L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition

Did you know that despite surviving the army and excelling at day-to-day police-work, LAPD homicide inspector Cole Phelps doesn’t know how to drive? At least, that’s how I like to role-play him. Whether he’s solving a grizzly murder or following up on an arson case, my Mr. Phelps makes his partner do all the driving between locales while I kick back and examine the evidence. Only when it comes to chasing down a guilty suspect do I take the wheel, and even then I crash all over the damn place.

Released on other platforms earlier in the year to critical acclaim, Team Bondi and Rockstar’s love-letter to 1940’s pulp noir, appropriately titled L.A. Noire, arrives this month on the PC with a couple of bonuses. Praised for its intricate storyline, well-researched setting and genuinely impressive facial graphic technology, are the streets of LA still worth visiting in this Winter of AAA-releases?

From my play-time, I was able to develop a simple test to establish whether you’ll enjoy the game. Answer me these questions three: Do you enjoy pulp noir? Do you enjoy sand-box-style games, especially the driving parts? And lastly, do you enjoy the Phoenix Wright series of adventure games? If you answered “Yes” to two of the above, you should probably at least try the game.

The game is structured into episodic cases, assigned to the investigation desk Cole currently sits at. Starting as a lowly patrolman and working his way up to LA Vice, the player will guide Mr. Phelps through car crashes, serial killings and even the odd house fire. Each case usually starts with a graphic murder — squeamish players be advised, as there are many mutilated, naked ladies — and after inspecting the body, you’ll go after possible suspects and build a list of evidence in a handy note book.

Interviewing the many “persons of interest” the game throws at you is probably both the most impressive and frustrating aspect of L.A. Noire. Here, Team Bondi gets to show off its immense skill at writing and animation, and working against the backdrop of 1940s LA, manages to create an immersive experience. This is also the area where my previous comparison to Phoneix Wright rings true: after asking some questions related to the case, it’s your job to respond to each suspect statement with “Truth” (accept), “Doubt” (press) or “Lie” (present evidence). Unfortunately, frustration quickly sets in when you’re certain you have a suspect cornered only for them to flip you off for not selecting “doubt” when you should have called them on a “lie”, or vice-versa. While Phoenix Wright gets away with this with limited penalties and saved games, L.A. Noire doesn’t give you a second chance, unless you want to repeat a case. That said, having to commit to answers manages to create a certain sort of tension, and there are even multiple paths through each case depending on your actions.

Of course, with Rockstar involved, it might come as no surprise that there’s a busy city to explore during missions. Street crimes make up the majority of the content (with more available as you progress through the game), although there are collectables to find if you take the time, such as newspapers that trigger cutscenes that effectively build back-story. These street crimes help break up the occasional monotony of slower cases, but they’re mainly there as fluff. The heart of the game is its core storyline; think less GTA, and more Mafia (the first one, anyway). In this regard, the game succeeds, despite a slow (but arguably deliberate) paced build-up before tensions really rise.

There’s probably a couple of readers here who are pretty familiar with the L.A. Noire experience and want to know how the PC version fares, especially after GTA IV’s initially buggy release. For the most part, business is as is it should be. Upping the game resolution to 1920×1080 further enhances the effect of the impressive “Uncanny-valley” face-technology and also really lets some of the more detailed areas of 1940’s LA shine. Though the game remained playable on my modest setup (Athlon II X4 630, Radeon 5700, 4GB RAM), the frame-rate often dropped as low as 20fps in complex scenes. The inclusion of Xbox 360 controller support is very welcome, with buttons mapping automatically between keyboard and gamepad depending on use. Best of all, this “Complete Edition” of the game includes all DLC cases by default, and veterans of the game can jump right to the new cases through the investigator desk in the main options menu.







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