Community Review: L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire - I'm going to be honest here - is not really 'clicking' with me at the moment. I'm about four hours into the game so far and, to be perfectly honest, it's all feeling just a little bit flat. But I'm hoping to be convinced that I'm wrong on this. I'm sure some of you guys are a bit further into the game - should I stick with it? Do things improve as the game progresses?

But first - some things I really love about L.A. Noire. The facial animation, obviously, is an integral part of the experience. It's a grand leap forward in terms of production values and, more importantly, enhances the level of performance that can be captured and experienced by the player.

And unlike some visual leaps forward, it's not necessarily an aspect of the game you 'forget', or become accustomed to. You're constantly being reminded, each time a new character is introduced, of the incredible benefits of L.A. Noire's motionscan technology.

Yet, I'm finding that there's a strange disconnect. The writing doesn't necessarily feel as sharp as it should, and the interrogations can often feel a little strange - particularly as the protagonist Phelps launches from sympathetic 'good' cop, to ear melting 'bad' cop within the space of two seconds - depending on whether or not you click 'truth' or 'doubt'. It feels inconsistent and jarring. As someone mentioned to me on the weekend, L.A. Noire works better if you pretend that Phelps is bi-polar.

The interrogations can often feel like blind luck. L.A. Noire never really seems to provide you with a defined set of rules that aid you in conversation. There is very little to guide you in the right direction, and at others it's way too clumsy and obvious. At times you spot your own inconsistencies with the interviewee's story, but it's not the specific direction the game needs you to head in, so you fail. Again, this makes you feel disconnected from the case. So far I've never really managed to lose myself in a battle of wits the way I had hoped to in L.A. Noire. It feels like I'm constantly being reminded that this is a game, and my options are limited and restricted. The idea that one choice, or one course of action during an interview is 'correct' or 'wrong' seems at odds with the subtleties of conversation, and seems to subvert the tone L.A. Noire is shooting for.

Investigations are fun - but once again there seems to be very little game involved. L.A. Noire is often compared to old school adventure games like Police Quest, but in some ways those games actually feature more depth. Investigation in L.A. Noire really amounts to little more than a pixel hunt. There's very little deduction involved, very little detective work. You find evidence, and after a quick tilt of the analogue stick you're given the information you require. So far I've had very little chance to do any sleuthing of my own and, hence, felt very little reward.

I think it's important to note, however, that this is just my personal experience with the game so far - most people I've spoken to seem to have the opposite opinion. Have become engrossed in the story, enjoy the writing, the style, the aesthetic. I'm hoping that, as I get into the game, the story will gain momentum and propel me through the game a little more.

I had a very similar experience with Ghost Trick - a game that was in 'tutorial mode' for far too long; a game I felt I had little impact to begin with. Ghost Trick eventually turned out to be one of my favourite games of the year so far, so I'm hoping for L.A. Noire to kick in the intrigue and really engage as I continue to play.

But, for now, four hours in, it's just not quite clicking with me. I almost feel bad, mainly because L.A. Noire is ambitious, it's attempting to break new ground. I think that should be rewarded, and I'd much rather be playing L.A. Noire than another cookie cutter shooter. I guess, at the moment, I'm just feeling a little bit disappointed.

I'll leave it there - this is a community review after all! I'm really keen to see what you guys think of the game, and I'm fully expecting that everyone will disagree with my thoughts so far.

So, how are you guys enjoying L.A. Noire?


Comments

    Spot on about the Phelps thing, and also when you select a lie, the game takes it in a different direction than what you wanted. (UNlike Phoenix Wright, where you present a piece of evidence that directly contradicts a statement)

    The facial recog is definitely cool, and yeah i'm finding the game abit flat atm. Its interspersed with some random shooting so that's always fun

      "when you select a lie, the game takes it in a different direction than what you wanted" - this is what has frustrated me most so far.

      They say something that you spot a problem with, so you select lie. Then they say "ok, well why don't you prove this related but not quite same thing", but you don't have the evidence to refute that. So you meekly back out and they look all smug. Very frustrating.

