Gaming

Embark on a sleuthing adventure in the 1940s

Modelled after stylish, neo-noir films, L.A. Noire remains true to its time period. You can even opt to play the game in black and white.
Modelled after stylish, neo-noir films, L.A. Noire remains true to its time period. You can even opt to play the game in black and white.PHOTO: L.A. NOIRE

L.A. Noire tops its genre with impressive motion capture, realistic investigation work

Released in 2011 for last-generation consoles, L.A. Noire was a rare gem, a crime investigation game that made you feel like a real investigator.

It was presented like those stylish, 1940s neo-noir films. You play as Cole Phelps, voiced and motion-captured by actor Aaron Staton, probably best known for his role in the long-running drama series Mad Men. Having returned home from military service, Phelps took on a job as a patrol officer. Through promotion and reassignment, he gets to handle a variety of cases from various departments such as traffic, homicide, vice and arson.

The game has now been remastered for PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and HTC Vive, with the Vive version a virtual reality (VR) game. The remastered edition comes with a few tweaks. It also includes all the downloadable content for the original game, and the additional cases that were available through pre-order.

The highlight of this game is its huge motion capture work, which involved placing 32 cameras on each character, resulting in a visually stunning display of facial expressions and body language. This tests your observation skills when you interact with the various people of interest.

When questioning witnesses and suspects, you decide on an appropriate response. In the previous game, you choose from three dialogue options: "Truth", "Doubt" or "Lie". They have now been replaced by "Good Cop", "Bad Cop" and "Accuse", respectively, to reflect Phelps' attitude. The right option earns Intuition points that can help you get a better outcome in tricky interrogation sessions.

Like most titles of a similar genre from developer Rockstar, there is a fair amount of running and driving. But in this game, shooting is allowed during specific moments, probably because you're a law enforcer. Due to the era that this game is set in - the year is 1947 - you will have to adjust to the limitations of that time.

For example, while you can set a waypoint to the next destination based on the mini-map, there is no global positioning system or voice-assisted navigation to guide you at every turn.

  • 8/10

    RATING

    PRICE: From $54.90 (PS4, the version tested; Nintendo Switch, XboxOne); $39.90 for the HTC Vive version

    GENRE: Detective adventure

If you need the address of a place, you will have to find the nearest telephone - no mobile phones here - to make a call to headquarters. And Phelps relies on his trusty notebook and pen to take and review pertinent details and evidence. Everything is true to the time period.

It's a pity that while the locations are faithfully recreated, there are not many places in the buildings that you can freely explore (most of the doors are locked), other than those determined by the plot.

There are a bunch of collectables to look out for, such as badges, gold film reels, landmarks and vehicles. A perfect collection earns you rewards and trophy achievements. However, the most interesting collectables are newspaper bundles. Each copy you pick up will trigger short cinematic footage that provides depth to a back story of the plot.

If you have played the original L.A. Noire, you will know that replaying the cases again never gets old, especially those inspired by classic films such as The Naked City, The Untouchables and LA Confidential. You can even switch to playing the game in black and white as a homage to the film noir format.

There are also side missions known as Street Crimes. While not related to the storyline, they add to the backdrop - the city may look peaceful, but there's always crime lurking here and there.

If you have played the original L.A. Noire, you will know that replaying the cases again never gets old, especially those inspired by classic films such as The Naked City, The Untouchables and LA Confidential. You can even switch to playing the game in black and white as a homage to the film noir format.

Those looking for a fresh experience in L.A. Noire may want to check out the Nintendo Switch version, or the HTC Vive version which features selected cases playable in first-person view through the Vive VR device.

•Verdict: Six years on, L.A. Noire still stands out as an unmatched sleuthing adventure - one that also delights with its intriguing drama.

•Nizam Mohd is a freelance writer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Embark on a sleuthing adventure in the 1940s '. Print Edition | Subscribe