I remember the hype around L.A. Noire like it was yesterday. There was always huge excitement around a new game by Rockstar, but this time it felt like it had reached another level.
L.A. Noire was set in Hollywood not long after World War II, an area which was rife with corruption, murder and drugs at the time. You played as Cole Phelps, a war veteran recently turned LAPD detective. What followed was a brilliantly crafted, in-depth story in which Phelps found himself grappling with the city’s darkest secrets, and his own past.
There was a fair few hours of gameplay on offer here, and it had you working in various police departments such as homicide, arson and vice. Despite all seeming like separate cases at first, it soon becomes clear something more sinister is tying certain elements together. A possible reason for what made L.A Noire’s story so gripping, was that the cases in the game were inspired by real crimes from the era.
The action played out from the third person perspective (as you might expect from Rockstar), and there were varying elements to the gameplay. You would often be thrown into action sequences which usually started with a car chase, culminating in a shootout or punch-up.
However, the main feature of the gameplay is how L.A. Noire best tells its story through investigation. You needed to tail suspects, thoroughly search crime scenes and solve puzzles. However, at certain points in your investigation you needed to interview your suspects, and this is where the game really shone.
Possibly the biggest pull for L.A. Noire was its use of facial animation technology. This meant the characters in the game were incredibly life-like, something which is important when you are trying to interrogate a suspect.
This was so well-realised that you could easily recognise guest stars from the real acting world, such as Greg Grunberg (Matt Parkman from Heroes). It really was an incredible technological achievement.
This facilitated the creation of the game’s interrogation mechanic. Thanks to how realistic your suspect’s facial movements were, you could pick up on tell-tale signs and gestures, to aid you in your line of questioning. You could react to your suspect’s answers in three ways: Truth, Doubt and Lie. However, you had to choose your moment wisely to go in with the hard questions. Too early and your suspect may close-up and end the interview, too late and you may miss your chance completely. These segments were great fun to play, and felt completely ahead of anything that had come before.
Not only this, but the technology added legitimacy to the in-game characters too. They were fantastically realistic, and felt properly fleshed-out, instantly making the player care about them and their place in the story. L.A. Noire felt like the closest thing to an interactive movie the gaming world had ever seen.
However, despite the main showpiece of L.A. Noire, the rest of the game was great but not quite as impressive. This was mainly because of the formulaic pacing of the game, which made it repetitive after a few hours in. I found playing it through in smaller gameplay sessions helped with this no end.
Back in 2017 the L.A. Noire Remastered edition was released, which was presented in glorious 4K and included all the DLC from the original release. A “Photo Mode” was also added, which was a great way of drinking in the beautifully realised world around you.
Back in 2011 L.A. Noire was a groundbreaking adventure, despite not being Rockstar’s strongest offering overall. However, its innovations still impress today, making it a game which is still worth a look for the budding detectives out there.
If you haven’t yet played it, make sure you pick up a copy from the Xbox Store. If you have played it, remind us of your memories by getting down into the comments.