In 2011, a game released for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 that surprised just about everyone with how differently it played given the developer who made it. LA Noire is a detective game where the emphasis was plainly centered upon facial animations, reactions, and storytelling, making it something unique in the gaming industry. Six years later, LA Noire is still quite the unique experience, obtaining a release on 2017’s hottest little handheld hybrid. So, is LA Noire worth walking the beat, or should this old cop have retired? Let’s find out.
LA Noire has the player assume control of Cole Phelps, a former military man who works his way up to detective in the 1940’s LAPD. Players will investigate crime scenes, interrogate suspects, gather facts about the case, wheedle information out of suspects you believe may be lying, or even accuse them of crimes. Easily the most challenging and interesting aspect of LA Noire lays within its interrogation system. Motion capture technology was used to gather facial details, so every grimace, every wayward glance or nervous shuffle, can be a clue that someone is lying to you to put you on the wrong track.
It’s difficult to go into the story of LA Noire without spoiling bits and pieces of it, but overall information on how the campaign of the game runs is this: Players investigate crime scenes, drive through the city from one destination to the next to interrogate suspects, gather information, and more, throughout the 21 cases the story presents you.
LA Noire does feature a type of open world atmosphere for players to roam around in, though it is somewhat lacking in activities in comparison to other games Rockstar has published in the past. Players track collected information in their log books, and when properly prepared, you name and arrest the perpetrator and continue climbing your way through a tale of illegal activities and corruption.
Vehicles drive up and down the streets of Los Angeles, and pedestrians are all over sidewalks just waiting to get in your way, but there’s really not a lot to do in LA Noire’s environment so it all seems a bit lifeless.
It’s a lot like No More Heroes from the Wii: The open world is there, but it is mostly to let you get from point A to point B. Sure, you can stop and find a rare car or random collectable here or there, but there’s nothing that is going to excite your inner, “Gotta catch ’em all” instinct in LA Noire’s world, which is going to make the open world function more like a long loading screen in between story events for a lot of players.
As far as graphics go, each version of the game looks dated in 2017. The lighting, especially in the Switch version, looks conspicuously similar to what it did in 2011. The facial animations are still top notch, however, and will assuredly look good for many years to come. There are a few areas and scenes where the frame rate noticeably fell below 30fps, but thankfully these moments were few and far between. I do not know if the same frame drops occur in docked vs portable mode, as this game was mostly played in handheld mode for purposes of this review.
The reason for handheld mode being most of the playthrough is due to the fact that Rockstar utilized many capabilities of the Switch for small quality of life improvements. The game can be played entirely with the touch screen (though I believe you still need to use a button to get into the menu), as you can tap a corpse’s jacket pocket to find a slip of paper inside, swipe to manipulate objects on screen, etc. Disconnecting both joy-cons and playing almost entirely on the touch screen is an option, and it’s very interesting that it was included for those who might like to use such a feature.
Similarly, players can also use motion controls for when Cole inspects objects or for aiming during a gun fight. Many players may prefer to use the sticks instead, and thankfully for those individuals these features don’t have to be utilized at all. The fact that these options were included is impressive, as it is actually quite above and beyond what third party developers normally do for different hardware.
Overall, LA Noire for the Nintendo Switch may not be the prettiest looking version of the game, but it is definitely worth playing if you’re interested in story-heavy games that you can play on the go. The open world aspect of LA Noire hasn’t improved a bit since it was last played on the Xbox 360, but everything else is either just as good or better than it was six years ago, and now in portable form for those that wish to take advantage of that.
Those who prefer open worlds that let them stray away from the story missions for lengthy periods of time may be disappointed by LA Noire, but there’s a great story to unravel for those who are willing to overlook minor shortcomings like a poor open world or the occasional fps drop during specific areas. The game is a treat, and an easy recommendation for anyone who likes the old school noir setting, story-driven games, or games about police detectives. Those who prefer open worlds that let them stray away from the story missions however, may be disappointed by the latest remake.