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    REVIEW: L.A. Noire (and Free Swag Giveaway!)

    Since the release of L.A. Noire two weeks ago, people have been constantly asking me what I think of the game, and where my review is. L.A. Noire is a vast universe of exploration and interrogation that I needed to play in full before even attempting to put my thoughts together on paper. With all there is to see and do, you can easily lose yourself for more than 40 hours. So the review is a little behind schedule, but to make up for it, our friends at Rockstar have given us some free stuff to give away. Read on to find out if L.A. Noire is worthy of your time, and to win free shit!

    Los Angeles circa 1947 is a town full of crime, corruption, and World War II veterans looking for something to ease their minds after all they've been through. You take control of Cole Phelps, a war hero turned Los Angeles police officer who's on the fast track up the ranks, and in the process discovers some of the finer points of L.A.'s underbelly that may have been better left under covers. Having been in development for almost damn near a decade, my hopes were not very high for L.A. Noire, though after spending close to 30 hours as a detective investigating the City of Angels, I'm singing a completely different tune.

    Let's start with a disclaimer of sorts: L.A. Noire is not your typical video game. Whether that's for the better or worse is more subjective than anything else, but the fact remains. It was only until a few months before the game's release that I realized this wouldn't be the typical open-world game that pretty much paints a different era over Grand Theft Auto (I'm looking at you, Red Dead). Gun fighting takes a back seat to true detective work, things like investigating crime scenes, interrogating criminals, and cracking cases using your brain rather than bullets. It's almost like Heavy Rain in how it becomes an interactive movie, which ain't a bad thing by any stretch.

    Detective Phelps visits crime scenes across the expansive and beautifully rendered city of Los Angeles, in attempts to solve the various ills that have befallen the city's star-crossed inhabitants. Throughout your police career, you'll be seated at different "desks" - traffic, homicide, vice, and arson - each of which open a new range of cases for you to solve. At the scene of the crime, it takes sharp eyes and ears to discover clues that criminals have left behind. These clues open up new paths for you to explore, be it another person of interest to interrogate, more questions for you to ask said person, or evidence to be used when charging criminals. This form of CSI is very slow and deliberate, but it works well. I felt tied to most of the cases I was involved in, and never wanted to rush in and out of a crime scene at the expense of missing clues. Finding everything pays off, and is rewarding when a clue helps you to ask the right questions and get the right answers.

    Interrogation is the second pillar that holds up L.A. Noire. It ties directly to investigation in the sense that if you haven't compiled enough clues and evidence, you'll find that your interrogation won't go so well, hotshot. Ask the wrong questions, or pin the wrong evidence on someone, and your avenues of information will quickly clam up, requiring you to discover a new path to solving whichever case has you stumped. As you rank up, you'll earn intuition points, which help if you happen to be stuck or haven't discovered a critical clue. During interrogations, intuition activates something akin to the lifelines of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, for lack of better explanation. You're able to see what percentage of the Rockstar Social Club have successfully answered the question after using a point of intuition, and should you deem it necessary, have the ability to see which answer the Social Club has favored, or just have one of the three choices taken away. With the lack of a multiplayer mode, this is an incredible way to keep players connect, and is very well implemented.

    During interrogations, you can choose to believe your person of interest's words as truth, doubt what they're feeding you, or flat out call them a liar. It took me a while to get used to the difference between doubt and lie, but it's actually quite simple: you need physical evidence - clues jotted in your handy notebook - to successfully pin a lie on someone. Any other time, if they're not telling the truth, you doubt them. Though even with this piece of knowledge, I still had a hell of a time cracking suspects. This is by far the best, and hardest, aspect of the game. Reading each character's incredible facial animation, looking for tells and nervous, uncomfortable movements to help further your line of questioning is more immersive than I could have imagined. I will warn you though, do not play these scenes if you're not focused. You will need full concentration to crack cases and read faces, something I learned the hard way as I attempted to play amidst a room of chatty friends. Should you royally screw up a case, and perhaps charge the wrong person with a crime, you'll get an earful from your commanding officer, and know immediately that you fucked up. At the end of each case, you'll get a report, with clues informing you of exactly what you could have done better. And, after completing any case, you can go back and do it again, with less mistakes the second time around.

    Action takes a back seat in L.A. Noire, much like Detective Phelp's partners. Sure they're well thought out and unique characters, but they do little more than give you a hint here and there or direct you while you're driving, but I digress. Shoot outs, chase sequences (both on foot and behind the wheel), and fist fights occur mostly during optional street crimes, which help you to gain rank and intuition points, but are completely detached from the overall game. Action pops up during the main storyline once in a while, early on when you screw up on interrogations and have to extract information more forcefully. Later in the game, action scenes appear more frequently as L.A. Noire reaches its climax. You'll even have the option to completely skip the action scenes if you want (much like you can skip the driving between destinations) which is a nice addition if you're not that type of gamer. At times L.A. Noire feels more like a point-and-click adventure than an open world game, which possibly hurts as much as it benefits. It may open the door for a type of gamer who has typically stayed away from these games, while at the same time alienated the player who wants to run around the city with a shotgun and infinite supply of shells.

