L.A. Noire (PS4) Review

I’ll be honest here, I own L.A. Noire on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC yet I’ve never played it until now. I didn’t not play it for any particular reason, I just saw it as a game which would need me to invest a lot of time into and I never had the time to sit down and drift into Rockstars ‘masterpiece’. However, I was given the PS4 remaster so I made time and played the whole game through to the end credits and I’m glad I did. I feel like I accomplished something and finally understand what all the hype for the game was about and how it was all justified. So, come with me as I don my fedora and become Cole Phelps once more and solve the mystery of case #69: Is this game worth buying/rebuying?

The facial motion captures still stand up today.

I’m sure you all know the story of L.A. Noire inside out but for those of you who, like me, never played it previously I’ll give you a brief overview of the game. The game takes place in 1947 in the faithfully recreated downtown areas of Los Angeles. You take the role of Cole Phelps, a war hero from WWII who has joined the police force after the war. You begin your life as a cop in Traffic but soon you are recognised as a great asset and slowly start progressing towards Vice throughout the course of the game. You will be investigating everything from stolen car parts, serial arsonists, drug lords and even perverted blackmailing all whilst working on an underlying story which moves with you throughout the game.

The main draw of this game, back in 2011, was its emphasis on the interrogation and investigation rather than shooting. So the game took a more observe and report stance over; shoot first and ask questions later. At a time when GTA and Red Dead Redemption were extremely popular, along with other franchises like Mafia and the Godfather, having a game which focused on a realistic approach to things made a big impact with gamers and critics alike. You would read peoples faces as you interviewed them, determine if someone was lying or withholding information from you and then take this new information and create new leads to work with until you reach your goal. It was groundbreaking and so original back then but does it really hold up today?

The game looks a lot clearer, it’s a shame it didn’t help me avoid the car quicker though!

Visually, the game looks great – but does it look good enough? The game is running at a native 1080p on the PS4 and 4k on the Pro whereas the original was only 720p – so we get a massive pixel count boost to allow for clearer and crisper images on a 4k display with full super-sampling in effect on a 1080p TV on the Pro. However, other than increased draw distances and some increased shadows, that’s about it. The textures that are being used are the same as they always were only with better texture filtering to allow for a clearer image. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great! It’s just easy to spot the lower resolution assets on certain things.

Virtuos, the developer behind this remaster, haven’t touched the framerate outside of making sure it remains a rock-solid 30fps. With these older titles, it is sometimes hard for developers to go in and increase the frame rate if the game itself and the animations were all built around a set rate, especially when they weren’t the original developers. That being said, the game does play and remain at a solid framerate, there is little to no fog, draw distances improved, god rays added to the lighting effects and even the reflections on the car have had their refresh rate increased to make it smoother.

So overall, visually the game is impressive, even if the bulk of the improvements are minor tweaks and the core resolution boost.

Phelps loves helping out behind the counter of his local bar – whether he was asked to do so or not!

Audio-wise, from what I can see online (as I never played the original), nothing has changed here. From my own personal opinion of playing the game, the soundtrack is really good for the style of game. You have music in the 1940’s ‘Noire’ style that help make you feel like your in a PI movie at times and also the bars and clubs play the music of the time period which fits in perfectly. The sound effects themselves are spot on and the voice acting is amazing. For a seven-year-old game, they really did have high standards in the audio department due to the number of famous A-list stars they got on board to be in the game both visually and vocally. Nothing sounds ‘phoned in’ and everything is acted out with so much emotion, which is perfect as it helps you deduce whether they are lying or not – the big feature of this game.

Speaking of working out if they are lying – the motion capture they used on the actors faces back in 2011 was amazing. You can literally tell who all the actors are and you can see everything they are doing from flaring their nostrils to twitching around when telling a lie. The bad thing is that they did all this amazing work on the faces, yet the bodies were standard motion captures, so you will regularly see the heads protrude a bit too far as the body catches up or faces wobble as it re-aligns itself. It’s not a game-breaking mechanic or enough to ruin the game, but it is noticeable and an acceptable compromise for having the amazing factual captures. This hasn’t changed from the original game from what I can see, other than the visual enhancements I mentioned above which allow the quality to be sharper and clearer.

Literally stole this car from the dealership and drove around town with no clear vision.

One of the mechanics they have changed, although I’m not sure why but I imagine others out there will know more than me about it, is the working on the interrogation process. Previously you would have ‘Truth’, ‘Doubt’ or ‘Lie’ but these have been replaced with ‘Good Cop’, ‘Bad Cop’ and ‘Accuse’ respectively. I’ve heard they made this change as it didn’t make sense if you pick ‘Lie’ because you thought a suspect was lying and then having Phelps shouting at them. So by changing it to ‘Bad Cop’ it kind of justifies why he is shouting. I’m not 100% convinced on this one as there were times where I would pick an option and it wouldn’t really match up – like picking ‘Bad Cop’ and having Phelps not shouting or being annoyed but just saying the suspect is lying and they need to tell the truth. In those parts, I feel the original option would have made more sense but either way, the process works fine and it was really interesting to work out who was doing what and why.

