LA Noire Remastered - PS4

LA Noire Remastered – PS4

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Noire takes place in the seedy and violent underbelly of 1940’s Los Angeles as a decorated veteran and newly minted detective, Cole Phelps investigates an escalating series of cases inspired by real-world crimes. Each successfully solved case brings Phelps greater success, but also brings him closer to the dark criminal heart of post-war L.A. The game was an Official Selection of …
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Awards

Rating

  • Graphics
  • Multiplayer
  • Story (Career Mode)
  • Originality

You Might Like

  • Compelling mysteries
  • Motion capture technology as a gameplay feature
  • Well-rounded characters
  • The film noire aesthetic

Might Not Like

  • Some interesting dialogue choices
  • Older graphics
  • Some repetitive side missions
  • Some confusing twists and storylines
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Description

Noire takes place in the seedy and violent underbelly of 1940’s Los Angeles as a decorated veteran and newly minted detective, Cole Phelps investigates an escalating series of cases inspired by real-world crimes. Each successfully solved case brings Phelps greater success, but also brings him closer to the dark criminal heart of post-war L.A. The game was an Official Selection of the Tribeca Film Festival for its cinematic approach to gameplay and narrative.Utilizing a unique type of facial capture technology called Motion Scan, L.A. Noire breathes unprecedented life into character performances, creating brand new gameplay out of the art of interrogation.

Have you always found the detective noire aesthetic thrilling and timeless? Are you a sucker for a story full of twists and turns, packed with compelling characters and captivating plot points? Or do you just want to speed around in a classic car, solve some mysteries, and shoot some bad guys?

Yes.

LA Noire was a breakthrough in video games. It is known for pioneering groundbreaking facial motion capture technology, immortalising it as one of the most important video games of its time. But is it a good game overall?

Spoilers abound for gameplay. No major plot spoilers.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Los Angeles, 1947. It’s “a city on the verge of greatness…based not on the man, but the automobile…the symbol of freedom.” It’s where the American dream was thriving amid the boom of Hollywood’s Golden Age. A city of pioneers and dreamers that would become a model for the world-a veritable utopia after the horrors of World War II.

Allegedly.

You are detective and war hero Cole Phelps, solving crimes and rising through the ranks of the L.A. Police Department. The city is full of secrets and corruption. And it’s up to you and your partners to uncover them, no matter the cost.

Cases structure the game, acting as episodic missions to break up the story and keep you feeling accomplished. More importantly, the innovative facial motion capture technology the game uses for intuitive interrogation takes the standard “find evidence, solve crime” format a step further. The gameplay revolves around finding clues around various crime scene locations, including homes, workplaces, alleyways, and bars, to gather enough evidence to use against our shady suspects during questioning. It’s great fun entering an interrogation and watching their guilty faces contort as they cover up something dishonest. However, it’s harder than it sounds. It’s quite frustrating when you’re sure a character is telling the truth and the demoralising jingle plays to accentuate your failure.

Tip: look at the suspect’s eyes and mouth. Do they look shifty? Do they refuse to look at the detectives? They’re probably lying. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re guilty…

“Doubting” a suspect often brings out an unexpected ruthlessness to Cole, like when he calls a compliant old woman a “nosy old hag” just for being a bit of a gossip. The answer you pick, even if it makes the usually collected Cole a fiery loose cannon, dramatically changes your understanding of events. Either way, interpreting facial expressions and playing bad cop to wring out the truth is the fun of the game, and a mechanic LA Noire will always be remembered for pioneering.

Even the boring parts of detective work are fun in this game. You’d think that having to go through the operator every time you make a phone call would be annoying after a while. I liked the receiver pick up sounds, old-timey voice, and crackling on the end of the line. Street crimes also pop up from time to time, allowing you to keep the streets of L.A. safe in your own, lower stakes way. Plus, the different departments that you’re progressively assigned to, including traffic, homicide, vice, and arson, give the gameplay loop a much-needed variety that may otherwise have become repetitive.

A Dark World For A Dark City

In 2011, the facial motion capture technology used was ahead of its time. But does it hold up?

LA Noire has a distinctive art style that relates directly to what it’s trying to accomplish. As its title suggests, it transforms Film Noire into a video game, one of Hollywood’s classic historical genres. It had its heyday in the 1940s, with roots in detective literature. Typically, the genre focussed on a rough-around-the-edges protagonist, often living in L.A., with a backstory full of woe and a morally grey look at life-which is fitting for its traditional dark black-and-white cinematography. In fact, you can even play LA Noire in black-and-white if you wish.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that L.A. often looks quite washed out, with moody colours and cloudy skies, no matter what time of day it is. Admittedly, the textures aren’t fantastic either, and this is hardly fixed in the remaster. In modern video games, we’re used to beautiful vistas with stunning environments and breath-taking sunsets, but this game’s morose aesthetic is perfect for a city that seems flashy but is, in reality, bleak and unjust. If perfect scenery is what you’re looking for when you pick up LA Noire, you’ll be disappointed.

