4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Bright aspects, but pretty dull overall.,
This review is from: L.A. Noire (PS3) (Video Game)
L.A. Noire has been gathering quite the attention leading up to its release. Published by Grand Theft Auto creator's, Rockstar Games, L.A. Noire absolutely fits the bill for what constitutes a modern Rockstar game. It has a large open map with plenty to do, and the developers at Team Bondi have clearly been blessed with an abundance of financial backing since the production values are clearly very high. Possibly the most notable thing about this game is the addition of detailed facial animations which promise to provide the game with an added level of depth and realism that is often missing from other games. Questions were raised prior to release whether this "gimmick" would really add to the overall experience, however, and whilst Creative Director, Brendan McNamara, has the rather good 2003 release of The Getaway to his name, L.A. Noire is actually the first release from Team Bondi, so questions had been raised over just how good this game was going to be.
Now that it has been released, it is clear that L.A. Noire is an accomplished game. Graphically it is superb, and the tone of 1940s Los Angeles is wonderfully recaptured with the film noir stylistic aesthetic brought across with superb attention to detail. The problem I have with this game, however, is not with its aesthetic. Rather, whilst the game looks absolutely gorgeous, and following on from the initial wow-factor of the detailed facial animations (which I will get back to later), the game is actually rather boring to play. It's not a bad game, it's just not a particularly enjoyable one either. Character movement is quite clunky at times, and it can be hard to position the character in order to pick up the small objects that are required to conduct your investigations. This is quite an issue when you consider that a large bulk of the game is made up these actions, where picking up small items which are riddled throughout a particular crime scene is one of the most important and prominent aspects of the game. How this plays out is through picking up these items and then tilting the analog stick to look around the object and look for small clues that may, or may not, be on that particular item. Your observations and clues are stored in your notebook which the protagonist takes out whilst conducting investigations and interviews with possible culprits and/or witnesses. It's your typical detective movie kinda thing, but interactive - which sounds like a great mix, and initially feels great and original, but it quickly becomes stale.
Team Bondi clearly knew they were onto something with the facial animations with this game, and it feels like the majority of the game's hefty budget was spent on getting the motion capture for this technology to work. This "MotionScan" technology is the best part of the game, making use of the lifelike facial animations to throw your investigations and add real depth to your detective work. The developers have really managed to integrate this technology into game so as to make it more than just a gimmick. It provides a new level of interaction and gameplay, and its honestly hard to go back to playing something without this detail after it's been seen and used like it has here. These facial animations are not there simply to make the game look pretty either, since the gameplay itself compliments this technology really well. During investigations it is up to the player to determine whether the interviewee is lying, holding something back, or telling the truth. Your chosen responses to their dialogue and animation affect your investigation, ultimately deciding whether the case gets affectively solved or not, or even just how the whole thing goes down. Looking for evidence to back up your assertions is imperative since accusing a witness or suspect of something without being able to prove it can lead to some worrying, but often interesting, exchanges. It's not all about what you are told, either, since the people you speak to can display levels of emotion such as worry, fear, or anger simply through facial movements. This animation is so accurate that it changes the way the game is played entirely, and makes it a far deeper experience than it seems on the surface.
Whilst the game does have its strong points, the problem for me is just how repetitive these exchanges get over time. It often feels like by focusing so hard on this one element of the game, the developer's simply ran out of time to flesh out other aspects of the game. This is no Grand Theft Auto, or Red Dead Redemption, since there is very little action to speak of within the game. Instead, the main focus of the game lies within these small detective stories that you, as the player, must solve. Any action that takes place is heavily scripted and there simply to forward the story. But, L.A. Noire is not supposed to be like those other games. This is a game all about solving mysteries and crimes set in post-war 1940s Los Angeles at a time in which crime and corruption was perhaps at its peak. The feel of 1940s L.A. is breathtaking, and the look and size of the reconstructed city is a thing to behold. Noticeable landmarks are scattered around the city which are appreciated even if the city is not a direct replica of real-world Los Angeles, but it adds an extra level of depth to players wanting to be submerged with the game's world. The dark streets at night accompanied by vivid lighting, mist and an era-specific soundtrack help to escalate the feel of the game to even greater heights in this regard.
But, in the end, it's the gameplay that lets L.A. Noire down. This interactive movie "genre" that seems to be coming through right now with the likes of Sony's Heavy Rain, and now this, are still a long way off being better than actually watching a film, and essentially what games such as these are trying to reconstruct – that of mundane, ever day things – are no more fun to "play" in a game than they are to do in real life. But L.A. Noire certainly has its merits, and where it shines it does so brightly. There are elements in this game that really make this game stand out; it's just a shame that the game is so repetitive to play, because the ideas behind it all are intriguing. The lingering feeling is one of disappointment, and the game feels like a missed opportunity more than anything else, because it's easy to imagine just how good this game could have been had it received a little more care and thought into the overall experience.