Prior to purchasing Rockstar’s LA Noire earlier this year, I was already aware of the way the game had polarised gamers, especially the ending. Nothing seems to get the gaming public going as much as a controversial and non-conformist conclusion. Good, I thought – who says an ending always has to be happy?
As the name suggests, LA Noire is set in 50’s Los Angeles and follows the up and coming career of Cole Phelps, war veteran and hero. Via a series of assignments and cases in different departments, the player guides Cole through crime scenes and exciting action sequences whilst in the background a thread runs detailing his experiences in the war in addition to an overall story arc.
I had been looking forward to playing this game for sometime. I’m not a big fan of openworld games such as GTA, but the setting and atmosphere intrigued me along with the different style of gameplay. You actually have to think.
To Team Bondi’s credit, they make the game easy to get into; controls are simple (although they take time to learn as always and I never really got the hang of the cumbersome cover system), there is always a little indicator of what button you need to press and the interviews are fun if a little frustrating at times. The graphics, sound and music are brilliantly evocative of the era, and as a fan of movies such as Chinatown and LA Confidential, this was mana from heaven.
However, about half way through LA Noire I suddenly felt I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I should be. The gameplay felt repetitive; I didn’t like driving round the city as the vehicles felt too loose to be controlled safely and the only benefit (street crimes) often meant a 5 minute drive for a 2 minute shoot out. The only thing that kept me hooked was the story and when the lead character made a dramatic u-turn halfway through the plot, it kinda derailed the game for me. I understand the reasons behind Cole’s indiscretion, but it didn’t sit right. I didn’t want it to happen.
But happen it did, and onward I ploughed, and fortunately the game got better, introducing (or rather cementing) a picture of Police corruption and unpleasant money-grabbing based around the huge expansion of Los Angeles during this period that reminded me succinctly of the aforementioned 70’s film noir classic Chinatown.
And so to the the ending. This review is spoiler-free, so I won’t tell too much. But suffice to say, for me, if fit perfectly into the mood and setting of the game and didn’t bother me one bit.
My advice is simple for anyone interested in playing LA Noire. If you’re after all out mindless action, play one of the countless military shooters around these days. If you’re after killing pimps and collecting stuff, play GTA. If you want a thought-provoking, slower game, soaked in quality and an evocative setting, try LA Noire.