LA Noire, the latest title from Rockstar Games, takes place in the city of angels, circa 1947, and stars a young cop named Cole Phelps. Obviously this is new territory for Rockstar, which has previously focused its energy on high-octane free-for-alls such as Grand Theft Auto. So how does LA Noire stack up? Well, let's go to the reviews.
"The game mechanics aren’t nearly as sophisticated as they could be: As an LAPD detective in the late 1940s, you collect evidence and interrogate witnesses to build a case, gameplay that is derivative of (and, I would argue, done better in) games with cartoon graphics and melodramatic stories like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney," writes Chris Kohler of Wired. "LA Noire’s puzzle-solving is subservient to its narrative, but the simple allure of playing a part in the game’s gripping story was such that nothing could tear me away from it."
The gameplay, part 2
"While there are titles that have put players on the right side of the law, few of them have captured the nuances of criminal investigations the way that this game has. From scouring crime scenes to pressing suspects for info, there's a lot that can go wrong in each case –– much like in the real world –– and it all comes across as both intense and entertaining," writes Jason Cipriano of MTV. "The logical deduction necessary for each investigation makes Noire feel very much like a game, complete with puzzles and action sequences, while toeing the line of reality."
The control scheme
"LA Noire is fascinating, but there are still problems with control and structure," writes Ben Sillis of Electric Pig. "Whoever decided to make the run button the shoot button as well (Phelps will sometimes be called upon to open fire) should be given their marching orders. It’s also not always clear whether you should doubt or accuse a [person of interest]: in one instance, we knew a witness was lying about a car running over a pedestrian at full speed because of tire brake marks on the road. And yet this evidence doesn’t appear in your notebook, leaving it unclear as to which approach you should take."
The question: To sandbox or not to sandbox
"LA Noire's linearity might strike some sandbox aficionados as strange – and, this being a Rockstar game, it is – but guided doesn't mean inferior," writes Ryan Scott of Gamespy. "Yes, mindless meandering is a sore thumb in this harsh world; while random street crimes and collect-them-all widget hunts certainly account for some small percentage on the pause-screen ledger, the fact that you can usually fast-travel to your next destination (don't, though – the in-transit banter is always worth the drive) sends a clear 'stay on target' message. It's for the best."
"LA Noire doesn't merely boast some of the finest voice acting ever to grace a computer game, it has created an entirely new gaming concept: face acting," writes Serge Pennings of the Guardian. "This is thanks to Rockstar's much touted and shiny new MotionScan technology, which captures a truly staggering amount of facial expression and makes the sundry creeps, crooks and occasional upstanding citizen of 1947 Los Angeles eerily lifelike. Each and every character is utterly believable, even when they're lying, which they do with surprisingly subtle expressions and glances."
The car pursuits in LA Noire, writes Tom Pakinkis of CVG, are "fulfilling, heart-pumping experience. You'll barrel through gardens, alley-ways, construction yards and more chassis-unfriendly locales –– all of which require some real precision driving at points that feels more like a scramble than a foot-down, super-charged sprint. That said, the sparse roads and short drive times compare unfavourably to what you may have experienced in Rockstar's other cities."
The final word
"I am at a loss as how to properly categorize it and have little interest, as it is only a distraction from a stunning accomplishment," writes Adam Sessler of G4. "The sheer audacity of the game would be notable in its own right –– the languid pace, the de-emphasis on combat, the prohibitions against the player going on auto pilot –– but it's how the role of design, storytelling, art direction and sound all conspire to create a sublime experience, one that feels altogether new and unrelentingly captivating. That is the lasting impression."