L.A. Noire, the latest game from Rockstar, and developed by Team Bondi, released today and I spent the better part of the day and night playing it. It’s going to a take a little more playing before I’m ready to write a review, but having worked my way through 11 of the 21 story cases, and 5 of the 40 side cases, (currently at 33% completion) I am ready to write to some quick thoughts on the game as a sort of mini pre-review.
The game is completely different than the Grand Theft Auto games or Red Dead Redemption, and Rockstar said repeatedly that it would be. LA is a huge city in the game, and you’re free to explore it; it IS an open-world. But it’s not a sandbox. You can’t pull your gun out whenever you want and start killing people. I for one love that about this game. If I want to go on a shooting spree I’ll just pop in any other third person open world game. This is one is all about the linear story and being a good, honest cop. That’s a refreshing change from also being the anti-hero.
There’s something really fun about just walking around a crime scene in this game and looking for clues. It’s a more adventure game than action with detective work winning out over combat. Collecting the clues gives you ammo to grill witnesses and suspects, which is where the game really shines. The motion scan tech used in this game is unbelievably realistic. It truly deserves every bit of praised garnered even during the pre-launch hype phase. It’s a revolutionary technology for gaming, especially this sort of game. Reading the facial expressions and eyes of suspects is fun and rewarding, and difficult to depending on the character. These people, even just walking down the street, are surprisingly human, so it’s probably a good thing that you can’t open up fire on them. Just examining a corpse is creepy in a realistic way. Simply put, the game has a realism to it that no other game out there can match. The fact that the cases are based on actual cases (with liberties taken obviously) only adds to that realism.
In going with that realistic theme, 1947 LA has been masterfully recreated. The city is simply beautiful to look at, and there’s about 30 landmarks to discover. There’s 95 cars to drive and they’re all real, licensed vehicles. The driving is definitely GTA4, and this is an instance I would have preferred a more realistic style of driving than arcade, something like the speed limiter function from Mafia 2 would have been really nice. Wrecking your vehicle and causing damage to other cars, people, or property can have severe consequences on your end of case report… so you want to be carefully here. The game can also be merciless here; in RDR you could get hit by a wagon and knocked down but still get up, but in LA Noire I opened a car door to get in and got hit by another driver (going slow) and failed the case due to dying (officer down), so watch when getting in cars to make sure you don’t get hit.
The gun-play is standard GTA/RDR style; simple third person, cover based shooting. It feels good and is easy, but as fun as it is to shoot a bunch of bad guys (and you will shoot a bunch of bad guys), this really takes a back seat to everything else. It’s really an added perk, because this is a detective murder-mystery game and you will spend most of your time looking for and examining clues, and then questioning suspects.
I’ve played enough of it (halfway through the story based on the number of cases) to have formed a fair opinion. Not enough playing around to write a formal review it, but I can safely say that I am so far loving this game. It’s been a blast so far, and there is a lot to do if you’re like me and plan on 100% completing this game (as I did with RDR). I put in over 210 hours into the single player of Red Dead Redemption (one game file), and while I don’t know if I’ll end up with that kind of time into this adventure game, I do know that I will be spending a lot of time with it. Once you complete a case you are free to replay it whenever you want. And since things can go several different ways and there are things you can miss, in addition to wanting to raise your case rating, you’re going to want to replay these cases several times.
This is already high on my list as a possible contender for GOTY. Team Bondi deserves a lot of praise for what they’ve created.