Team Bondi’s period noir mystery set against the backdrop of 1940s Los Angeles was so different from the gritty, open-world games that existed around it. The studio would ultimately shut down, and no sequel or game like it would ever appear, but thanks to Rockstar Games for enhancing and re-releasing L.A. Noire for a new generation of players to experience this unique game. For the sake of clarity, I’m calling this game and review a “remaster”. L.A. Noire is at times uncomfortable, but accurate to the era of post-war Los Angeles, and stays intriguing throughout.
Taking place in 1947, after the World War II, Cole Phelps has joined the Los Angeles Police Department as a budding detective, and his traumatic past comes along with him. You see Cole has an unnatural ability for being a cop, and you see him quickly rise through the ranks of the LAPD, to others praise and many others dismay. Seeing Cole become affected by the crimes he investigates is disheartening, because he becomes progressively worse as the game goes on. He becomes less of a hero you want to root for.
L.A. Noire was not a Grand Theft Auto clone in 2011 with its original release, and still isn’t, despite the publisher being Rockstar Games. Sure, it has its share of car chases, shootouts, and sex, but that’s not what the game is at its core. This is a game where thinking and reading people are the focus. You’ll perform pretty lengthy and involved investigations. There’s edgy cases that are inspired by real-life crimes. And when you’ve collected all the evidence, it is time to interrogate. This is an interesting element because it relies heavily on the motion and facial capture engine to display whether someone is telling the truth, lying, or what. These facial animations are exaggerated for this purpose. It is here that L.A. Noire Remastered‘s biggest and welcome change updates the dialogue choices from “Truth, Doubt, and Lie” to “Good Cop, Bad Cop, and Accuse”. This falls more in-line with the types of responses Cole gives when “Bad Cop” is chosen, where before it was suggested that “Doubt” would be subtle.
Over the course of replaying the 21 cases, I had lots of “oh, I remember this one” moments. It wasn’t so much the ins and outs of each case, but I knew the story beats well enough. This game now includes all of the previously released DLC that expand and are in some ways more interesting cases than the ones that come with the main game, touching on topics of the era that seem silly by today’s standards. This is a linear game, but you can replay cases at any time, or explore the open-world. The faithfully recreated 1947 Los Angeles isn’t very vibrant or exciting as an open-world on its own, but there’s street crimes that can be completed, collectibles to find (including new ones for this release), and cars to acquire. After all, you are a police officer, it doesn’t offer the freedom of being a vigilante like a Trevor Phillips or Niko Bellic might. There’s a compelling story arc and era-appropriate crimes keep the interest going.
The facial and motion capture still impressive, and doesn’t show its seams as it did on PS3 and Xbox 360. Detective Cole Phelps is played by Aaron Staton. Other appearances by actors like Greg Grunburg, Carla Gallo, Daniel Roebuck, and Kurt Fuller are ones you know by face, but not necessarily by name. It’s really cool to see and just have conversations with them, and it never feels immersion-breaking.
While this is a remaster, L.A. Noire looks better than its PS3 and Xbox 360 predecessors, but it is still locked at 30fps. The remaster supports 4K, or runs in native 1080p. The PC version of the game is untouched, but that version can do higher resolutions and 60fps. Other things to note about this release is that Rockstar updated the game’s weather, smog, and lighting effects. Vehicles now have real-time reflections for chrome, and dirt has different layers of grime. The game also gets new cinematic camera angles for helping solve crimes and for player enjoyment. Things from palm trees to god rays all enhance the experience. Even each of the props you investigate at close detail get visual overhauls. A lot of work went into this, and it shows.
L.A. Noire is a game that feels better on this current generation of consoles over the last. The ability to replay cases gives plenty of reasons to get perfect ratings on each one. The investigations are deep, and rewarding as you solve each one. L.A. Noire has been given a second chance, and while flawed it is like nothing else out there today. Whether you are returning to 1940s Los Angeles, or starting new, L.A. Noire being remastered for PS4, Xbox One, and Switch is worth every bit of the experience, like a modern day adventure game.
A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for review purposes