      I'm not very far in either, so I can't comment on whether this also improves as the game progresses.

        Thats when you select doubt... Truth if you think they aren't lying, doubt if you think they aren't being honest but you don't have the evidence, and lie if you have evidence to prove they aren't telling the truth

      Really it's like that with all the games that don't provide you with what your going to say and just a sample instead.

      It's what i hated about DA2. What i said in DAO was exactly what i chose, not one of three options and then having the result not sounding anything like what i would have though the option should have resulted in ME2 had it as well

      we know!

    When u get to the homicide case and deal with the series of murders in the game it become engrossing. Especially the constant references to the werewolf or black dahlia. I love la noire. It was my big release for this half of the year and it lived upto expectations. The moment I caught a lie with no evidence I was hooked. I agree tho that the interview section wasn't entirely defined. They didn't point out the major difference between doubt and lie. With doubt having no proof and just a hunch and lie being u have evidence that contradicts the perp. I have been so envoi ed in the game I can't put it down and it makes me want to invent a time machine to go back to 1940s/50s l.a. To become a detective

    I'm loving it myself, but I'd have to agree with you on the story, it just feels a bit lacking. That being said, I love a game that makes you think, and the interogations and investigations are really enjoyable.

    I also wish there was a bit more to do, there is this huge open world and not all that much to do in it :(

      MINOR SPOILER HERE (from about half way through disc 2)!!!!!

      I found it strange that you only find out about Phelps' family in a passing conversation in the car half way through the game. I was stunned when I found out he had a wife and kids, something I kind of expected to find out a lot earlier in the game, and not just in a passing conversation

        you see phelps kiss his wife goodbye on his way to work in the opening cinematic of the game... pay attention much ?

          Had no idea who it was. Other then that, they are not mentioned at all, it was the kids that really suprised me, not so much the wife

    I agree with Chris about the homicide part of the game. The homicide desk is quite clearly where the game gets interesting, and it ends well also... Although there is a case that was extremely poorly done (The one with the pedophile/peeper).

    Unfortunately it starts falling flat again the moment it is over and never really regains its momentum. The climax isn't, and the ending is very 'meh', at least from my experience. It feels like they were given a deadline too soon for the work to be completed the way it should have been.

    Im into it, totally agree with the bi-polar phelps thing... making a distraught 15y.o girl who just found out her mother was brutally murdered feel like im very nearly accusing her is perplexing.

    But it does get better and im really looking forward to getting home and see where this story is going.

    Keep going Mark. Although its flawed it will turn into one of those games you wished you actually finishd.

    I'm finding it extremely addictive, although I do note some of the problems- sometimes I'll correctly call out a lie, and then I use what I *think* is the correct evidence, but it still marks me as wrong.

    I think the thing about Phelps turning on a dime is realistic. As a soldier and cop he knows that sometimes he needs to 'get angry' in order to illicit a response. That's no reflection on his actual mental state, it's just clever use of psychology.

    I aint played it yet, but after all the advertisng and community kudos I am very interested.

    Funny story, was cleaning the house the other day and found a months old list of games I had written down to check out and promptly lost. LA Noire was on the list. I was suprised cause I really did forget all about it and when I heard about it again...NEW THING...I need a new memory.

    I'm really enjoying the game so far, but I do have some problems with it too...

    The story is a bit... disconnected almost, it seems. It just seems to move really quick, and jump from here to here to here. I don't know if that's because I don't always manage to flesh out an entire questioning line occasionally, but it just feels like the stories aren't quite finished sometimes. Almost like you're reading a book of short stories written by an amateur. I think they really needed to look more towards TV cop shows to get an idea of how the story should progress through an episode (and they do have clear episodes).

    The other problem I have with the story is that the cases just seem to flow into one another. There doesn't seem to be much finality to any cases (so far - like Mark, I'm about 4 hours in... just got to homicide). I've been playing it with my girlfriend, and she mixed up the previous case with the one we were currently doing. It just seems that you get a "Job well done, here's your next case", even when switching divisions. I think I honestly would've liked it more if they had left it more GTA style, and you had to go back to HQ to get your next case, but until then you were free to do whatever you wanted... Explore, take out street crimes... stuff like that.

