Awesome facial animations, good story, but gameplay isn't as much fun.
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
I had some issues getting the game to run properly, initially I had extremely low FPS; it turned out I was accidentally underclocking my 2.4GHz processor to 2.0Ghz (oops), and that made a huge difference. Thing is, I've run Crysis 2 and many other games fine with the same setup...
Since this is a console port, you get the inescapable lousy interface. Just one example: when you go the the map, you can not go back to the game world without going via the main menu.
When you start the game it'll spend a good 10 seconds "Checking for Downloadable Content". How about letting ME choose when to check things I don't even want???
L.A. Noire oozes style, the Rockstar way. Set in Los Angeles, in the late 40's, the world is beautifully crafted in the style of the day. Really cool. The game centers around solving criminal cases, in a sandbox world like Maffia or GTA.
You get assigned cases, drive to the crime scene, investigate the area, follow leads and question witnesses and suspects. You will spend a lot of time on the latter. The game showcases its fantastic facial animations as it asks you to judge whether people are lying or telling the truth.
There are a few issues though. You'll typically have a list of questions for your suspect, and then you judge their answer as Truth, Doubt or Lie, then they respond to that. Next you can counter the response with the right evidence (if you have it) in order to nail someone on a lie. Unfortunately your initial questions are often so vague, that the answer is likewise hard to judge or counter with any of the evidence. So you may have some perfectly good evidence, which stands on its own, but you fail to corner the suspect anyway.
It is often easy to follow a line of evidence to the conclusion of the case, and yet be informed that you ought to have persued a different trail first, but you can't really know that up front, it seems to me.
The story is spiced up with some randomized "Street crime" events, unfortunately these very often end up in a shootout and subsequent death of the suspects. I've tried warning shots and shooting people in arms and legs, but it seems you're forced to kill almost everyone that pulls a gun. Most gun fights are also extremely easy.
You can uncover hidden vehicles, but their problem is they are not saved and scripted events often replace your fancy car by a squad one, so it seems like a waste of time.
I like how L.A. Noire tries some new things, and the facial animations are definitely something to see, but playing the game could have been more fun than it really is.
I found this to be one of the best gaming experiences I had in my life.
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
Where to start on a review of a game that I scored 10 ? Is it the perfect game and will you expect nothing but praise from this review ? Well, rest assured, there is plenty that is wrong or not at its best in LA Noire and while it is far from being the perfect game, it is the perfect game for me.
I love the setting of the game and just like with films or books set in the 30s, 40s or 50s, I am immediately interested and engaged in the 'world'. I adore the music, costumes, characters, stereotypes, architecture, design and all that goes with your typical film noire and gumshoe fare. So to me, playing through an adventure/story based in LA of the 40s is a rare treat and driving around, changing costumes and enjoying the scenery alone was worth picking up this game. Yet, there is the incredible interesting story too that you can live through and play out as Detective Cole Phelps. Sometimes, the story can be hard to follow, make sure to read the objectives and alas, it is quite linear too which is one of the things I would like to see different in future titles in the series (if there ever will be any), but more about that later.
Apart from the visual style and design, the game does lack some technical merit when it comes to the graphics. As much as I love the art direction, I do have to admit that some of the animations are clunky and textures are not the best either. Of course, the most fascinating thing about this game is the facial expression, making this an even more immersive experience, purely based on the fact that your are watching half the cast of Mad Men playing out the story in front of you. All this is wrapped up in solid sound design and an amazing OST and songs from the era. I bought the soundtrack and its well worth listening too, if you like the era or similar soundtracks to films (think Chinatown etc.).
Now the gameplay is good enough for me. Yes, it is very linear and most of the game boils down to reading peoples' faces, but the fact that those faces are the faces of actual actors makes the game very engaging and realistic. Instead of silly mini-games, you just have to trust your human instincts. I have never seen a game in which my natural ability (or inability) to read people has been tested so much, given the fact that you usually cannot really on facial animations to be representative of a character's motivation (Skyrim being a good example here). Searching for clues and piecing together the cases and solutions is great fun and very intriguing.
Many people complained about the ending but I thought it was great. The only alternative would have been a bland, generic Hollywood ending but this one was much more interesting. I wont discuss it any further, just put me down as someone who thinks that the ending is just as brave as the game concept as a whole.
Now, there are quiet a few things I did not like about this game, but my rating of 10 still stands as this game entertained and excited me to no end, I am lost for words.
The designers spiced the game up with many mini-games / action-scenes, car chases, tailing suspects and shootings. While I can see why they did it (pleasing the GTA-kids anyone?), you can also tell that not a lot of work went into those segments of the game and while they are mildly entertaining, they usually serve as fillers and you pretty much want to get on with the story and tolerate them as you go along. I don't mind and I know that in the high-octane world of today, it is necessary to create action scenes in games, I just did not enjoy them and wish that the team would have stuck to their strengths, telling stories.
