LA Noire Xbox 360 Review
While the technology behind LA Noire’s facial expressions is brilliant and genuinely brings acting, rather than simply voice-overs, into a game, it does have its limits. Shifty eyes and fidgeting hands are dead give-aways that someone’s being economical with the truth, and as gamers need these cues to figure out whether someone’s lying or not, it can make performances a little forced or cheesy. It’s not always clear which piece of evidence you should use to prove a lie either. When questioning a music agent over a drug stash we’d uncovered in his office, he asked us to prove he was involved, only for the clear fact that he was hoarding hundreds of syrettes of morphine to fall flat.
This exposes one of LA Noire’s greatest strengths, and also one of its greatest weaknesses. Each case is heavily scripted and plot driven, enabling the actors to draw you into the game world; a task that LA Noire accomplishes with aplomb. Characters are convincing, cops are lazy, arrogant, sexist and racist (although they forcibly never drop the N-bomb) and the game pulls no punches with its subject matter.
Murder cases get grisly quick
The problems come when the heavily scripted nature of a film meets the player choices inherent in a game. Choose incorrectly in an interview and a whole line of inquiry can be cut off, lessening your understanding of the case. It’s even possible to back yourself into a corner and ask questions to which you know the suspect is lying when they answer, but have no evidence to back it up because you followed up leads in the wrong order.
Regardless, LA Noire’s narrative of death, drugs and corruption is unstoppable, and will rumble on whether you ask all the right questions or not. A partner is always on hand to offer the next link in the chain, with the next crime scene or lead a quick drive, through the wonderfully recreated down-town LA, away.
You’ll also occasionally dip into LA Noire’s open world for car chases, gun fights or running down a suspect. These events are surprisingly rare for a game that shares much on the surface with GTA; the archetypal run, shoot and drive game, but this only means that they’re that much more exciting when they crop up. Outside of investigations, though, the huge game world often seems wasted as you drive from point A to point B, with only optional (and very short) non-story related side missions to distract.
I'll have your badge for this!
This is LA Noire’s greatest shortcoming; for all the effort made in its story line and immersive game world, there’s very little actual game here. Between searching crime scenes and interviewing witnesses, there’s little variation between cases. While the plot progresses as you guide Phelps through the LAPD, you’ll have seen all the game has to offer within the first five hours. Those first five hours are a gripping and engaging example of interactive cinema, but after the 20th crime scene spent wandering an apartment waiting for the tell tale rumble, and 20th interview waiting for the tell tale shifty eyes, we began to lose interest.
LA Noire is certainly no bad game, and goes further than any title before it to show how games and movies can combine to create a grown-up storyline and game world. Combining genres, or arguably creating an entirely new one, is always a difficult task, but LA Noire accounts well for itself and positively gleams with polish. However, there’s not enough actual game underneath the lavish setting and interactive movie trappings to elevate LA Noire to the heights reached by GTA, and the crime scene formula soon loses some of its shine.