L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3PC

L.A Noire is an interactive detective story set in the classic noir period of the late 1940s, blending action, detection and complex storytelling.

Review Verdict Read Review
10Out of 10
Back to game info

The following review is spoiler-free.

It always starts like this: a wooden yellow barrier, men in uniform, and a crowd of curious civilians at the circumference of a tragedy. Come rain or shine, domestic spat, serial killing or accidental overdose, the rubberneckers are a constant presence throughout your time in LA Noire. They stand at the boundaries, gossiping and craning to catch a glimpse of the corpse. They don't really care about the victim - who they were or how they died. They just want to take a good look.

And yet as much as we may look down on these gawkers, their morbid nosiness is ultimately equal to our own. Team Bondi and Rockstar understand this all too well, and LA Noire is an unrelenting exercise in feeding that appetite for death. At the same time, it is also a game that delves deep into our love of detective movies - just as Red Dead Redemption did for the Western this time last year.

But despite what some people may be expecting, this isn't another open-world action game in the vein of Rockstar's previous heavy-hitters. There are similarities, certainly, but the core gameplay is generally closer to the likes of Heavy Rain or the Phoenix Wright series than to the gunfights and vehicle chases of Bellic and Marston. Prior to playing the final code, one of my biggest concerns with LA Noire lay with how the action would be handled; it was clear from early on that Team Bondi was going for a measured, thoughtful approach to the investigative scenes, but how was that going to mesh with the moments where the bullets started flying? It seemed inevitable that the game would have them, but how many baddie-packed scenes could the story sustain before the illusion of reality came crashing down like a house of cards?

As it turns out, Team Bondi's solution has been to make combat an entirely optional affair for the majority of the game. As you drive about the city, soaking up the meticulous splendour of 1947 LA, your colleagues at Dispatch will alert you to crimes taking place in the nearby area. Accept, and you'll race across town to engage in a quick bout of terse violence - a botched robbery, perhaps, or a personal disagreement that's led to someone sprouting a triplet of leaky holes in their chest. As soon as you've completed the self-contained episode, it's back to the heart of the game, to the thoughtful world of procedure and inspection. And, if you never took the call, it's a world you never left in the first place.

The point I'm trying to make, in long-winded fashion, is that plot and character are the bricks and mortar of LA Noire. The story begins in strangely staccato fashion, introducing protagonist Cole Phelps and ushering you through a smattering of brief assignments as a patrolman. Eventually you'll pass through four major crime desks - Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson - but before then it's time to learn the basics. Here, at the bottom of the food chain, you'll be trained to dissect a crime scene, which in turns means learning to listen for the subtle cues that guide your efforts: sleuth-y music to indicate the presence of clues, and soft piano stings to denote the presence of an item that can be inspected.

At the touch of the button you'll closer inspect the object in question, turning it over in your hand with gentle manipulation of the left analogue stick. If there's more to it than what initially meets the eye, vibrations will guide you to a sweet spot that will then reveal further information. Useful observations are jotted in Phelps' notebook, and in the early days useless objects will be greeted with some form of dismissive comment from the man himself. Later in the game these aids will disappear, but by this point you'll have a natural instinct with regards to the items that litter each crime scene. You'll walk in, survey the surroundings, and make a bee-line for the trinket that stands out like a sore thumb.

New stuff to check out

To add your comment, please login or register

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


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


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


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


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


I don't - I only bought it because it got a perfect 10! You owe me £40!!!!
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


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


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


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

Game Stats

Technical Specs
L.A. Noire
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: 727 136
View Full Site