Gameplay in L.A. Noire is a mixed bag that will no doubt polarize gamers. The core of the game is finding clues and interrogating suspects and the controls are intuitive enough to complete these tasks without frustration, however gamers know early on that finding clues is vital and this often leads to exhaustively searching areas to ensure nothing is missed. Handling interrogations and accessing notes and clues are relegated to simple button presses and you have ample time to make your choices, so the game is very forgiving in that respect. The driving and gunplay controls have a classic Rockstar feel to them, which is both a good and bad thing. On one hand, the generous auto-lock aim on your guns ensures a quick resolution to gunfights, however the controls can be glitchy and hyper-sensitive at times. The driving controls are also good for the most part, however these 40’s era cars handle like shopping carts and you are bound to crash during high speed chases. Additionally, the cars don’t corner or reverse well, so hitting a tree or another car during a suspect pursuit can cause you to halt and you’ll be unable to catch back up.
Rockstar Games and Team Bondi have done a fantastic job in bringing the post-war city of Los Angeles to life and driving around is in itself a treat for the eyes. Careful attention has also been paid to making the characters look and act appropriate for their time period, so the fashion, music and dialogue is all extremely well done. Unlike GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption, which offered a massive world in which there is an inexhaustible supply of missions, the game guides you down a very linear path with little room for deviation outside of some ad hoc street crime missions and some scattered collectibles. In many ways, L.A. Noire is the cousin of 2010’s Mafia II and the two games share many similarities, especially in the fact that they offer a sandbox-style world with a linear story-driven campaign. I actually view this as a strength, since plentiful side-missions on top of the many hours already spent doing detective work would be overkill.
At the end of the day, L.A. Noire proves to be gaming experience unlike any I have played before and it hit the right spot between being challenging and rewarding. Getting answers wrong and missing clues can lead to some frustration, but it rarely impacts the overall story progression and you quickly learn how to use your deductive reasoning skills when working on a case. Not every element in the game works, but what it succeeds in doing is putting you in a time and place and making you feel like a part of it. As the title would suggest, this is straight out of the Film Noir era and fans of games like Mafia II and films like L.A. Confidential will feel right at home here. For those hoping for another Rockstar sandbox title with plentiful side missions and countless story threads, rents this one first and see if you like it.
Note: None of the reported glitches, crashes or game freezes occurred during my time with the game. Also, note that the Xbox 360 version is spread over three discs while the PS3 version is only one.