The characters are a mixed bag. The designs wouldn’t hold up today if they were trying to make aesthetically pleasing characters. However, the facial designs make up for it. Whilst some characters do look oddly pained when being interrogated, it’s impressive how easy it is to tell which famous actors they bagged to play both main and supporting roles. If you’re a fan of Heroes, you’ll be excited to see Greg Gunberg turn up for a case. There are quite a few actors from Mad Men dotted about, including our very own Cole Phelps, played by Aaron Staton. Leland Monroe, an antagonist in the late game, is played by John Nobel, who played Denethor in Lord of the Rings. It’s immediately clear who they are, which was an impressive feat in 2011. It paved the way for other games that use motion capture technology for recognisable roles, like Until Dawn and The Dark Pictures Anthology series.

11 years later, not only does the gameplay hold up, but the graphics aren’t bad either-mainly because they fit with the film aesthetic the developers were going for. Not bad for ol’ detective Cole.

Cole, The Modern Cop

When Cole’s at the top of his game, you’ll find yourself partnered with L.A.P.D. Detective Rusty Galloway of the homicide desk. “You’re the new face of the department, Phelps-the modern cop who tries to understand why the perp does what he does,” he says. It’s an important role, one that makes Cole an innovative policeman, fuelled by the understanding gained from his time in the war.

But, sometimes, “drop[ping] the hammer down on the lowlifes” is just so much more fun.

Despite the investigative emphasis of LA Noire, the game has plenty of action in the form of shoot outs, fist fights, and car chases.

Sometimes, a gang of robbers or the lackies of a crime lord are robbing a bank or defending their turf. It’s up to you to crouch behind the conveniently placed boxes or walls to take pot shots at henchmen who, surprisingly, have much better aim than Stormtroopers. When a suspect gets spooked, sometimes he’ll run off, or find the nearest car (or even tram!), inviting you to give chase. You will have to get in your own car, speeding through the L.A. streets while your partner tries to shoot out their tyres before they take out too many streetlights or fences. That’s not to say that Cole and his partner don’t cost the state enough money as it is. Good thing you’re a cop and can get away with totalling someone’s fancy Lincoln Continental Convertible for no good reason…

Cole’s military boxing training also comes in handy. It’s quite rare that so-called tough guys try to knock him and his partner out rather than hot foot it away, so it’s easy to forget which buttons to press to put up your fists or block a punch. Just try to finish a fight without getting your Trilby knocked off-a truly notable achievement.

Overall, the combat’s pretty good. It’s not as fun as the investigations, and sometimes it gets repetitive, particularly if you’re going for all the street crimes. It’s still a decent break from searching for the tiniest clues in your suspect’s garden shed.

Injustice For The Just

As you might expect from a gritty detective game, LA Noire deals with mature topics, from widespread corruption, a drug trade, and rising murder rates. As you go through the desks, you realise that, even though you’re putting some shady characters in the slammer, something feels off. Are you even arresting the right people?

More than once, if you learn that there’s more to a case than meets the eye, you’re hung out to dry by your superiors. You’re banned from investigating further. You’re told not to let the public know you’ve caught the wrong guy. Your partners, all colourful and interesting characters, are either seasoned detectives just wanting to book perps and not peer past the looking glass, or are actively involved in the corruption. You feel Cole’s frustration, who ultimately just wants to do the right thing-and maybe redeem himself after the war.

Without spoiling anything here, there’s a reason why the narrative arc of the game lasts throughout the 40+ hours it takes to complete. You’re uncovering a mystery yourself.

Between cases, you get flashbacks to either Cole’s experiences in the war in Japan, or a glimpse into his life outside of detective work. Both feed back into the overarching story. What did Cole do to be considered a war hero? Why does he frequent a jazz club on his nights off? Is any of this important?

You can also pick up a total of 13 newspapers throughout the game whilst hunting for clues, which introduce us to a psychologist (with a wicked Southern belle accent) and hints of a greater mystery at hand.. It’s a real thrill later in the game when you start to meet characters from the flashbacks, as the story has cleverly already got you invested in their stories and how they relate to Cole. It breaks up the detective work well, and makes you want to finish Cole’s story to get your answers.

I would say, however, that the storyline is a little confusing, maybe due to this intriguing structure. Some are vague-so vague that a few major reveals were more of a surprise than anything. I wish they’d laid the breadcrumbs a little better so that I could have pieced it together myself, rather than feeling that some twists rose out of the blue.

The ending…well, it’s controversial. You’d better play it to find out why.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, LA Noire fulfils the film noire brief. Femme fatale-tick. Morally grey characters-yes. Bad outcomes-sadly, there’s a few. A flawed protagonist-oh boy, yes. It’s an impressive ode to a reminiscent genre, instilling you with nostalgia for a time long gone and dazzling you with its innovative gameplay, fun missions, nuanced characters, and thrilling mysteries. It oozes period charm and, at the time, marked a breakthrough for video games.

If you haven’t played it already, you should, if only to be a part of US and gaming history-and to yell at poor unsuspecting members of the public for having size 8 shoes.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Graphics
  • Multiplayer
  • Story (Career Mode)
  • Originality

You might like

  • Compelling mysteries
  • Motion capture technology as a gameplay feature
  • Well-rounded characters
  • The film noire aesthetic

Might not like

  • Some interesting dialogue choices
  • Older graphics
  • Some repetitive side missions
  • Some confusing twists and storylines