‘L.A. Noire’ is a detective story done right


Cole Phelps investigates the hideout of a deranged serial killer. Image from rockstargames.com

Years after it made big waves in the games industry, “L.A. Noire” has been remastered. Its gameplay may not be the smoothest, but this is still one of the best crime stories in video games.

You play as Cole Phelps, a World War II veteran who becomes a beat cop, and later a detective, in Los Angeles. after returning from the war. On the surface, Phelps is a by-the-books type of investigator. Many of his colleagues see him as a boy scout, but like any good noire story, Phelp’s character has a hidden side to it. The arc he goes through as a character throughout the game is compelling and fits the noire genre perfectly.

The entirety of “L.A. Noire” takes place in the late 1940s and the game does a fantastic job of capturing the tone and themes of the time. This is done through the characters, plot and music. The original developers, Team Bondi, also went through painstaking work to recreate large portions of LA as they were in 1947. LA was in a state of change at the time; Hollywood was captivating the nation, corruption in the LAPD was poisoning the lower class, and empowering the wealthy and anti-communist paranoia was sweeping the nation. It all comes together in a believable and interesting way.

Gameplay consists of investigating crime scenes, interviewing suspects and shootouts with criminals. The main goal of investigation is to find evidence that can be used to open up new leads or to catch a suspect in a lie when interrogating them. These sequences are interesting at first, but I often found myself obsessively combing through crime scenes looking for the last, small bit of evidence for an unnecessarily long time. The shooting in the game is fine and the controls are a bit stiff, but most combat sequences are short and easy.

The interviews and investigations are where this game shines. When interviewing a suspect you have to look at their faces for visual cues that tell you if they’re lying or telling the truth. Face-scan technology makes this gameplay mechanic very engaging as characters will have subtle or obvious tells that the player has to decipher. Sometimes the line of questioning is too vague to determine the right answer, but for the most part the system in the game is fair and gives you everything you need to get things right.

Any flaws in this game are minor and to this day no other game, past or present, has come close to doing what L.A. Noire has. It’s a detective game where story and game-play are blended perfectly and for that it earns five stars.

Ulises Duenas can be reached at [email protected] or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.