Being a cop on the gritty streets of LA Noire
Playing and attempting to review L.A. Noire is a massive undertaking, especially for a part-time game reviewer. Like most Rockstar Games, L.A. Noire pushes the boundaries of common scope. As a result, I've decided to not even attempt a full review of L.A. Noire. Rather, like a skilled detective, I'll be dissecting the game into specific categories and speaking to each of them. I'd like to start with what to me, is the biggest draw of the game: The police work. Not the interrogations or the evidence collecting, but the gritty, ground level policing.
When I'm playing L.A. Noire, I really do feel like I am Cole Phelps, an ambitious police detective, willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done and stop the bad guys. Whether it's chasing a suspect down the street, having to jump fences and dodge cars, or engaging in a high stakes hostage taking situation, the game really captures the thrills and action of the edgy police drama genre. There have been few gaming moments as satisfying to me as the first time I chased a suspect down an alley, weaved through busy LA traffic, and finally had to fire a warning shot to get my suspect to stop fleeing before hauling him in.
As you move from case to case, you will receive radio calls ranging from armed robbery to suicide attempts, and everything in between. The radio calls are optional, so those who are determined to continually climb the ranks of the LAPD can stay focused on their career making cases. However, those of us who are determined to keep the streets of Hollywood clean, you can accept the radio calls, throw on your sirens, and continue your crusade against crime.
Depending on where you are in the story, being diverted from your case can actually hurt your effectiveness as a detective. In a case summary report, I was informed that had I followed up on a lead sooner, I could have caught some goons in the act of threatening a person of interest. However, I stand by my decision to prioritize the robbery of a man's shoes. Being able to make these snap decisions, and actually have in-game penalties as a result of them definitely aid in the level of immersion.
The game isn't exactly perfect as a police simulator. Most of the cases I've worked and even many of the radio calls I've taken have ended in gunplay, with one or more (sometimes dozens!) of suspects ending up dead as a result. I'm not sure if things were different 60 years ago, but I can't imagine a police officer now moving up the ranks with such speed, after so many on the job shootings. I'm also amazed at how many times Cole has his hat shot off, only to be replaced the next time he arrives back at his car. I like to pretend the trunk is filled with hundreds of nifty hats.
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