Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review of LA Noire

I've sat through some very interesting games in my life. Mass Effect, Assassins Creed, Rock Band, The World Ends With You. The list goes on and on. But LA Noire, wow. LA Noire desserves  to be on a list of it's own. Visually and technically, you will see  one of the most impressive games of our generation. Musically and thematically, you will hear and feel one of the most impressive games of your lifetime.

You, for the most part, play Cole Phelps, a decorated war hero turned beat cop then detective for the LAPD in the late 1940's. It's just after the end of World War 2, and we see a city not only growing into the city we know it to be today, but also healing from the scars of what the war truly did to it and the world as a whole. people who thought they'd be coming home to hero's praise are working dead end jobs and losing their minds. Families are picking up the pieces after their husbands and fathers come home with scars far deeper than the eye can see. Fear  of communism and the red menace is everywhere, as are monsters who are willing to advance by taking advantage of everybody they see.

The technological advances shown in this game will either be a boon or a curse for all forthcoming titles of similar design. The visuals provided in facial features and gestures is unprecidented. There has never been a game to have this calibre of detail. When you look at Cole and he's upset, or he's angry, or he's intense, you know it, and you feel it. It's not just  from the unbelievable facial features and gestures provided, it's from the incredible voice acting and scripting. It's from the entire atmosphere that truly captures your imagination and wholly envelopes you as you  watch the story unfold.

There are 5 main types of gameplay involved. there is investigation, interrogation, driving, gunfighting, and action/brawling. In investigation, you survey crime scenes and discern what possibly could have happened. You gather clues and interview witnesses. It's not as difficult as it sounds, as the interface is incredibly user friendly, and your controller rumbles whenever  you come across a clue, even if it may be  hard to find. Not everything you see is useful either, but generally your trained gumshoe is able to tell you if the item is useless or not. Given that this is 1947 and not modern day CSI, you'll almost cringe at some of the things you'll see the detectives do with evidence, such as taking a dead body, slogging it over, grabbing the face, hands, and clothing. You'll go through it, looking for evidence or clues, with no concerns for destroying possible hidden evidence. 

In interrogation mode, you'll generally be sitting across from someone and asking them questions, trying to get the truth oout of them using your skills and intuition as a detective. This is where the technology of fantastic facial features really shines, as youu must watch facial features and gestures to see if someone is lying to you or not. This can get difficult at times, given the situation. Sometimes you might get better information from someone if you goo easy on them, like when you interview a child. They are generally afraid, or trying to protect someone they love.

The car driving is simply flawless. Your control over a vehicle is very simple. Left trigger is gas, right trigger is break. If you want to take a turn sharper, simply tap the left trigger to do a sort of handbreak turn. The AI drivers can be a little dumb, but once  again, it is 1947, and regulations for driving credentials were far less stringient back in the day, thus explaining this to a degree.

The shooting and action/brawling segments are almost minigames in a sense. They are generally short sections at the end of a running or driving sequence where you either shoot a fleeing suspect to death or beat him to a pulp. The control in both sections is quite good, as shooting is a pleasure, and fighting, while tangly, is easily completed as well. Save for a section near the end of the  game, these are kept brief and to a minimum. This isn't a shooter or fighting game, this is a detective, thriller murder mystery. If there was too much of one or the other, you'd lose the true value of the game itself.

There are 20 base cases you will play through, with one DLC  case available as well, dependent on where you purchased the game at launch. I had "The Naked City" vice case. DLC is fully realized with all the little nuances of the original material, and well worth the money, should you wish to pursues the story of Cole Phelps beyond the original mysteries.

LA Noire is not just a game, it is an experience. Not since my first time trying Super Mario 64 have a felt this sense of "wow" when playing a game. Mario 64 ushered in an era of real 3D gaming, far more than most of the inferior titles that claimed the same before it. LA Noire has ushered in a era of true "immersion". Yo willl genuinely feel for every tough decision, grieving wife or husband, for every scared or abused child. There are no punches pulled, it is full on gruesome for bad scenes, full on joy for good scenes. This is inspired by Noir film, however, so the good scenes happen far less than the bad.

This is a must game for anyone who has ever said "I like video games". It's not my favorite title by any means, but it reall ranks up there in the amazement and wow factor. Play this game. Experience the next generation of gaming, before it happens.

Score: Full price: $69.99. This game is worth paying full retail price for, a distinction not many games hold.


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