Team Bondi and Rockstar Games|
|Pub: Rockstar Games|
|Release: May 17, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence|
A good example of this comes early on in the game, when two drugged women are put in a car with its accelerator pinned to the floor. Both women survive the attempted murder, and one of them, a Sunset Blvd-esque aging actress, clearly has some deal worked out with a movie producer involved in the case. I found it hard to read her flirtatious manner and wasn't able to get much information out of her. When I eventually closed the file on the incident, that particular thread was never resolved—she was basically off the hook for whatever foul play she might have been involved in. Things don't have to work this way, and to its credit, Bondi's design forces you to start thinking like a detective. (You can also use "intuition" hints, handed out as prizes, essentially, for a good day's work, but your allowance of these is limited.)
There are some other gameplay elements to L.A. Noire besides just the detective work. Suspects, whether guilty or not, almost always run, providing a bevy of on-foot and behind-the-wheel chases. And you'll even get into shootouts with thugs and gangsters from time to time. Still, this isn't an action game. Use of weaponry is entirely contextual, and you can't pull your piece unless the story dictates it. The slow, methodical pacing here won't appeal to everyone, though that doesn't keep Noire from feeling fresh. Games that make you put all the puzzle pieces together yourself (I recommend you turn off the hint cues for crime scene investigation) aren't exactly a dime a dozen these days. It's a rewarding difference that keeps the game from being just another action game.
L.A. Noire is still not without its problems. It seems silly that just about every suspect you try to interrogate runs, even when there's no clear link between them and whatever crime you're investigating. If you ask questions out of order in Phelps' notebook, continuity issues may crop up. (Sometimes things are discussed that would normally not have been brought up yet.) It can also be very difficult to know how to approach a suspect during questioning. With only the seemingly clear-cut choices of "Truth," "Doubt," and "Lie," Phelps' method isn't always going to be easy to work with. Though you'll get used to it over time, it would have been nicer to see a system with slightly more nuance. Noir purists may also argue that the game's focus, which has much less of a psychological bent, may not feel as pulpy as it should.
In the game's defense, Bondi's depiction of the genre skews for realism and style, despite the requisite imagery, themes, and the great pulpy dialogue that's peppered throughout the script. The tension bubbling below post-war America's pristine and prosperous image is here in full force, though. If you're looking for desperation, violence, unrest and depravity, it's often etched right the faces of the witnesses you'll be questioning throughout the game. Los Angeles is the perfect playground for all the freaks, creeps, thugs, and murderers you could want to see in a morally ambiguous game, and Noire doesn't pull any punches with its blunt and often graphic depiction. L.A. Noire isn't a perfect game, but it does represent a new benchmark both for realism in the medium as well as for the adventure genre. And at the very least, if it gets more people reading Raymond Chandler, I'm all for it.
CCC Contributing Writer