Games Gazette Logo

The difference between playing LA NOIRE on the XBox360 some 6 years ago to playing the revised and enhanced version for the PS4 is like the difference between Marmite and Bovril.

LA NOIRE on the PS4 is for players who love playing GRAND THEFT AUTO (any version) but want the distraction of playing on the side of Law & Order for once. LA NOIRE is GTA in so many ways!

The characters, the way they move, the actions they can take, all are so similar to GTA that at times you can easily forget which game you are playing and slip into "bad guy" mode.

 

This is often not noticed by the player until they shoot an innocent bystander or kill the hostage rather than the hostage taker. Yes you can stop cars and commandeer them when you are chasing a villain and they jump in a car and you have left yours parked up somewhere - like when I was walking to a scene (on the map it looked a lot closer than it was) and I had left the car at the Police Station; still that's an easy mistake to make (at least it was for me).

I mentioned the map. You have a small map onscreen that shows where you are heading for as well as the roads and special places, just like a regular GPS in a car. There are no distances shown though so the spot on the map you are heading appears to stay in the same position while you are driving to it until you have driven far enough for you to see roads behind your destination, then you can see exactly how far away you are (well maybe not exactly but you can see which roads will lead to it). Another thing that is not always clear on the map is where the main roads (like Motorways) cross over regular roads and where the Junctions are.It is easy to find yourself driving down a dead-end or over a fly-over with the road you want turning left or right beneath you. It's all part of the fun though.

 

Following the end of World War II, Cole Phelps (Aaron Staton), a decorated USMC veteran of the Pacific Campaign, returns to Los Angeles, California to live with his family while taking on work as a Patrol Officer of the LAPD. In 1947, working with his partner Officer Ralph Dunn (Rodney Scott), Phelps successfully solves a major murder case and impresses his superiors, who promote him to detective. Working alongside Stefan Bekowsky (Sean McGowan) in Traffic, and then Finbarr "Rusty" Galloway (Michael McGrady) in Homicide, Phelps earns a reputation for solving difficult cases that eventually land him a promotion into Vice. During this time, he begins falling for German lounge singer Elsa Lichtmann (Erika Heynatz) and soon has an affair with her. Unknown to him, Roy Earle (Adam J. Harrington), his partner in Vice and a corrupt cop, uses this information to help several prominent figures in the city, including the Chief of Police, cover up a major scandal by making him a media scapegoat, in exchange for a place in a syndicate known as the "Suburban Redevelopment Fund" (SRF)—a development program that supplies housing for homebound WWII veterans. When his adultery is exposed, Phelps becomes disgraced in the LAPD, while his wife ends their marriage.

 

As a Detective your job is to respond to crimes and then gather evidence and try to solve the crime by following the clues. If you screw up then the perp may get away or you may be kicked out the game and offered the chance to start again. You don't want too many perps getting away and to be honest, at least for me, it is often a case of playing the same moves over and over, learning from each time, until you see what you need to do to succeed. It does get a little annoying as well as frustrating when you have to go through all the movie-sequence each time before you take control, it would be better if Rockstar had included a "skip" button. Having watched the same seen time and time again because I kept making simple errors such as the perp moving as I fired thus meaning I either hit the hostage, or the perp killed her and that's game-over.

At times it's a classic play. You know what to do but one minor mistake prevents the scene/scenario playing out in your favour. Then I get blaisé and think I can get to the part where I screwed up previously without trying - then I screw up in another place and it's back to the start of the scene again and another 2 minutes of narration. Two minutes can seem like a lifetime when you are itching to complete a scene. This is often like playing a TV Detective as you can discover clues, misread situations, chase the bad-guys and end up on the wrong side of your superiors.

 

As you would expect LA NOIRE is set in the City of Angels, Los Angeles.  It begins 3 years before I was born (1950) in 1947 (my Brother was 5 by then, so neither of us have any personal experience with the West Coast of the USA in the 1940's). Being a fan of Noir Cinema and Gangster Films of the Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet years, it is fun and exciting to take on the rôle of Cole Phelps, at first as a Patrolman and later as a Los Angeles Police Department detective. You get to play Phelps as he fast-tracks his way up the ladder from being in uniform through to wearing the standard issue fedora and Raincoat of the 20th Century Police Detective. Phelps has to go throughthe various departments and learn the ropes from a series of different, knowledgeable, experienced partners; the game mechanic rates the player at the end of each Case. Newspapers are often a good source of information so whenever you find one that you can read make sure you do so, though some clues and papers will cause Phelps to endure wartime flashbacks.

As you progress in experience the game locks you into a different rôle, this time as a Gumshoe, an LA Private Dick named Jack Kelso. Apart from the obvious physical differences to Phelps, Kelso is very much the same guy and so you don't have to spend ages learning a whole gamut of new skills.The game is played in sequences that combine action, gun-fights, car chases, foot chases, and capturing/killing perps (amongst all manner of other Police work). Once you have arrested a perp and read him/her their rights you can interrogate/question them, just like in the movies (well almost as I haven't managed to find a rubber-hose yet). Perps will generally answer your questions but will they tell the truth? This is where your player skills come into play, do you believe them or not in which case you can accuse them of lying - though you better have already located the necessary proof/evidence. If you interview them at the Police Station and decide to charge them your rating will either go up or down depending on whether you were correct in your accusation. As a Cop, once you have solved a case you and your partner can go out on another case or potter around town in your Patrol Car listening to the hits of the 40's on the radio or just cruising and discovering different sites and sights of LA. You can even respond to a Call-Out by the Police dispatcher. What you cannot do is go around firing your gun for the heck of it, it is there, as is any weapon, only as decoration or part of the uniform if the current situation demands it - ie you are being shot at or a perp has a victim under their gun.

 

LA NOIRE has super looking characters and the whole scene is the brilliantly defined 1940's, as seen by most of us in the movies - particularly The Godfather, Live and Die in LA, City Heat etc.The characters movement can be a bit cartoonish as you control them via the joypad/controller allowing them to move 90 degrees sideways in a zig-zagging motion that most humans couldn't copy. The voice talent is excellent, very Casablanca, and the criminals/perps are quite often the sleazy types seen in such films.

If you have a PS4 and like historic Noir cinema (maybe historic but not necessary factual) then you cannot help but enjoy this game. If you are playing it on a large screen TV, the larger the better, the more intense it gets and the more concentration you will need - but it's all in the good cause of entertainment. I am now torn between GTA and LA NOIRE and it may be a bit of a cop out (clue intended) I think I currently prefer being on the side of Law & Order - but that's this week!

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015