L.A. Noire [Review]

L.A. Noire
Version: Xbox One
Console: Xbox Series X
Developer: Team Bondi (Publisher: Rockstar)
Director, Writer: Brendan McNamara
Artists: Chee Kin Chan, Ben Brudenell
Composers: Andrew and Simon Hale
Producers: Naresh Hirani, Josh Needleman

1. STORY - 10
The ballad of Cole Phelps is a wild ride, but also an orderly one. It is wonderful how the game frames the games as little parts of sections for the first 1/3 of the game. Things stay interesting and easy to understand. Even when the web gets larger, there's little to no frustration with no remembering a plot beat or character. There was clearly a great amount of thought put behind the structure of the story and that's possibly its strongest element. Video games are awful in this regard. Meandering plotlines and characters that only make sense to the people that have put in a thousand hours designing them. This structure makes it easy for the player to effortlessly follow along. (More about the story under Emotional Impact)

This is really the only ding on the game. The facial motion tech is really quite amazing and adds life to the characters but trying to read them on a 1st playthrough is nearly impossible. Yeah, they will look guilty and their eyes will dart around, but that's really only a tell after you worked through it. Of course, getting it "right" doesn't matter all that much in the long run, and that's possibly where my frustration comes in. I don't "have" to get it right but the frustration felt from missing a question was too high, and I'm a fairly calm person. This part of the game completely opens up with a play guide.

Wonderful. The look and feel of the game is pure perfection. From the click-click of your shoes on the wood floor to the unbelievable interiors, it's just stunning. Everything has real weight to it and nothing feels game-y (like jumping or running). You certainly don't feel like a superhero and it is refreshing that there's no "skill tree" to grind your way through. Los Angeles feels right. Driving around never got dull and walking from the street into buildings is flawless and always well done. Characters are stiff like real humans. The wardrobes are fantastic and period appropriate.

For a lot of the gameplay you are in your car (if you don't skip the drives) and true to Rockstar form the radio plays period-appropriate music or dramatic orchestral pieces during dramatic moments. I don't think it could have been better than it was. You also get in-world-specific things as well. All very organic. Outside of when you are in a vehicle the world is pretty quiet in terms of music but you do get beeps and the occasional yell from pedestrians - which is a Rockstar hallmark going back to the very 1st GTA. All audio kept you in the game. Nothing broke the 3rd wall to break immersion.

5. GAMEPLAY - 10
The logical way this game moves is an asset to the gameplay. You are assigned a crime scene, you drive to check it out. You walk around searching for clues. Chase down leads. Things happen. Solve the case the best you can and then it's on to the next. The mechanics of all this are simple and you are guided by musical beats. Very important, those beats. I didn't know to really listen to them till my third playthrough, but it works remarkably well. Driving is always a treat. Gunplay is solid. Everything here is so tight, I can't find flaws in it. I suppose running is kinda clunky, but in some ways, it is a direct predecessor to Red Dead Redemption 2 in that you are not some super-powered dude running around. It works in both games. As a matter of fact, it works so well, games like Cyberpunk are a kind of turn-off for me in terms of gameplay.

The mileage in this category may vary. I have a grandfather who was in WWII that returned from the war to live in DC, so there is a strong connection to this time period for me. You follow a very human character in Cole Phelps who by no means is a hero. In a way, the writers of this game flip the mirror to the video game character a bit an tell show you exactly what your actions in other GTA games might be for a protagonist. In GTA5 you prance around doing whatever you want when you want and it has zero impact on your little avatar person. Here, Cole is metaphorically covered in warts, not so much because of what you are doing, but because of who he is. The meticulous nature of his personality was excellent in solving cases as a detective but terrible as a leader in war and that witch's brew had a dash of ego. All this left him damaged. Decisions in his personal life left him ruined. Decisions in his professional life to try and make up for it left him dead. This dynamic of using your work to make up for other parts of your life is something many of us can relate to. Especially of you are over 40.

Well, I've revisited this game 3 times over the last decade and enjoyed it more each time. A hobby of mine is collecting old games and consoles because I want to experience the games as they were. Games can age quickly. LA Noire has had a spectacular, ageless, 12-year run. 

This game is still relevant in conversations, not just because it is Rockstar but I think it exposed a large group of people to a different type of game in familiar "GTA" clothing. 

9. X-FACTOR - 10
It's a blast playing this game. Especially when you get older. I found myself digging out time to play it, which is the highest praise I can give a game. The first few serendipitous hours are a trip back in time to 1947 America like no other.

Great! Consumers are treated to a painted cover and nearly everything is in a noir style. That's the beautiful thing about this game, it never broke character. Part of that, however, may be that the studio broke apart after the game's release, but other game makers take note. It is perfect the way it is. No need for add-ons or zombie multiplayer features. 


This game earns every one of its 94 points and puts it up there as one of the best games I've ever experienced in my now nearly 5 decades of playing. Keep in mind it is scoring this high 12 years after its release. We've all been waiting for a more modern game to withstand the test of time, so far, LA Noire is one.