L.A. Noire Review

While I’ve desperately been scrabbling down the back of the sofa for the estimated 60+ hours it will take me to complete Red Dead Redemption 2, I’ve decided to look at my gaming backlog and finish a few games that have been hanging around for a while, and I turned my attention to the 4k remaster of Rockstar’s L.A. Noire.

Originally released on 2011, L. A. Noire is an action adventure game set in 1947 Los Angeles and steeped in film noir – the cinema aesthetic that saw many films of the 50s and 60 sharing similar themes such as crime, moral ambiguity and corruption. The player controls Cole Phelps, a WW2 veteran starting out as a cop in the city of angels and working his way up through the ranks by solving cases. The stand out technology was MotionScan, a technique where real actors were filmed by up to 32 video cameras in order to capture the actors faces from every angle.  It is the subtleties of these facial performances that deliver you the clues in order to ask pertinent questions to unlock clues or confessions from suspects and witnesses and ultimately crack the case.

L. A. Noire was a game ahead of the curve when first released in 2011. I originally played it on the Xbox 360 and the new 4k remaster improves a lot of the problems I had with the game on my first playing. The impressive recreation of 1947 Los Angeles is now actually populated with lots of cars and pedestrians whereas I remember it being eerily empty. The city’s buildings now have a lot more detail and the lighting model has been utterly overhauled. Window glass now carries distortion, metals have a high shine, and clothing is beautifully detailed. Unfortunately the upgrade means that the MotionScan faces can now look somewhat low rent, and varies massively in quality – in places it is uncannily good, in others it looks like shabby photoshop.

The cars drive better, the gun fights are more punchy, but the unevenness of the original game prevails – bouncy lunatic car chases straight out of GTA punctuate careful contemplation of clues and responses; Clothes and vehicles change between playable- and cut-scenes; collectibles such as cars and locations jar with such a story driven game. For example, you do not want to just drive around the city like you do in GTA, it just isn’t visually interesting enough and the driving isn’t actually any fun. Also the logic employed in some of the interrogations isn’t the most obvious, which can be frustrating.

So the 4k remaster is an improvement on the original and if you have a 4k screen it is definitely worth a look. If you played the game before and loved it, this is the definitive experience (with all the DLC and supporting mysteries included). Many of the flaws remain, and it isn’t quite as ground-breaking as it was seven years ago, but if you have never played it, this is a chance to try something genuinely different, something we will probably never see again.

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