LA Noire Review: Devils in the Details

LA Noire is a remastered version of the original 2011 title released by developer Rockstar Games. This action-adventure detective game portrays all the glorious conventions of its namesake, even if it’s still very rough around the edges. You play as Cole Phelps, a veteran of the Okinawa campaign turned police officer turned LAPD detective. You play through many, many cases in Cole’s career through various departments – Traffic, Homicide, Vice and Arson – including all cases from the original release that originally existed separately as pre-order DLC.

Each case feels distinct from the other – although depending on your sleuthing skills, each case isn’t necessarily as satisfying to solve as the last. LA  Noire’s cases play out through two primary ‘phases’ – gathering evidence and interrogating witnesses. Gathering evidence is contextual as Cole navigates crime scenes or locations of interest – your controller vibrates to show you’ve found something. While it isn’t all of value – you can interact with stray liquor bottles irrelevant to the scene itself – Cole’s dialogue about the items that actually are of import to the case conveys a sense of discovery the player is feeling in equal measure.

This evidence is catalogued in Cole’s notebook and used in the other distinct ‘phase’ of LA Noire – the interrogations. This part of LA Noire is what stands out from the rest – the game uses advanced facial mapping to represent real, emoting faces. This means that people look like and act like people, which the game means for you to interpret to properly progress in dialogue. This all works but only to a point – the technology was a little odd even back in 2011 and there are definitely signs of age in the remaster because of how almost experimental this technology was. It makes the other facet of interrogations – choosing how to interpret witness statements – a bit of a chore, and that’s before you factor in the game’s ever-changing logic. In the original release, you had three ways to react to testimony – you could Believe it, Doubt it (if you thought the person was lying but lacked evidence) or call them out on their Lie with gathered evidence. These options exist in the remaster under new names – Good Cop, Bad Cop and Accuse. It’s less a criticism of the remaster as it is the original but it’s very misleading as to which choice is the correct one. You may think because of analyzing the testimony and reading the dialogue that you can only play Bad Cop to a statement but in reality you were supposed to Accuse them and the game wasn’t giving you a clear picture of the situation.

A remaster is ultimately a rerelease of the original game – LA Noire is served well by a fresh coat of paint in the modern gaming era, even if it’s still bogged down by its original issues.

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