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LA Noire – An Imperfect Gem

I stayed up late last night to finish LA Noire. Never played a Rockstar game before and loved his game, so I wanted to share my experience. Happy I saw it through as I do not feel you can experience all this game has to offer without end credits. I played the remastered version on the Switch with all DLC included. I tried I tag all major spoilers below, but if you’re sensitive to game mechanic discussion or feelings on plot points you may not want to read ahead.

The Good:
You’re playing as Cole Phelps, decorated WWII combat vet turned LAPD cop upon returning to civilian life. Not afraid to speak his feelings, he portrays a poster child for truth and justice and has an inherent talent for busting baddies. As you progress through the LAPD ranks you legit feel Cole has what it takes to clean up the deep rooted corruption which is slowly unveiled over the course of the investigations. Through discovery of clues and information learned in interrogations (using facial recognition to determine suspects’ truthfulness), Cole is able to find new leads, elicit confessions, and solve mysteries by presenting evidence and contradicting suspects. Other game mechanics are shootouts, car chases, foot races, brawls, and tailing suspects throwing you into the thick of being a true detective. Lastly, 1940s was a super interesting time period for me to play on as there are not a lot of games if any that I have played set in that era.

I loved seeing actors familiar to me. Loved the story (with some caveats discussed later). Loved the voice acting and at times hilarious dialog. Loved the bits and pieces of history provided in short black and white vignettes sprinkled within gameplay segments. Loved all the easy mode aspects to the game. Always had my partner drive. I did skip one action sequence where I was not successfully able to tail a suspect without being detected and got too frustrated to keep trying, but managed to complete all other segments. I kinda felt the section I skipped was too early in the game for me as I was still getting my bearings on controls and mechanics, but overall I enjoyed the gameplay.

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The Bad:
In the Switch version of the game you have three choices when interrogating suspects: Good Cop (no need to press suspect for details), Bad Cop (press suspect for details), and Accuse (present contradictory evidence). Reading the facial expressions was not always easy. Best when you had evidence to prove the lie. I followed advice I read online that if you don’t know what the correct answer is and you think they are hiding something you should always “accuse” the suspect to hear Cole’s statement. At that point you may better realize whether or not you have the proper evidence. You can back out of an accusation. This one piece of advice saved countless frustrations for me.

The storyline progresses regardless of Cole’s performance on the case. I suppose this could be good from the standpoint that you don’t need to save scum or reset to progress the story, but bad due to its unrealistic depiction of an investigator receiving swift promotions. At times I did reset basically because I wanted to discover the “correct” response on my own. Other times I just let it slide that I had one “wrong”. No big deal either way for me as I do not trophy hunt.

I didn’t feel the selection mechanic was bad, but I felt it was not fully explained anywhere within the game at least not any way that made me fully “get” it. I went through the first several cases getting wrong answers without even realizing I was doing so (didn’t catch the checkmarks and x’s in the notepad early on). At the point I noticed I was botching investigations I felt the need to seek spoiler-free tips.

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Another slight annoyance was I had trouble keeping track of all the characters introduced in all the different ways. I didn’t even realize I was seeing Cole in the back stories until after the 2nd or 3rd one. Didn’t catch everyone’s name or face first time around and had trouble keeping them straight. Could be just me though and lack of attention to detail when I first pick up a game as there’s so much to absorb with controls etc.

The Accused:
Worst part about this game to me was how certain plot events transpired seemingly out of nowhere. Would have liked to see some sort of buildup of Cole and Elsa’s affair and/or witness a scene that showed Cole’s deteriorating marriage. For part of the game I was kinda confused about where the story was heading. I thought Cole/Elsa was a misunderstanding and I was going to have to prove Cole’s innocence somehow. That was until the Cole/Maria scene. When I did finally understand where the writers were taking me I felt better about the plot making sense and also agreed they needed the plot the way it was written to create the final segments of the game. Inevitably I feel it was a very well told noire story. I did turn to reddit for comfort and opinions on what I’d just witnessed post credits, which always helps me figure out how articulate my feelings at a game’s conclusion, so A+ to all the intelligent thoughts within the community.

Another minor annoyance, I did not love how Cole managed to step half a step too much over a clue and I was not able to select it. Then I’d be doing the Texas two-step around in a circle too long trying to hit the sweet spot.

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Shootouts could be kinda long for my taste as well, but they weren’t too bad. It took me the first several brawls and shootouts to get the controls down because I didn’t remember controls after the first time it was explained. I even had to look up how to punch during one brawl because it had been so long since the last brawl.

Final Thoughts:
My personal opinion of this game is definitely play it, particularly if you love stories of an investigatory nature. Know the game may not be for hardcore gamers as there is a lot of reading and frankly since I beat all but one of the action sequences, I feel that means the game is probably on the easier side. Know that controls can be a bit wonky. And regarding story, make sure to have an open mind and understand a noire theme before taking on this gem of game. Happy gaming!!

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