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Review: L.A. Noire

December 28, 2011

L.A. Noire is one of the most consistently positively reviewed games in recent memory. For the past year or so, people have been more or less gushing over it, with an 89 on metacritic and ranked twelfth in a class of two hundred forty on the Xbox 360. I’m not the type to read into reviews too much (which is a shame, because it would make writing them infinitely easier), but after some hands on experience, it’s pretty good.

You play as Cole Phelps, an honest cop in a corrupt city who served with the Marines as a lieutenant during World War II. The game consists of five police desks, each concerning a different area: Patrol, Traffic, Homicide, Vice, and Arson. The patrol desk serves as sort of a tutorial, showing the basics of movement and investigation, armed and unarmed combat, and interrogation and interview techniques. After four missions as a patrolman, he is promoted to the traffic desk, where he solves cases involving an abandoned car full of blood (the suspected victim faked his death), a hit and run (he was stabbed and pushed in front of a car), and an attempted murder dressed up as a car accident (they survived, and it wound up leading to a porn ring operating out of a prop house).

Thinking back, it really seems like these three crimes took far longer than they should have. That’s probably because of the the street crimes. If you’re driving, every so often you’ll get a call from the dispatcher reporting a crime, or that a citizen reported something, or an officer needs assistance. Oh, and by every so often, I mean ALL THE FUCKING TIME! I swear to you, I’m on the third murder case, I’ve completed sixteen street crimes, and ten were from the traffic cases. I don’t like responding to every call, but they’re always such serious crimes. It’s always 211 in progress, or shots fired, or officer needs assistance and I can’t help it.

Still, even with the pain in the ass that comes from driving all the way across town to respond to a robbery before getting to an interview at a bar, I really enjoy the game. If we’re being honest, this is a lot closer to what I was expecting from Mafia II. If you tweak this a little, starting at a hideout and robbing people, it turns into what Mafia II should have been. There’s a lot of action with enough downtime to keep you from getting worn out, the investigation portion is well-handled, and overall the game feels really polished. If you’re into police procedurals like the Police Quest or SWAT series, or if you like film noir like the The Maltese Falcon and even Who Framed Roger Rabbit, I’d recommend it. It’s a very thematic game, and I’d say it’s at minimum worth a rental if not an outright purchase. Of course, as with everything, take this review with a grain of salt.

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