Reviewed: L.A Noire

Alright. Recently, I completed one of the best games I’ve ever played, L.A Noire. I am so contemplating starting off this review with countless comments such as ‘OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE IT WAS SO GOOD, BLAHAHJDGHFS.’ Because I could quite easily do that, you know. Quite easily. But, I’m not going to. In stead, I’m just going to go straight into it.

My dad started playing it before I did. I’d seen the adverts around and really thought nothing of it. At the time I think I was still wrapped up in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, so I wasn’t ready to allow another game to take me by storm. That, and I knew it was made by the same people that make the Grand Theft Auto games, which I’m definitely not a big fan of. Eventually, my dad ended up showing me some of the gameplay. My expectations varied; they were high because there was such a big hoo-ha around its release and because of my dad constantly praising its graphics. They were low because of the whole GTA thing, making me think it was going basically just be this big 1940’s gang shoot up. Great god, was I wrong? It is mind blowing. Absolutely mind blowing. It’s classy, thrilling and alive, but at the same time, the 1947 L.A backdrop makes it dirty, tense and dark. As for the effects, they set a new benchmark for all new games. Facial expressions and speech are constantly flawless, allowing L.A Noire to easily be mistaken for a movie epic.

You’re introduced to a thriving Los Angeles, still recovering from World War 2 and yet to be tainted with the likes of celebrities and mass movie stars. You’re then introduced to Cole Phelps, the main protagonist and a new LAPD cop, glad to be of service! Patrol work is fairly simple; you keep up appearances, control suspects and hold crime scenes until the detectives arrive to do their stuff. The work is average, but you soon realize that Phelps isn’t just your average street cop, there’s something special about him. He thinks like a detective, he acts like a detective, basically he wants to be a detective. Eventually his efforts allow him a promotion to the Traffic desk. Traffic involves crimes such as hit and runs, car accidents or felony driving. Not long after being promoted Phelps realizes that cars are used as tools for murder and violent crimes. Things don’t add up and get more and more mysterious, leading Phelps to uncover a far more sinister truth. His efforts lead to yet another promotion, this time to a much more prestigious desk; Homicide.

Homicide is brutal. Painfully truthful, but brutal. The creators of the game have done a great job of portraying the harsh reality of L.A life, by telling the story of a string of female murders, all blatantly linked in some way, but your partner Rusty fails to see the connection. Throughout these cases, your mind is constantly thinking as to who can be the murderer. Is it always who you end up convicting and sending to jail or does the killer manage to slip away every time? During the cases, eerie details built up suspense and tension, adding to the overall dark tone of the game. It’s entertaining but at the same time edgy and uncomfortable. I mean, some of the creeps you come across; murderers, pedophiles and the like makes you really proud to be getting them off the streets. Listen to me, they’re all fictional characters and I’m saying I’m proud to be getting rid of them! But it’s true, you end up getting so immersed in the whole game and the characters and the story line, you do start feeling proud when you get praise! But then if for whatever reason your boss isn’t happy with the decisions you make, the harsh words are just mortifying, to say the least.

Between cases you’re either treated to glimpses of Cole’s past experiences of fighting in the war, or insights in to his personal life. These all add more to the story as well as giving the characters involved in the scenes more depth. You’ll eventually notice that dotted around L.A are newspapers available to read. I so recommend reading them, just because only towards the end I started appreciating what they do for the story. So many questions get answered if you just take the time to read them. That and I’m sure there’s an achievement in it somewhere if you read  them all. I mean, what did happen to Courtney Sheldon? How did we get here?! All is revealed if you simply read the newspaper. That’s all. Although they may not really do much in terms of giving you any evidence or information to go on, and some people might just find them useless, but I think they’re so useful for just getting more and more immersed in the game.

As well as L.A Noire being exciting and thrilling, it is quite the emotional game. When it finally finished, I was in pieces! Not as in crying like a small child (although I quite easily could have if I was the only one at home), but rather the intense highs and lows you experience. When you do something right, you feel proud and happy, but then two minutes later it’s intense and grumpy and dark again. Not to mention the few times I jumped out of my skin because some deranged murderer came out of nowhere trying to shoot my ass down. You’ve got to be constantly alert, because if you’re not you will almost certainly die. I kid you not. The car chases aren’t much different. The lovely people that made the game seem to have decided to make cars that chase you faster than the car you’re actually driving, making it almost impossible to out run them which is always fun, as you can imagine. At one point I think me and my dad were nearly shouting at each other. I.e, my dad going “Turn left! Turn left! You’re getting hit off the road!” and then me shouting back “I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!” You see? All kinds of emotional. It’s terrible. All that added on to the  actions and decisions of Cole Phelps just blows your mind. When the ~certain decision~ is made by him, I can almost guarantee you’ll be shouting “COLE. You idiot! You bumbling idiot! SAY SORRY. NOW.” I was. Well, in my head. Respect is lost, most definitely, but it’s kind of made up I suppose. Kind of. As much of an idiot that he becomes, you do remember he’s a decent detective and policeman. Also, he is FICTIONAL. I am silly.

Hardcore gamers might not take a shine to L.A Noire, because it’s not a straight up shooter or necessarily very action packed, despite the car chases and murderers I just went on about. The shooting and fighting sequences all seem to have been kept relatively short, their only purpose being to force a suspect into custody or to gain information. To some, this might not be much fun, because I know that a lot of people get kicks from running about cities shooting whoever the hell they want. You’re only allowed to pull out your gun when there’s no other choice or your suspect poses a threat to you or the public. In some cases I would definitely have liked to just pull out my gun and just shoot the guy because more often than not, when I got close to tackling him, he was revived with a sudden burst of energy and sprinted off out of reach.

I think the one thing that got me though, was that the final five or so cases, you start playing as detective Jack Kelso. At first I was kind of like ‘aaaah! No! Where did Cole go?! I am out of my comfort zone!’ like an idiot. It’s weird though, just because of how long I’d been playing as Cole. I dread to think how long the game actually is. Wait. I will Google it… there’s a maximum of 35 hours. Christ. I think you spend about 33 of those 35 hours as Phelps, but then you’re just thrown into being Kelso. It was very very strange. In a way it made sense because of the ending. Without giving too much away, distances had to be made to ensure it was as good as possible. ‘Good’ doesn’t do it justice at all, but if I say anything else you’ll surely guess what happens.

Alright, this has gone on long enough I think. This has taken me forever and I’ve still managed to leave out absolutely loads.

In a nutshell, this game is beautiful, epic, sad, tense, shocking, exciting, it marks a breakthrough for all up and coming games. It’s really raised the bar in terms of graphics, story line and game structure. Its sheer length allows you to go deep into the story and really get involved in 1947 L.A. I really, really didn’t want to finish it. Seriously, I enjoyed it so much, and the way it flowed so easily made it feel as if it would never end. But when it finally did end, good god, did it end. What happens, I hear you ask? Well, you’ll just have to find that out for yourself.