    Art Design
    L.A. Noire is a beautifully constructed game on all fronts. The city is teeming with life, and lovely, muted saturation reminiscent of technicolor used in film noir. Of course, some purists will say black and white is the only way for noir to be, and thankfully L.A. Noire offers the option of turning off all color and playing in complete monochrome. An unnecessary, but welcome addition that directly parallels the level of detail Team Bondi has successfully implemented.

    With such a huge portion of the game dedicated to reading the many unique characters you'll encounter, Team Bondi had to make sure faces were rendered exquisitely, to say the least. Fortunately, the MotionScan facial capture technology is up to the task, employing 32 surrounding cameras to capture an actor's likeness near perfectly. As the game's cast is composed of true actors, not only are the facial animations incredibly appropriate and spot on, but the voice acting as well.

    Sound Design
    As stated above, the voice acting is just about perfect. I didn't hear many lines of dialogue that made me roll my eyes, a tribute to both voice talent and the writing as well. The music of L.A. Noire is a classy combination of original compositions and officially licensed music lifted from the period, performed by jazz legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Unfortunately, there is no way to scan radio stations in vehicles to listen to your jazz tune of choice as you're cruising around the streets of L.A., but the music is always perfectly suited to one of the incredible varied and hairy situations Detective Phelps may find himself in.

    L.A. Noire is not perfect - there are a few holes in the story that bothered me, some key characters were not fully fleshed out, a twist at the end didn't feel organic, and the ending was left a little to open for my taste - but it's still a damn good game, offering a new experience that you'd be hard pressed to find in any other game, past, present, or near future. Detective work is a rough and tumble job, as you will undoubtedly experience when you discover you've charged an innocent man with a brutal crime, sentencing him to death, and you to deal with his blood on your hands. L.A. Noire is as much a study in sociology as it is a video game, which isn't at all as boring as it sounds. This game will keep you locked in from start to finish.

    Buy it if: You want a fresh gaming experience, you're a completionist, you enjoyed Heavy Rain
    Don't buy it if: You want a joyride of non-stop action
    The Score: 9 outta 10 Blasters!

    I promised a giveaway of Rockstar swag, so here it is. Leave a comment below, and let me know if you plan on playing L.A. Noire or not. Did you play it already? Let me know what you thought of it. Don't plan on playing it? Let me know why. Or just say you want free shit, it's okay, I'm not judging you. A week from today (Wednesday, June 8th) one grand winner will be chosen at random to receive a cache of goods from our friends at Rockstar including the following:

    • 1 L.A. Noire branded moleskin detective's journal
    • 5 L.A. Noire branded pencils
    • 4 L.A. Noire stickers
    • 1 L.A. Noire T-shirt

    A second chosen runner-up will receive a nice compensatory package. Comment below to win, and don't forget to leave an email address. How am I supposed to get all this awesome stuff to you? Good luck!

    Reader Comments (23)

    Hells yes I want free shit. I"m playing the fuck out of LA Noire. I see you up there late night playing too.

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJason M

    great review, agreed on just about all fronts. Bought it at midnight release, and finally beat the game last night. wasn't sure how I felt about the ending, but overall I adored the game. it's like Heavy Rain, but not made by a crazy person!

    and I've seen a lot of back-and-forth on Cole as a character but I'm having to come down on his side. I thought he was subtle and multi-faceted and will probably end up being one of my favorite protagonists.

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin H

    The game was pretty good, I would love to see it in the present, instead of the 40's.
    Oh and Id like the Journal please.

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJake

    Who doesn't want free shit? But seriously, L.A. Noire is such a good fucking game. I absolutely love it. I love the characters. I love the gameplay. I love the story. I love the graphics. Everything. It's definitely one of my all-time favourite games. I can't get enough of it.

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

    Good stuff man, i think this makes up my mind of dropping some coin on this game. ive been following the progress of this game for years now and got a little worried when i heard initial reactions. Being a RS fanboy im glad it lives up to the standard... though im still not happy you took yet another swipe at red dead... going after my balls again. Now give me free shit!

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark

    This game was incredible. I'd love to see where they go with it in the event of a sequel, considering the ending.

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCou

    I finished it in a week and loved it. The gameplay was so fun, but I disliked that you never really knew Cole Phelps. It's all about solving these cases, but you never really understand him. I love plot development, so that was kind of a miss. All in all, I loved it.