    I am still strangely enjoying it though, so I guess these problems can't be too bad. Will have to wait and see how memorable it is when I'm done. Still waiting for some epic Phoenix Wright OBJECTION moments though.

    Had a great shot over the weekend and got about half way though.
    I'm really enjoying it so far, but I'm easily pleased to be really honest.
    I agree the writing isn't as rad as it could have been, but I'm still being drawn in, and although I still don't really care about the characters, they have well defined personalities.

    Interrogation has been frustrating - Truth/doubt options are really gray.
    The perp with give you a direct account of what happened, straight faced with no nervous twitching or shuffling, and yet selecting truth gives you 'sad piano'.

    Maybe that's how it goes down in real interrogations? But sometimes realism != fun. Especially when you feel like the your job as a detective is on the line.

    But other than that, I'm digging it.
    I friggin loved police quest.

    Played heaps if this on the weekend, really enjoying it. I'm up to case 12/21. And honestly I felt pretty similar at the stage you were at as well, but the game really starts a bit weakly and gets better as the cases get a bit more complex.

    As far as Phelps goes as a character, I too felt a strong disconnect between the truth/lie options but the more I played it I feel like he's been designed to have a flawed intensity. The snippets you get of his war history hint at this too. I feel like this is going to develop more into something really interesting. To me know it's not so much about the cases, which are quite repetitive so far, but more about watching Phelps. The recurring theme of soldiers struggling to return to everyday life applies to him more than any other character. He's not like any other game protagonist I've played before.

    I don't think the character engagement can be completely chalked up to the face tech either. It comes down to the guy who acted Phelps just NAILED it, and without that it could have been just as wooden as a regular animation technique. Some of the incidental characters demonstrate this I think, their efforts to appear nervous or fidgety are a bit ham-fisted.

    I agree with most said.
    I was engrossed in the story to an extent, but just wishing to know what happened, but not really caring.
    I found the end to be a major let down.
    For being so open, there wasn't much to do and choices made didn't really seem to affect the story at all making it too linear.
    I enjoyed it thoroughly while I was playing it, but now I'm done and look back, it wasn't as great an experience it should (or could) have been.

    The more I hear about L.A. Noire the less I want to buy it. It's become a "if I find it cheap I'll get it" game rather than a must have.

    Though I do think that, like Mafia 2, it's a step in the right direction for a proper story driven open world game but it still has a ways to go.

    I'm up to the 3rd (I think) Homicide Case and it's only now started to break the formula of the previous cases. Not by much but it's definitely more interesting than the cases preceding it.

    But oh my, the writing really needed a once over. Some of it is just so, lame. Like your partner on traffic starts off, from what I could tell, not liking you then the very next case you guys are basically old buddies.

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
    Also, if Phelps is such a well to do cop like he keeps presenting himself as, Why didn't he pipe up when he saw the Dr (can't remember his name) inject the lounge singer with dope. Phelps was in the military for god sakes, you can't tell me he can't spot a morphine syringe (I assume that's what they're using as they've referred to it as "The War Surplus")
    END SPOILER END SPOILER END SPOILER

    But yeah, I'm enjoying it but I keep getting the same feeling I got when I played "The Getaway". I can see where they're pushing the story and it's just not that interesting. There's been no "Holy Crap" moments so far. Hopefully I'm pleasantly surprised though. According to some reviews Case 10 or so is really interesting.

      Oh also wanted to add, it's not always clear whether you should select Doubt or Lie. I've chosen lie a few times with what I thought was evidence to back it up only to get the question wrong.

        when you select lie they will enter into a dialogue that will provide hints as to what you need to prove in order to successfully call the lie. If the evidence that you planned to present doesn't seem to tie into that part of the conversation, just back out and pick doubt instead. I found the interrogations much easier after working this out.

    I have only played it a bit and have a similar feeling. Parts of it are very impressive, but it hasn't grabbed me much as a game yet.

    I must admit that it is also suffering because my limited gaming time must be split between this and Witcher 2, and that's a no contest.

