If a game involves shooting on various terrains, driving vehicles and customising armor and weapon loadouts, does that mean it is copying Halo, Modern Warfare or Battlefield?
Similarly, if a game involves driving various vehicles in a city, listening to radio and music while driving, shooting down threats, does that make it a copycat of Grand Theft Auto?
Then again, new games have always tried to emulate and improve past successes, so it’s common to see ‘attempts’ of great games. Granted, while those ‘great games’ may have raised the bar during its time they were not perfect – either bound by limitation of software or hardware.
In the same vein, since Rockstar is already well-known for their Grand Theft Auto series, why would they want to develop a ‘competitor’ under a new IP?
Therefore, L.A. Noire should not be compared with Grand Theft Auto. It has similar gameplay mechanics but its primary focus is new and different, in fact something that is very much unique.
So what is exactly L.A. Noire? It is more of a crime thriller, with great focus on investigation and interrogation gameplay and heavy use on cinematics to convey the mood, emotion, aura and ambience.
If you take a step back, L.A. Noire is much like a multiple-episode crime series. It offers 21 cases spanning over Patrol, Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson desks. (I was initially confused at the word ‘desk’ but for those who are unfamiliar, I guess you would understand if it is replaced with ‘department’ or ‘division’).
Every case begins with a briefing by the chief of the desk and there will be one consistent partner to follow you around while assigned to a desk. These partners have different personalities and it makes your experience more colourful.
Investigation is one of the highlights whereby you scout for clues relating to the case you’re investigating. While there are subtle chimes and background music to signify the process, they can be turned off if you are looking to play with no hints.
Interrogation is another refreshed aspect of the game. While Phoenix Wright players may not see it as new, the feature of observing the body language is definitely something out of this world. While the first few cases are somewhat a tutorial phase, the procedure grew more complex later on. Not only do you have to decide whether to accept, doubt or rebut your interviewees’ statements by connecting them with the evidence, some of the body language can be tricky to observe.
However, short of calling up friends who have completed the game, or ask your buddy or spouse next to you, the game allows to eliminate the wrong responses through using intuition points which are earned as you rank up. You can also consult the online Rockstar Social Club community for guidance.
Apart from going through the 21 case files, there is also a plot that transcends the journey of the main character, which comprises flashbacks, insights (through newspaper stories) and cinematic scenes between cases. Without giving away too much, I find it a heart warming story that is embedded with a few useful lessons in life.
Completed desks offer a Free Roam option, which allows you to drive along the huge almost-lifelike recreatedLos Angelesmap without having to attend any case files. However, during Free Roam, you can respond to side cases, discover locations, pursue challenges or locate vehicles, badges and film reels. There are 40 side cases altogether from all the five desks, and a small handful of them will only trigger at specific hours. However, it is not matched to real time, so if you miss any of them, don’t fret – they might just appear after a few minutes. Side cases can be replayed again even after you played them. The events is the side-cases range from shootouts, chases by foot or vehicle and rescuing hostages but they are presented differently.
Is L.A. Noire replayable? Yes, you can access completed case files and replay them again to achieve a five-star rating. It’s quite a challenge aiming for a full score although by the second or third try, if you still get them wrong, you may wish you have a guide book to help you along. While you can pause the game halfway, it does not allow you to assign separate saves. So if you made an incorrect response, there’s no turning back other than replaying the whole case.
Driving is one of the important activities in the game. There is no GPS (because that technology is not available in the 1940s) but you can always ask your partner for directions ahead. While you always have control of the wheel, you can also assign your partner to drive. This acts as a quick teleport to a few metres away from the destination or waypoint. While it saves time, it prevents you from enjoying the drive as well as spotting landmarks, which may come in handy at one section of the plot.
Shootouts happen when the situation call for it, and you’ve played Grand Theft AutoIV, you’ll be a deadly force in vintageLos Angeles. You carry only one firearm but you can pick up dropped weapons from downed enemies. The patrol car also has a stored weapon at the boot for easy access. When you’re up and personal, you can engage in fisticuffs which I feel is much easier to control than when playing as Niko Bellic.
If I may offer an advice, L.A. Noire is not something that is recommended for playing a couple of hours straight. Realistically, poring over crime scenes is not something that should be done continuously so it’s good to take breaks (for meals and just to continue another day) in between searching for clues and interviewing subjects. Take a slow drive around town for a while. The radio is both entertaining and hilarious to listen to. If you rush through, you will miss out many details. And that’s the truth. You shouldn’t doubt me because I’m not lying.
Stay tuned for my next blog entry where I suggest on how the game can be better.