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

    I beat L.A. Noire twice now and just started playing through for a third time. This game is amazing, it's everything I wanted it to be and then some. Good job Bondi and Rockstar.

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertertialtom

    Beat it already and working on a second playthrough. The game is so beautiful, I couldn't stop. It's been a while since I was so engrossed in a game (probably Heavy Rain?) I wish they included more, but I do know about how they had to trim out a lot of content to make it fit just three discs for the 360 (though I use the PS3).
    Everything about the game is addicting and I know I will play it many, many times over and continue to rant and rave to everyone about it's level of fabulousness.

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShelby

    I beat L.A Noire once and am on my second play through in black and white mode.All i can say is, this is the best game I have ever played. I really liked how it wasn't GTA in the 40's but, a classy detective game. And the story, oh man, if they made a show or movie based on this game, you bet I'd watch it.
    And the ending, not gonna lie but, I shed a tear. Would love a sequel, maybe set in Chicago?
    Great job Rockstar and everyone else who worked on this amazing game!

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSammy

    Since you never come to my house I should win

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSiobhan

    I love L.A. Noire. I'm too poor to buy my own copy right now, so I've had to play my brother's at his house. He won't let me borrow it, so I've been going through L.A Noire withdrawal!

    June 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHarmony

    I just finished it,and I really enjoyed the departure in this game. Friends tell me its because I'm a girl but its not that at all. I love a well placed head shot as much as the next guy. I liked the detective aspect a lot in this game. The questioning,figuring out who to arrest. I say well done Rockstar. I own all of the games and I think.this one is great. I do wish it were a bit longer though.

    June 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercharlene

    I only genuinely loved this game after completing the story, everything I felt before that was just because of the hype. I love that this game requires more thinking than some other games and that it's not boring like the CSI game series. I wouldn't compare it to Heavy Rain despite their similar engines as L.A. Noire has more action and Heavy Rain just makes you wanna cry (which I like). I was confused with the storyline somehow as it didn't really explain why some characters did what they did or where they stand in the game, we don't even know anything about Phelp's mysterious family! I hope there's a sequel to clear things up and stuff.

    The atmosphere is amazing and the soundtrack is lovely too! Though the free roam is not as amazing (only answer radio calls and find hidden vehicles and shit) because you play as a cop and somehow I feel bad for loitering in the city while somebody is running away for murder heh. Even though I completed most part of the game, I feel so attached to it and find it hard to play something else hahahaha.

    June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

    I got it the day it came out and I could not get away from it. I loved how different it is then any other games I've. I'm definitely looking forward to the DLC that is being released the next few month because I loved the crap out of this game. I was sad when I beat it just because of the fact that it was done and the ending did kind of make me sad. Overall a fantastic game. I would give it around a 9.5 out of 10 if I had to rate it .

    June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEric Pineda

    I only just got promoted to Ad Vice, but this has got to be onw of the best games I've played in ages. I don't really have any complaints about it, except the walking and driving controls are a bit clunky, and it makes it difficult to navigate the streets without spinning out and causing mass destruction, and I often find myself making circles around clues at crime scenes. I think that most people picked up this game simply because of the Rockstar name, and expected something like Grand Theft Auto except you're a cop. If that was your expectation upon picking up this game I think you will be severely disappointed, but if you're looking for an intense, thoughtful game, this game is nearly perfect.

    June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHayley

    I just want free shit.

    June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

    Currently on my second play-through of this game; it's absolutely fantastic! I'm addicted

    June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

    If I get the opportunity, I am definitely playing and/or buying L.A. Noire. You have to love a game that gives you a little more substance than just gunfights and car chases, as fun as those things are. If it's anything like the in-depth, thought provoking game play that you get with Heavy Rain, then I'm going to love this game.

    And yeah, I'd really like some free stuff, but you already knew that!

    June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaitlyn

    Love this game, wish they come out with a sequel / more DLC! :)

    June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJC

    I thought it was fantastic. Despite it's flaws, the slightly disjointed, inconsistent story and the foul combat controls. It was moving to know that there's developers out there trying this kind of thing.

    June 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRohow

    The only flaw of L.A. Noire was the ending and the way that Cole Phelps was presented in the game. Though I love his little sleuthing guts, it wasn’t easy to see the effect of his work life on his personal life which I feel would have enriched the game. But maybe I’m just coming off the point of view that was in Red Dead Redemption. All in all it was a masterfully done game that had the usual Rockstar’s check into reality which is always welcome in my opinion since it seems games are more about fulling a fantasy then illustrating the suffering and limitations of reality. I sincerely hope that there will be a second installment of L.A. Noire though I will secretly hope that they use another Mad Men actor as the main protagonist while I’ll sorely miss Cole Phelps.

    June 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTabor

    Rockstar rocks. I have every game ever made by rockstar. You should too.

    June 27, 2011 | Unregistered

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