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Review: L.A. Noire - PC, Xbox 360, PS3

by Steven Williamson on 14 July 2011, 16:27 4.4

Tags: Rockstar, Rockstar Games (NASDAQ:TTWO), Action/Adventure

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From dog's body to top dog

Version reviewed
L.A. Noire is a game of extremes that shifts in pace as it takes you from the leisurely pursuit of casually cruising the sun-soaked streets of Los Angeles in the luxury of your 1941 Pontiac Torpedo Six, to raising your anxiety levels by tasking you with prodding the bloody, mutilated dead body of a sexually abused naked woman in the search for clues. That switch in pace and emotion kicks in regularly, so one second you’ll be running like lightening chasing a suspect manically across rooftops and down alleyways, and the next you’ll be sitting calmly on the settee of a suspected murderer flicking slowly through your notebook while intensely studying their face movements for any signs of deceit. Indeed, L.A. Noire is an interactive thriller that takes a bit of a gamble by combining these two very different styles of gameplay, but by becoming both a third-person action title and a slower-paced point-and-click adventure it does broaden its appeal.

Adopting the film noire style, L.A Noire is an interactive detective story set in the late 1940's. The tale of murder, deceit and corruption is darkly intriguing if a little disjointed at times, but the writers have done a fine job penning a believable script that builds up the main character’s back story extremely well, throws in a few surprises along the way, and paves its way expertly through some intriguing and gruesome cases. Gameplay involves rising up the ranks of police department bureaus of Traffic, Homicide, Vice, and Arson. After being briefed at the station on each case, you inevitably head out to crime scene to examine it with a fine-toothed comb, before talking to witnesses and travelling around the city to nail, interrogate and eventually accuse a suspect of the crime.

Main missions are generally very slow-paced and involve a lot of listening and reading, but there’s also plenty of scripted shoot-outs and on-foot or car chases that switch things up a little, predominantly during the side missions. There's nothing remarkable about the action sequences in L.A. Noire though; we've played games with better cover systems, more visceral chase sequences and tighter fighting mechanics. However, it does a competent job at keeping you entertained and does provide a fresh change of pace when sometimes you really do need it. Where L.A. Noire really shines and sets itself apart from the rest is when you’re engrossed in a witness interrogation, where you’re tasked with studying a face and listening out for clues in order to close in on a suspect. It's during these moments that L.A. Noire positions itself at the pinnacle of interactive story-telling.

Continued overleaf...