    I felt similar to Mark when I first started. It felt like just components of a game with no real content to hold it together. Then I play 'The Fallen Idol' case and I haven't looked back.
    Everything picks up during and after this mission. I'm now on to disc 3 and just want to get home so I can play more. The game turns into a great TV series, where each case has it's own story, but is also connected to the bigger picture. Finding newspapers introduces you to characters that you know you'll be interacting with later and the whole world just starts to feel more alive.
    One tip though is to always let your partner do the driving when you have the choice, I feel that the realistic nature of the game is a bit at odds with the unpredictable nature of the other traffic and wanting to get from point A-B quickly I find that I'm driving on the other side of the road and on footpaths. Letting your partner drives avoids these sections and also feels more natural in gameplay. You can always go back to freeroam (selectable from the 'Cases' menu and do the street crimes later. This has increased my enjoyment of the game tenfold.

    I'm in the second case of the Vice desk (took a bit of a break with my brother being round this weekend to play some Battlefield).

    I was worried in the beginning that I was going through the Patrol and Traffic cases too quickly, or that it might not have enough meat for me. But the Homicide desk was very, very enjoyable. Definitely stick with it to try those cases out, as it starts to flex it's muscle a little bit more. Make sure you finish off Homicide, too. :)

    I'm with you with the searching the scene for clues. I feel like I'm just wandering around waiting for the controller to buzz. There's nothing really skilled in your detective work, and I'm disappointed I haven't found many red herrings - clues that seem important at the time but end up being meaningless or give you a false lead. The only items that are otherwise seem to be things like bottles or cigarette butts. I did get a nice chuckle after I picked up an orange and Phelps said "I don't think this is helpful".

    I'm also with you on the bipolar Phelps. He doesn't strike me as a guy who would lash out at little things, but when he does in the interrogations it just seems out of place, that he would really use more nuance in trying to get the answer. I find the times when he is more subtle, saying that he thinks they are lying instead of outright accusations are far more believable and would work better in those situations.

    Lastly, I feel that with interrogations, it should be a little more grey. Sometimes I doubt someone who seems like they've got something to hide, but the answer should be true. I would like a little more branching, where it's more ambiguous what you should do. Then you would come out of an interrogation feeling that you've got some interesting leads but there were things that didn't quite go to plan. Currently I walk out and go 'Alright, got all the answers right' or 'damn, screwed up that lie, I wonder what lead I missed'.

    The city is gigantic - and the street crimes are ok - nice, varied, albeit a little bit short and random. Even though it doesn't really fit into the game, I would like the downtime to properly explore the city. It always seems like you're only at work - I mean Phelps is married. I haven't heard a thing about his wife yet (although, that may come up later on, but it's odd this far into the game).

    My verdict thus far, being hugely psyched about the game? I'm enjoying it, but it's not without it's flaws. I'm not as hooked and sucked in as I was with RDR last year, and that's a little bit of a disappointment, however I'm still itching to learn more and see where it wants to take me. Should finish the main story early this week so I'll see how that changes my opinion. :)

      My suggestion would be to turn off the charm and vibration setting when close to clues.. That just makes he game too easy.. Atleast with it off you can search for clues more realisticy and will take more time to do so and you might even end up missing some evidence by the end of the case

    There are some things I do completely agree with and others not so much. Too true that it doesn't seem to explore the subtleties of conversation and discussion and yes, this is it's biggest downfall. But (this may sound contradictory) treating this as a "game" in its truest sense really kind of foregoes the appreciation in a lot of ways. I mean we complain about awful scripts in games and cliche stories but this really does display one of the main differences in storytelling on the screen and in a game as the performances. The actors (the good ones) are making a lot of unusual but often successful choices in the way they see their characters, to me, making the episodic flow of the game very compelling.

    I feel like a lot of expectations have been lumped upon the game, personally, i see it as an adventure game and when treated as such, it's far more enjoyable than Sam and Max or the woeful Heavy Rain. If you get too caught up in the "game" aspects, you miss everything else it does so well. Though perhaps, maybe that's the result of unclear direction.

