L.A. Noire is an ambitous cop thriller game following the exploits of policeman Cole Phelps as he rises through the ranks of 40s LAPD.
First impressions of L.A. Noire were perhaps over enthusiastic, and the later release of the PC version allows us a more measured view of this interesting game. While it features the huge open world landscape of Los Angeles, L.A. Noire is no GTA sandbox. Rather, this is a game of detective episodes that take place within the city.
As well as exploration, driving and shooting, Cole Phelps spends a great deal of time looking for clues at crime scenes, and interrogating suspects. Interrogations take advantage of the impressively realistic facial animations in the game. To succeed you need to read the faces of your potential criminals, which is a new experience for gamers. Looking for clues is a little more mundane, but there are subtle in-game pointers to make sure you don't get stuck. The stories are well written and acted, really giving L.A. Noire the feeling of an excellent interactive TV cop drama.
There are problems with the game. L.A. Noire is very linear, and although you can do better or worse in interrogations and crime scene investigations, you cannot fail. The game will help you, with a phone call for example, to make sure Cole Phelps has what he needs to get the case moving. The city of Los Angeles is impressive, but doesn't have the 'living city' feel that GTA IV's Liberty City achieved. Playing L.A. Noire sometimes feels like exploring a huge replica of a city, not like actually being a cop in a city.
These criticisms shouldn't dissuade players. L.A. Noire is a deeply satisfying game with some interesting an innovative ideas. Humans faces have never looked so realistic, and the production values are excellent.