Team Bondi's detective game, L. A. Noire, is remarkable when it comes to its groundbreaking visuals and character models. However, it's not so impressive when it comes to violence and language.
The game takes place in the American fifties (with men in suits and women in bright dresses, driving around in fifties cars). You take on the role as police detective Cole Phelps, who works his way up from walking the beat to investigating murder cases.
Phelps is a pretty straight-laced guy, a World War II vet who returns home with a mission to clean up the streets and dark areas of Los Angeles. Each mission starts with a briefing before you drive yourself to the crime scene. Like a true Rockstar game, the fun is that you can drive any car you see in the game, including the ambulance. Once on the scene you can find clues by questioning the eye-witnesses, but you can also obtain information from the coroner. If you still don't have enough evidence, you can follow leads to other locations and people who can possibly help you (the car dealer, the woman, the retailer, etc.).
The game has remarkably good graphics. While making L.A. Noire, Team Bondi used actors who were put in front of 32 cameras that recorded their every movement. In the game you see it, especially in the facial mimicry: a doubt in a smile, one blink of the eye, or a nervous wink. It is by far the best I've seen in any game. They claim it is just as good as film, but that’s not completely true. You still see the difference, although they do bridge the gap between films and video games.
The body postures and mimicry are so good that sometimes you can tell whether someone is lying. That’s great, and the fun really starts when it uses that aspect of the game. In a hearing you must indicate whether you believe, have doubts, or think the person is lying. A good estimate provides more information.
The audio department is top notch as well. The background music is very fitting and it sets the mood nicely. The voice acting is really well done, too. Technically speaking, L.A. Noire is a top notch game; it's only flaw is the violence.
The violence is out of proportion and destroys the fun in the game. A (potential) arrest may result in a chase, brawl, hostage-taking, or shooting. If you fail to complete an action scene three times, you are able to skip it. The game's story will also show you a cinematic depicting how a murder has occurred. In one case, you don’t see the actual beating, but you do see the stick and some blood spattering. In the game you get to study a beaten and bruised naked female body so there is some nudity.
As you progress in the game, the violence will increase, which is unfortunate because L.A. Noire could've been so much better without it. Of course violence is part of the profession of a detective, but the amount is extreme. There will be few investigators who have to solve such terrible cases in such a short time. A shooting, a chasing, a dead body, a crying widow, another shooting, and a meeting with the local mafia. If a policemen experienced this in reality, the boss would send him to a shrink, just to be sure he is dealing with it properly.
The average gamer can expect about twenty-five to thirty hours of game play. Due to the graphic nature of this game I only put in twelve hours. With less violence, L.A. Noire would've been a great game. I just don’t think this level of violence is necessary to make an entertaining detective-game. The life-like visuals make guessing whether a suspect is lying or telling the truth a novel mechanic, but walking into Phelp's shoes means you will be seeing and doing things you might not want to. You're a detective, but certainly not with the sweetness of Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote.
editor at www.nd.nl