L.A. Noire Review

I was going to patiently await my turn to rent this game from Gamefly, but thanks to a lot of my friends telling me just how amazing this game was, I was convinced enough to buy it. The biggest factor for me actually laying down $60 for a game usually lies in its re-playability factor and I was assured that this had tons of that.

So I ran over to my local WalMart and bought the game. And before I had even started my first mission, I was in love. I’m calling it right now. This is my Game of the Year. If anything comes even close to this in my “games I love” category this year, I’ll be very surprised.

As we all know, Rockstar revolutionized the open world format with their Grand Theft Auto games. Interestingly enough, I also recently played Mafia II, which was basically designed to be similar to GTA, so plugging into L.A. Noire felt like plugging into an old familiar friend. Although this is the better friend, no questions asked. This is the same time period (late 40’s/early 50’s), but the game environment is much more detailed and the city of Los Angeles comes alive at your fingertips.

Unlike most Rockstar games, you actually play the good guy in this one, a police officer with the LAPD.  This cop (who later becomes a detective) is making his name on the hard streets of 1950’s L.A. And L.A. is absolutely stunning in this game. It’s almost like being there. The environments are impeccably detailed and driving around the city feels extremely realistic. Every detail has been thought of, from billboards to landmarks to street lights to people getting in your way when you’re trying to answer a call.

As in the GTA games, you get to do a lot of driving (although you can take the option of having your partner drive, but why do that?). The difference, though is that you now get to drive a police car (marked and unmarked), one with a siren. Got a problem with people getting in your way en route to a crime scene? Turn the siren on and everyone makes way. I giggled like a school girl the first time I flew through the streets of L.A. with the siren on.

When you arrive at the crime scene, you go into detective mode. You search the area for clues. When you find them, you look them over carefully. Any important details are written in your notebook for later use.

But the most interesting thing about crime scenes? You get to interview witnesses. And based on their facial expressions, you have to determine if they’re lying or not (which I’m apparently very good at).

I don’t think any other game has gone this far with the AI. Fortunately, the facial expressions are so well detailed and animated in-game that if you know the little things people do when they lie, you will have no problem making sure you ask all the right questions during an interview or interrogation.

For ever correct question you ask or lie you expose, you earn points that go towards intuition. You can then spend intuition to help find clues or get some help with witnesses if you get stuck.

There are also random police calls. These come through the radio as you’re driving around the city. You can choose to take those calls, flip on your siren and rush to the scene. These will also earn you points that goes towards intuition. So far I’ve been involved in a variety of shoot-outs, watched a crazy guy jump off a roof and chased down a few would-be robbers.

The story is top-notch and really sucks you in. The voice acting is stellar. These elements combined, along with detailed animation of characters, gives you the feeling that you’re almost watching a movie with real actors. But it’s a movie you actually get to be a part of. And that’s the adventure of L.A. Noire.

The game’s main character is voice acted by Aaron Staton from Mad Men, which I found all too appropriate. John Noble (Fringe) also puts in an appearance, although I haven’t managed that far into the game yet. I’m sure he’s brilliant, though.

There is also an option to play the game completely in black and white. I’ve played a little that way and it’s just as stunning, adding even more mood and depth to the scenes.

This game has a little something for everyone: action, shooting, hand-to-hand combat, driving, detective work and a great story. And worth every bit of $60. There is, of course, also the replayability factor, which it does have. Also, because of the way the game is designed, I believe that it could literally have an unlimited amount of DLC and add-ons. And although I don’t normally buy a lot of DLC for games, this is one I think I’ll HAVE to buy DLC for.

Rockstar has outdone themselves on this one. This one is not a rental. It’s a game you want to buy and play over and over.

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