Talking of which, the story is interesting and nicely interwoven, although I would have loved a few more independent, 'Monster-of-the-week' - cases that you can solve and be done with it. Some of the case-chains are a bit long and just go on and on and on. The linear nature of the game is a necessity to create a compelling story (again, Skyrim being an example for a game, in which the amazing freedom comes at the lack of a coherent storyline)., then again, I wish there would have been a few more meaningful choices I could have made with my character. For example, at one point I had figured out who the culprit was almost a few cases before the storyline ended but I had to play through all the cases and make the character's mistakes to get on with the game. I did enjoy it but why not trust the player to be capable of solving the cases properly, instead of railroading it ?
All in all, I found this to be one of the best gaming experiences I had in my life. I can see how some people might not like this, given the fact it is something very new and brave but this is exactly what I want from a game and why I am a gamer. Storylines, characters, atmosphere . . .
The new facial reconstruction technique is not that impressive, and the backbone of the gameplay is a bit shallow.
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
I guess, I was waiting for more from this game. Real-time reading of people emotions, which success or failure impact the result of the game, seemed like a very interesting approach, but after a few hours it seemed that there is not so many possible outcomes from an interrogation.
It only comes down to two choices : either the guy/gal in front of you is nervous, and is therefore lying, or he/she is not (the two are VERY distinct I assure you). They cannot bluff, you cannot believe their lies and follow-up a dead end, and you are only to investigate what the game tells you to investigate. Meaning that if you found a crucial clue by yourself, you can't interact with it until it's its scripted go-time. It gets easier, with you being able to ask your partner for a tip at all times.
The facial reconstruction feature is good, but not great, I was far more impressed by the Mass Effect series on that matter. There are two issues with it : for one thing, the body details are really not that good, and look even worse when there is a photo-realistic face on it. Poor textures, very nice animation though. The second thing is, none of the characters is really lovable. Very few people you encounter are charismatic or attractive, I guess this has something to do with the hair modeling. And the 1940's dress code doesn't contribute much to the the LA glamour.
But it's still a good game ! ^^ The car chases are lots of fun, secondary missions are a very nice touch, and the flashbacks about Phelps' past are really enjoyable.
Fiddly controls, needs good computer to run decently, poor minigame sequences for the most part, good deal of potential.
20 to 40 Hours
The Bottom Line:
LA Noire sets you as a cop that joined the force soon after world war 2. Starting on patrol and working your way through various desks, you come across a huge criminal conspiracy involving several high-ranking people. Along the way you interrogate suspects, get evidence, chase and shoot suspects, and engage in some sandbox like most Rockstar games. The game looks nice and captures the essence of late 1940s LA well, though it takes a lot of processing power for it to do so, and any computer that's not really current will struggle with it, even on it's performance settings. The voice acting is done well, and the emotions on the suspects is good enough, though still seems artificial. The combat minigames can be very vexing though, as the targeting dot only appears when you are aiming (not good if you want to aim somewhat while in cover) and the game sometimes doesn't tell you what's expected of you (ie shooting a suspect when the game requires you to merely apprehend). You are also arbitrarily limited in how high you can aim, so good luck if you want to fire a warning shot on a suspect climbing up something. The brawling scenes are really just button mashing, no skill required. Failing wouldn't be too bad except there is no way to bypass or speed up the cutscene. Seeing the same cutscene 3 times in the space of 10 minutes... grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. And for the love of all that's holy: "Phelps, badge one-two-four-seven. How can I help detective?" asdshkdfhgfdlfsdlj. The first five times of that was more than enough, thank you. The cars also handle incredibly poorly, however considering these cars are 1940s models without power steering and the rest, it might just be a case of realism taking over fun. Driving is incredibly aggravating in sandbox, with the number of traffic lights and traffic along with the bad handling making getting from A to B annoying. Thankfully you can get your partner to drive for the most part, bypassing it, if after a bit of banter between the two of you.
This game loves it's cutscenes as well, so that leads to a lot of annoyance if you've seen it before (or are naturally impatient and have read the subtitles already, like moi) and just want to get moving. Indeed it plays more like an interactive movie than a standard game, so GTA 1940s it isn't. The cases can feel very monotonous after a while, thankfully the story that ties them together keeps you going.
In short, if they had made the driving and combat better it would have helped immensely. If they had allowed us to speed up or skip cutscenes it would have helped immensely. The story of the game is great, the voice acting is good, the attention to detail really shows, but the poor game mechanics stop you from giving it a really high mark.
Really looking forward to this game, 50 to 60 hours of time online and with support. Game won't launch on year old PC.
10 Hours or Less
The Bottom Line:
This game is not launching on my PC version. I tried every tip and idea on the Internet and spent time with "Rockstar" support. Their idea of dropping my firewall and removing my virus-scanning S/W got me a Trojan. I fixed with a rescue disk in 5 hours. My PC is an Intel i7 with 8 Gb of Ram and and AMD video card, all my other games work well.
I have spent days installing, removing and reinstalling all the components & the game does not run. There are a lot of unhappy people out there that cannot get this game to launch let alone run. I would dearly love to play this game. My next step is to reload my operating system and then game on my new blank hard-drive and see if that will work.
This is the worst experience that I have had with a PC game in the last 20 years. I can watch the game launcher in my Event Viewer start and then fail to connect.
I am going to look at game "User reviews" and then probably buy a new game but not another "Rockstar" game. I have 6 of their games but I won't but another until this one works. I want a game that works on my PC. Simply that.