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Game Review: L.A. Noire

The atmospheric title screen for L.A. Noire.

“L.A. Noire,” developed by Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, delivers a cinematic gaming experience following the character Cole Phelps through his career as a detective in 1940’s Los Angeles. The game incorporates photorealistic faces to portray the emotions of its characters.

This is an important feature of “L.A. Noire,” as it expects the player to read the facial queues of suspects and witnesses in order to determine the validity of their testimonies. After questioning a suspect, the player is offered three options once character has finished their story.

Cole can believe their story, allowing them to continue their train of thought, and grant valuable information or in the case of a lie, misinformation. If the player chooses to call the suspect into doubt, Cole will question the statement’s logic, or threaten violence if the testifier doesn’t set the record straight. The final option is to catch the suspect in a lie, and to prove it with evidence discovered through the investigation.

Though this mechanic is immensely satisfying upon completion of a successful interrogation, it doesn’t always behave in the way one might want it to. The “doubt” option can be particularly dubious, triggering dialogue ranging from a simple assertion that the testifier knows more than they’re letting on, to actually insinuating full blown murder charges.

It is extraordinarily frustrating during an attempt to catch a suspect concealing the full story, only for Cole to make a wild accusation and frustrate the witness, especially when it causes the interrogation to end.

In spite of its flaws, this is a unique game with a lot of great things going for it. “L.A. Noire” manages to seamlessly incorporate shooting sequences, chase scenes, interrogation, investigation, and exploration points together in the same game without bogging down too much under the weight of its own ambition.

Most games attempting to diversify their gameplay ultimately fail and only manage to detract from the core gaming experience which they originally set out to portray. “L.A. Noire’s” primary goal is to tell an engaging story with interesting characters, and ironically can say that it makes the player feel more in-control of the plot flow than most sandbox games would dare assert.

While “L.A. Noire” may not be a golden new standard for storytelling in games, it’s certainly an interesting turn, and I for one would love to see more games coming from a similar angle in the near future.

“L.A. Noire” earns a very gritty M rating from the ESRB. Containing graphic violence, coarse language, drug abuse, and depictions of full nudity, this isn’t one for the kids.

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