    It's different which is a nice change and yes the first thing I thought while playing this was Police Quest for the 21st century.

    Probs
    - Can't see any overarching plot yet.
    - The interviews are a bit confusing especially when you choose lie. You think you have the right piece of evidence but it really seems hit and miss.
    - Phelps does have bi-polar.
    - Can you actually fail a case?

    I'll probably be playing more Witcher 2 before I go back and finish this.

    If they removed the piano cues for right or wrong during interrogations, the interrogations would feel far more interesting and natural. Not sure if this is in the options (like removing clue music etc). Not knowing whether you were right or wrong for some questions would be thrilling. Especially because you often get the same/similar information when you make mistakes.

    SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

    Im pretty sure most of the cases I have solved haven't been the right people regardless of the evidence, I'm sure this is part of the plot to be revealed later in the game.
    As its mostly locking up pervs and weirdos that seem to be only vaguely implicated.

    My game also locked up and corrupted my weekends playing so looks like I'll be having another run through, not disappointed however

    I'm enjoying the city, the feeling of the world (although the world is no where near as well realised as say, the Old West of RDR), and playing it in black and white.

    But it's not nearly as "noir"ish as I was hoping. The writing is alright, but not great, and when the facial animations work, they're great, but just sometimes (A fairly hefty sometimes) they don't work, and it pains me. Also, the body animations are complete, for lack of a better word, dick (that is, the mo-capped ones. They're terrible, absolutely terrible).

    Despite all my problems with it, I'm still enjoying it, even if in my head it's a better game than it really is.

    I'm liking it about as much as I hoped I would. The facial animations are fantastic and I love the concept, although I also agree with most of the criticism people are levelling against it here. Phelps isn't always a great detective, and quite often evidence that seems vital to me (a knife found 20 meters from a dead body!) doesn't faze him at all.

    It also bums me out a bit being given a 'score' after each interrogation. I don't need to be constantly reminded that I'm playing a videogame. I'm more interested in catching the murderer and reasoning my way logically through the interrogations and interviews I'm performing than being told how well I've done.

    As I mentioned before .. Play the game with the clue hint vibration and Charms turned off, it adds to the experience it makes it feel like your actually looking for clues and not just letting he game show them for u.. You should leave the music hint option on so once you've found all the clues you know it and not spending extra 10 mins looking mindlessly around.

    As for the game itself I have only played up to the 1st homicide case due to limited time.
    I agree with some of the negative comments but netherless a great game well worth a play and looking forward the cracking some more cases wide open. Facial animations are spectacular too. Bit disappointed with the lack of freedom and the linear storyline .. Would of been a great game if the story mechanics were more like heavy rain in the sense that how you perform and lack there off shapes the way the story plays out.

    I can understand what people say about it feeling a bit flat. But I felt the game picked up once I started working on the Homicide cases. I thought they didn't feel so random and disjointed as the Traffic Desk, in which you seem to just bounce from case to case.

    I recommend those who're having doubts keep at it. I think there's a lot to like in some of these cases. Sure, some don't always appeal to you. But there's some cases that you solve and feel like you did really good detective work.

    Interestingly I caught an episode of CSI recently and that made me appreciate L.A. Noire's classic detective work all the more. There's no super-hero forensics lab, neurotic detective genius, magic man who sees when people are lying... For all its faults, L.A. Noire doesn't feel 'gimmicky' to me. If you take L.A. Noire on face value and don't read into the hype too much, you'll have a better experience.

    Just as one other Kotaku article was about revisiting Mafia II after the release of L.A. Noire (Mafia II being a game that suffered criticisms about its open world nature) I think some people had hyped this up to be Red Dead Grand Theft Detective and it's really not.

    And that's just fine.

    I've been really enjoying the game. The first few cases seemed fairly slow, but the game really does pick up. I've just reached the arson section of the game, and have to say it only gets better as the game unfolds.

    With the investigating, one thing i noticed is that about halfway through, the game removes the rails a bit with finding evidence/clues and won't always make it obvious if you have collected all available clues. I'm assuming this is intended, as a lot of these hidden clues usually have a bit to do with the main plotline.

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