LA Noire Remastered feels gloriously out of step with the games it’s rubbing shoulders with in this Christmas release window.
At a time where publishers are pumping out the latest iterations of their Triple A franchises hoping to attract players with experiences they expect, here comes Rockstar with the remaster of a game that’s over half a decade old, and one that broke with the usual conventions associated with open world games.
While it’s a sandbox, it contains none of the explosive hi-jinks associated with the Grand Theft Auto series, and it doesn’t feature a protagonist with the super human ability to dead-lift his own weight up the sides of historic landmarks ah-la Assassin’s Creed.
Instead, LA Noire harkens back to the point-and-click adventures of old, in which players were encouraged to explore environments for clues and keep notes handy. There are couple of chases (on foot and in cars) and a couple of gunfights here and there, but the lion’s share of the player’s time is taken up by collecting evidence, questioning witnesses and closing cases.
The story centres on Cole Phelps, a cop working for the LAPD in the year 1947. Phelps starts out as a beat cop but gradually works his way up the ranks, becoming a detective in first the Traffic Bureau before he moves onto Homicide.
As he works his way through his caseload, it starts to become apparent that a large supply of army-issue morphine is hitting the streets and Phelps’s old army buddies may be involved. None of this, by the way, is spoiler territory; the case levels are intercut with flashback scenes that fill out the game’s back story.
When it first landed in 2011, LA Noire stood out for two aspects. The first was its (for its time) phenomenal facial capture. Using Depth Analysis’s MotionScan technology, the developers were able to capture detailed expressions from the actors who starred in the game. The facial expressions were tied into one of the game’s central mechanics; as players interview different suspects, they have to watch their faces for any hint of movement, to tell whether a suspect is hiding something from them.
It still works well in the Remaster, although the performances are a little vaudeville; it’s dead easy to tell when a suspect is lying because their face and eyebrows start twitching as though a swarm of gnats are flying across them. The visuals have been given a loving polish, but really, no one who picks up a copy of this game will mistake it for a current gen release.
The second stand-out feature in LA Noire is its plot and while you can tick the influences off as they whizz by – Chinatown, The Big Sleep and pretty much anything based the works of or written by James Ellroy – the writers deserve a lot of credit. The plot never sags, the dialogue is fantastic and while the odd development is an homage to the above influences, nothing is filched outright.
Every single character in the game is incredibly well presented, acted and voiced – right down to the smallest bit part. Far from simply serving to move the plot along, Phelps and his succession of partners help create an atmosphere in the game that feels by turns hopeful, cynical and downright corrupt. This is probably the closest most of us will get to starring in a film noir and it’s utterly glorious.
Now, for those players who have never experienced LA Noire, do yourselves a favour and pick up a copy. For returning players, here’s the juice: aside from its visual scrub, LA Noire Remastered is pretty much the same game that was made available way back when in 2011. The only difference is that you don’t have to fork over more cash for the DLC, as those missions are included in the package. That’s your lot.
LA Noire Remastered Review – Verdict
But as has been stated, if you’ve never taken this classic out for a spin, it’s more than worth your time. It’s a far cry from the bullet-festivals, platformers and sword and sandals RPGs currently dominating the sales charts, but perhaps that’s a good thing. This is a game that sucks you in through its story, makes you care about its characters and then allows hell to open up beneath their feet. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore.
- LA Noire Remastered was reviewed on a PS4. A review code was provided by the publisher.