L.A. Noire screenshot
L.A. Noire screenshot

We've had games that let us play cop before, of course, but it's hard to remember anything that's ever come this close to making us feel like we're actually doing the job. I could have spent half of this review going on about the banter Phelps shares with his four partners - you get one on each desk, and they damn near steal the show - but as much as I love these cynical, hard-drinking antiheroes, they're only part of the big picture. In the end, LA Noire is much more than the sum of its parts.

With a project this ambitious, it's only natural that some of these parts fare better than others. Given how incredible the game looks, it's easy to forgive the rare occasions (on Xbox 360) when the frame rate dips a little, or when a texture pops in a little later than expected. The investigation mechanics shine, but the handling in higher-tempo sequences may not be to everyone's taste. While the controls for on-foot pursuit are excellent, utilising a system that's not too dissimilar to Assassin's Creed's Free Run trigger, melee combat has been boiled down an overly simple timing exercise.

Gunplay is handled more competently, with a simple-but-solid take on established cover systems, but it's still a good thing that it doesn't crop up too often. Prolonged shoot-outs are usually reserved for the most significant beats in the sprawling plot, ensuring that they still feel like a big occasion when they do crop up. There are some pleasingly creative settings for several of these battles, too - don't worry, I won't spoil anything. It's a shame that explosive barrels make an unwarranted cameo, but thankfully you'll soon forget all about them.

There are other quirks and gameplay one-offs that pop up across the 24-odd hour duration of the story, but really these little diversions are just icing on the cake. On a similar note, the collectible cars feel like superfluous bonuses given how consistently excellent the main story is - and thanks to the malleable nature of case progression, there's more than enough content to warrant a second trip-through.

Even without the prospect of alternative leads, missed conversations and the like, you'd probably still want to see it all again. There's something entrancing about the way this game plunges you into the violence, the corruption, and the sadness of post-war Los Angeles. Each of the four major desks has a remarkably different tone, and while the slow reveal of Phelps himself is the major narrative thread, it's equally true to say the dark heart of the city itself is an equally important protagonist. As you stoop to inspect the naked body of a mutilated young woman, as you shakedown a gambling racket in a dusky backroom, as you pick through the skeletal cinders of a burnt-out building… as you do these things, you'll silently admit the truth: you don't want to stop the bleakness, you want to revel in it.

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Highest Rated Comment

El-Dev's Avatar

El-Dev@ SexyJams

Have you got two kidneys?
Posted 20:45 on 16 May 2011

User Comments

guyderman's Avatar

guyderman@ ReadySteadyGo

I didn't actually pay £40 for it - it was actually a rental from Lovefilm - it was just a bit of banter :0)
Posted 10:33 on 24 May 2012
p0rtalthinker's Avatar

p0rtalthinker

I quite liked L.A. Noire, but yes, not really a tenner for me. I can see where you fell in love with the game though Neon :)
Posted 18:20 on 23 May 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

The best part of the game was the podcast discussion it generated ('the DOG did it!!') :D

Hell, that would have made for a much better story/overall plot...
Posted 17:47 on 23 May 2012
squidman's Avatar

squidman

This game was the worst episode of Mad Men I have ever seen.
Posted 17:45 on 23 May 2012
ReadySteadyGo's Avatar

ReadySteadyGo

I thought the game was cracking myself but no idea why Guyderman paid 40 for it when it's been cheaper than that, even at launch.

My main gripe is that the DLC should have been released when the game came out as it was all set during the main game rather than after.

Also Rockstar didn't just publish it, in fact Team Bondi didn't complete it and it was a mad rush for it to be completed in time by some of the Rockstar studios. I think it was Rockstar San Diego (Red Dead) and North (GTA) who finished the game. I know Rockstar Leeds did the PC game mind.
Posted 17:29 on 23 May 2012
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog@ dav2612

No, you're quite right. If I were to re-review it, I'd still be very positive about it. It's a game I've gone back to and replayed, which is something I rarely do these days (Dark Souls is the most recent example). Though I didn't finish it the second time, which probably says something.

In this case, it was a mistake - because I don't feel like it's worth that number. Red Dead Redemption, on the other hand, is absolutely a 10 for me. I adore that game, it's one of my highlights of this and every other gen.

As I say, I still have a lot of love for LA Noire, but it's a flawed experience to say the least, and with hindsight I think a lot of things I admire about it have very little to do with gameplay or technical coherence. I have no doubt that there are other people out there who have similar affection for it, and like me they're probably people who are massive fans of James Ellroy and co.
Posted 17:22 on 23 May 2012
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman@ mydeaddog

I accept Paypal!
Posted 17:21 on 23 May 2012
dav2612's Avatar

dav2612@ mydeaddog

Was it really that much of a mistake though? It's not like you scored it 10 and on reflection now you would give it 3. From what you said above, it doesn't sound like you'd still be writing a review that would put people off.
Posted 17:10 on 23 May 2012
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog@ Clockpunk

Haha, don't mate. I think it's fair enough that I should feel a tad sheepish, but I'm a big boy now and can admit my mistakes!

@guyderman Fair enough, but due to my heavy debts I'll have to pay you back at the rate of 1p per month. Send an SAE to the VG address and I'll post you a penny for May's fee.
Posted 17:08 on 23 May 2012
guyderman's Avatar

guyderman

I don't - I only bought it because it got a perfect 10! You owe me £40!!!!
;0)
Posted 17:06 on 23 May 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk@ mydeaddog

...

I feel bad now...

... a little...

sorry, old chap! :p
Posted 16:30 on 23 May 2012
pblive's Avatar

pblive

If you still have it, Game are offering a £10 PSN card for 99p against the PS3 version.
Posted 16:25 on 23 May 2012
mydeaddog's Avatar

mydeaddog@ Clockpunk

You have no idea how much that score pains me. Most of us have a review or two that we got wrong, but that one really does hurt to reflect upon.

In all honesty, I still do have a huge amount of time and affection for LA Noire, and I'd still score it higher than the vast majority of gamers... but a 10 was a seriously bad call on my part.

So, there you go. Apologies to anyone who bought this on my advice and then hated it. I done goofed.
Posted 16:13 on 23 May 2012
draytone's Avatar

draytone

I know its a Team Bondi game and Rockstar only published it, but still, I always expect the very best from Rockstar.
Posted 09:06 on 22 May 2012
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk

Nope, still not forgiven Neon for that one! :p
Posted 21:20 on 21 May 2012

Game Stats

Technical Specs
L.A. Noire
10
Out of 10
L.A. Noire
  • Original, intuitive game design
  • Superlative voice acting throughout
  • Nails the era to a tee
  • Action controls could be better
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 20/05/2011
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , PC
Developer: Team Bondi
Publisher: Rockstar
Genre: Third-person shooter
No. Players: One
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 662 54
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