It has been a while since L.A. Noire first came out and until today, there are no investigative games out there that are as nuanced and as complex as this game is when it comes to dealing with NPC interrogations. L.A. Noire puts you in the shoes of the police detective in the 1940's. It is a period game, complete with the ambiance, environment, technology, and lingo of the era. But even if noir is not your kind of thing, this is still a game worth checking out thanks to its exemplary gameplay features.
Players start the game by taking on the role of Cole Phelps -who is a patrol officer for the LAPD in 1947. As Phelps, players have to work through the cases of several "desks", which are basically the departments he is assigned to. Each desk has its own types of cases and different partners, and players must make use of all available resources to solve the cases presented to them. There are four main desks: traffic, homicide, vice, and finally arson. As you can imagine, each one would provide the players with different kinds of tasks.
Despite the fact that each case is different, they way they are solved and played have similar characteristics. Most would have investigation (where you fiddle around with evidence to figure stuff out) chase events where players would need to chase down criminal suspects, a small bit of combat, and of course, interrogation (absolutely our favorite part of the whole game).
L.A. Noire shines thanks to the its use of new motion capture technology known as MotionScan. This allows the game to provide its CG characters with amazing levels of depth taken directly from the actors that are playing their roles. The result is that each character you meet has a great range of facial expressions and mannerisms. Now, all this realistic movement and facial expressions sound great and all from the whole "great graphics" perspective, but in this game, there is also a functional reason behind the great deal of focus and attention given to the NPC faces: they are part of what you investigate.
As an investigator, part of your job is to interview and interrogate people, and that also means being able to "read" them. You need to be able to assess if they are telling the truth, giving a lie, or there is something that make you want to doubt them. While assessing the words a person says is one thing (you can even do that without voice-acting, as proven by the Gyakuten Saiban/Phoenix Wright series), but being able to accurately spot tells and ticks of a person saying a lie is another.
Every major character you engage in deep dialogue with in the game will have individual sets of mannerisms. Some are quite open-faced, wearing their hearts on their sleeves that it is easy to guess they are lying to you just from the looks of their eyes. Some criminals are accomplished hustlers and are able to lie smoothly, so you will want to keep a closer eye on their faces and body movement in order to find tells. Without a doubt, this is our favorite part of the whole game, and any other activity you do in between feels like giant side-quests until the next interrogation sequence.
Those thing you do in between are not without function. You collect evidence, examine locations, and of course, chase down the bad guys. The story mode will show you that putting down a line between good and bad is not gonna be always easy, and like most noir titles, we all know that it just keeps getting darker as you go deeper into the rabbit hole.
The big reward for progressing the game, specifically for finishing a desk, is that you open up new stuff for the open world exploration bits. This is still a Rockstar game after all, and being able to do stuff in the open world is a big thing. You can spend time helping fix some of the many assorted cases in the city, or you can just drive around. Sadly, the number of activities you can engage in outside of cases are minimal, which makes us wish that Rockstar had been working on the game from the ground up.
L.A. Noire is a great game, but we still believe it could have been better. This is mostly due to the fact that Rockstar took over development from Bondi after the previous developer was unable to make enough progress. The good thing is that the open world geniuses at Rockstar knew what to do to make the game a success, though proper development might have allowed them to add more things to this amazing, era-specific recreation of 1940's Los Angeles.
Despite the odd beginnings, the end result is still an undeniably fun game. Combat is a joy to play thanks to the implementation of a cover system and targeting which helps a lot since manual targeting in this game is not as smooth as we would want. The music is impressive, and very period savvy. We honestly cannot tell how accurate it is, but it certainly makes help set an overall mood and feel for the game. The visuals are downright impressive -easily rivaling that of GTAIV in terms of depth, textures, and lighting.
Most critics of the game cite the fact that most of the missions feel repetitive -which is a bit true since there's a general structure of pattern for each of them. But the game manages to include so many things to do in between so that going back to the main missions would not feel so repetitive (and we believe, that is the best way to play it: to constantly go for several side jobs before each mission). Bottomline, L.A. Noire is a great detective crime story etched into the trappings of an open world game, and it works, more than one would ever think it should.