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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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Drugs and prostitutes...those were the days.

L.A. Noire lacks the free-roaming nature of the likes of the GTA series (which it occasionally mimics in terms of design) and most side missions are rigidly scripted. The recreation of 1947 Los Angeles is impressive in terms of size and depth - and you’re encouraged to drive the streets in search for side missions and to hunt for landmarks, which are one of the collectibles in the game that lead to 100% completion - but largely it all feels like a bit of a waste of space. The area didn’t actually have to be as big as it is because there’s actually very little to do in it outside of the main missions. Driving around the streets gets a little boring as there’s not the unpredictability that you get in the likes of GTA where something can happen at any minute to take you down a completely different path. In fact, the action-orientated side missions are actually the weakest part of the game.

The change of pace, when action sequences kick in, is both a blessing a curse. While driving around the city, you might get a radio call come in from police HQ and can shoot off to clear a bank from robbers, or stop a street mugger. Mostly, these tasks involve getting to the scene, waiting for a cut-scene to kick-in and then legging it across a set course in pursuit of the assailant. It can be quite entertaining leaping across rooftops and vaulting fences, but you’re pretty much just going through the paces and will inevitably catch the assailant with ease. This is because all the chases follow a scripted path, and if you do manage to die or fail by not keeping up, you simply have to retrace your steps. By this point you know exactly how the suspect will behave. Similarly, the shoot-outs aren’t as exciting as they could have been, and the cover system not as tight as other action games. There’s still some real highlights to look forward to though, such as when dozens of baddies close in on your position at a movie set and you have to frantically battle your way back to your car, but more variation and challenge in the side-missions would have actually made them worth spending time completing.

We also found the start of investigations a little but disappointing. As previously mentioned, the storyline behind some of the crimes are extremely well put together, but actually investigating a scene can be quite boring as you go around methodically picking up red herrings like a cup, or a box of washing powder, before finding the item you need. It’s not really challenging either, as you can spend points on getting visual hints that point you in the right direction, whereas a musical cue tells you when you’ve found everything on site. The most bizarre imperfection with L.A. Noire, however, is the one lady who keeps cropping up in a lot of different missions. Her voice and clothes may be different, and sometimes even her hairstyle, but it’s the same face model over and over again playing a different character. This lack of consistency also trickles through to the storyline, where straying off the set ‘A’ to ‘B’ investigation route can lead to some bizarre occurrences where NPCs that you’ve met previously (visiting them outside of the order stated in your notebook), don’t recall that encounter.

Nonetheless, the good most definitely outweighs the bad and L.A. Noire is most certainly a game that provides a cinematic, interactive experience like no other, with some quality performances from its voice actors and an engaging script. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is ambitious, bold and engrossing; three words that you don’t often hear in a review because of so many generic games on the market. If the lure of realistic facial animations isn’t enough to tempt you, maybe the finely crafted tale of murder, corruption and intrigue will be right up your street. If you do fancy sleuthing your way through some grisly investigations then one thing we can guarantee: you’ll find no better interactive storytelling experience than L.A. Noire.

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