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Friday, June 3, 2011

Video Game Review: L.A. Noire

8.0 out of 10

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Being a fan of film noire but not a fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, I came into this game with mixed expectations. From the get-go, there's a couple things that make this game stand out. First, it's got some amazing graphics. And when atmosphere is important, you've got to have great graphics to keep the mood going. Second, the voice acting is great, which goes a long way in a modern game, especially one that isn't filled in with nonstop action. Third, it's well-made. That may seem like a given, but lack of creativity in level design can kill a game and make you turn it off after an hour or two (like Homefront, for instance).

You play as Cole Phelps, a WWII veteran who's destined to rise through the ranks of the police department (if he doesn't, the game wouldn't go anywhere, would it?!). And while the game has a few car chases and gun fights, the majority of your time is going to be dedicated to "police work," which can either be a lot of fun or incredibly annoying.

A lot of fun: the interrogations. They reminded me of the best scenes in Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, and it hooked me pretty easily. I enjoy getting into detailed conversations in RPG's, and so these moments felt familiar and comfortable. In addition, the story that's drawn out during these moments is of a top-notch quality.

Not a lot of fun: the investigations. Now, don't get me wrong—you might enjoy these more than I did. I'm just not good at this. I can't stand scouring rooms for clues anymore—it was easy back in the day, when the graphics only came in 16 bits and there were only a few spots in a room that game developers could hide their clues. But now we're talking about a detailed world that requires a good eye, something I don't have. And the redundancy ... gods, the redundancy of it all.

You can also explore the open world of 1947 L.A. and tackle a variety of side-missions as well. Here, you'll find yourself with a little more freedom, and if you can get into the character of Cole Phelps, these missions are really going to be fun. When you have such a developed character and feel strongly toward him, these types of moments you spend together with the character can be extremely rewarding. It reminds me of later levels in Metroid, where it's just you and Samus in an abandoned mining camp. Quality time, spent together.
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