A few of the other various mechanics the game had to offer which I really enjoyed were the driving and the period-correct communications. So, you can get your partner to drive you to various locations if you can’t be bothered to do so yourself. This was great as not only does it mean you can have a break from driving around but it also acts as a fast travel. You partner will drive and talk for a while if they have anything to say but then as soon as they shut up, the game will instantly skip to the destination within seconds. I also liked the fact you can just commandeer any vehicle you want, even the morgues hearse and can receive a deduction to your overall case score if you go crazy and decide to cause damages as you drive around. This was new to me as I’m used to open world games like this encouraging you to kill anything in sight, so having to take it easy was both a welcomed mechanic and also a bit annoying for my twitchy trigger finger!

Regarding the communications, I like the fact you have to locate a phone via the car, police boxes or within a building in order to call the station for updates. You can tell the original developers, Team Bondi, put a lot of love into making this game originally with all of the period-correct mechanics and even all of the period cars and businesses – which according to Rockstar is about 90% picture-perfect to L.A. in 1947.

Erm, this guy doesn’t have any kids…

Finally, there are two things which disappointed me about this remaster, two things which needed a lot of change yet stayed as they were regardless.

First of all, streaming/recording from the PS4 directly was blocked. I noticed this once I received my copy from Rockstar and quickly queried it. If you try and stream the game then every time a cutscene begins, the first 10-20 seconds of the cutscene will appear as the blue screen saying it has been prohibited from streaming. After that time, regardless of if the cutscene is still on or not, it will continue to stream as normal until the next cutscene starts. In terms of recording, it does the same but it pauses where the blocked scene appears – so your final video will have a load of jump cuts which cut off both the gameplay and your voice if you are recording audio. To me this is unacceptable. I can see why they were doing it – to avoid spoilers – but spoilers of a 7-year-old game and only cutting the first 10-20 seconds of each cutscene? It never blocked any gameplay footage so it’s not really blocking major spoilers from getting out.

Secondly, the photo mode was pointless. in most photo modes you can change filters, spin around, zoom in and out and even apply various fun effects – this was like the bare minimum of a photo mode. Upon entering the mode, the camera locks behind your head and you can only spin it about 50 degrees in each direction – this means you can never get a picture in photo mode with your character facing the camera. It has a few filters to select and a bare-bones zoom function but other than that it wasn’t even worth using as you get better images just using the share button. Another thing which people pointed out, if you enable HDR on your PS4 then you can’t enable the photo mode anyway. I would take HDR over this photo mode any day.

Some of the arson cases can get pretty graphic.

So, how was my first time with L.A. Noire? Personally, I enjoyed my time but I felt like it was too long. The remaster is made up of all of the original missions with all of the DLC missions seamlessly weaved in-between the correct cases in chronological order – this is great as you get a lot more content and a lot more information on the underlying stories. But for me it just seemed like some cases should have ended a few missions before they did. Investigating and interrogation never grew old and the odd combat sequences were very welcomed in order to break up the slow parts of the game but there was something missing. Sure, you get graded at the end of the case based on how well you did which allows you to strive to be better when you next replay the mission and the game has collectables to go back and find if you missed them. But after playing it, I haven’t had the motivation to go back to the game and complete everything I missed. I feel like it’s one of those games where you have to be in a specific mood in order to play and enjoy it more. Maybe I’ll return to it in a year or so and finish obtaining the platinum.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
L.A. Noire was a great game back in 2011 and the remaster has kept things faithfully the same. There have been graphical and structural changes which really help bring the game up to modern standards without ruining the look and feel of the overall game. If you love games where you can spend time investigating crimes and re-enacting the life of a police officer then this game would be perfect for you. If you owned the game on PS3 or Xbox 360 and enjoyed it then playing it on modern consoles is the definitive experience. If for any reason, you didn’t like it back in 2011 then I would say give it a second chance but be aware, the remaster is literally the same game.

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

L.A. Noire

8

Final Score

8.0/10

The Good:

  • Interesting story and period setting
  • Facial motion capture is amazing
  • Voice acting is very well delivered + some big name stars in the game
  • Looks really nice in UHD on the Pro
  • The interrogation and investigation mechanics are solid

The Bad:

  • Game feels like it goes on a bit too long
  • Bit expensive for a remaster (considering games like Star Ocean are only £15.99)
  • Other than a few graphical improvements, not much extra in the remaster
  • Streaming/recording messed up due to restricted scenes
  • Very poor 'photo mode'

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