Rockstar's biggest risk,
This review is from: L.A. Noire - The Complete Edition (PC DVD) (DVD-ROM)
Rockstar took a big risk with L.A. Noire, and it certainly hasn't been as popular as Red Dead Redemption or GTA, but I urge you to give it a chance - there's no other game like it, and I think that it represents a brave new direction for the future of action games.
It amazes me how many reviews compare this to GTA - Rockstar already make GTA, so if you want to play that, go ahead! Set aside the familiar gameplay engine and the open world setting, and L.A. Noire really is a very different game from GTA; in fact it's a game far closer to Mafia II in its drip-feed approach to action, building up suspense before delivering short but polished sequences of car chases and gunplay.
Coming from the developers who brought us GTA and Red Dead Redemption, these sequences are, as expected, tense, exciting, and well-paced. But you'll spend much more time searching crime scenes for clues, chasing down leads and interrogating witnesses, and this is what really gives L.A. Noire its unique atmosphere. You can take leads in whatever order you choose, and when you receive your end-of-case report after solving a crime, you'll often be told of a different way you could have approached the task. Solving crimes in L.A. Noire could so easily have become a repetitive button-bashing affair, but this variety of angles and the possibility of solving crimes in different ways gives each case a fresh feel. As in many Rockstar games, you'll become aware of a formula as you go through the cases, but everything about the experience feels like it's been blended in neatly to distract you from the fact that you're playing a game: rather than show your route on the mini-map, you can press a button to have your partner describe directions as you drive; side missions become available as calls for help over the radio from other police officers; and the attractive yet functional notebook interface lets you scroll through clues and locations without the immersion-breaking feeling of trawling through a normal game menu. These touches all work together to create a polished product that has you gripped from the start.
However, one of L.A. Noire's downfalls is the fact that it is a game: while it treads brave new ground, it also reveals the limitations of the current generation of hardware. The new facial animation technology means that characters are the most believable I've ever seen in a game, but it also means that characters are repeated throughout the story for no apparent reason other than what I assume to be the difficulty of rendering hundreds of different actors' faces in such a level of detail. Similarly, damage to your vehicle sustained in a chase will suddenly disappear the minute the game re-loads after a cutscene, instantly shattering the sense of hard work and tension that has built up to that stage in the case. Also, the Los Angeles setting doesn't feel nearly as alive as modern day Liberty City: driving from one case to the next, there really is little incentive to stop and explore. This is something I found with the Mafia games too, so perhaps it's a symptom of the historical setting (1940s, less to do in the city, perhaps?) but when you're playing an open world game like this it can be hard to swallow such a sense of shallowness, particularly when we've grown used to being spoiled by Rockstar in terms of the rich selection of characters and settings in their other games.
L.A. Noire is far from perfect, that much is clear. But it's good to see a developer trying something new, so Rockstar should be applauded for that. Whilst it might not be to everyone's taste, it certainly shows the potential for games to come; with so few games out there that don't rely on quickfire action and speedy thrills, it was always going to be a game that divided opinion, but at least Rockstar dared to do that, which is more than can be said for most developers.
P.S. I downloaded the game from Steam and had no problems at all with installation, and there were no crashes at all.