Back in 2011, L.A. Noire was a strange technical showpiece that was both disjointed and mesmerising in almost the same scenes. The 1940’s detective thriller features some state-of-the-art facial capture; the best at the time really, allowing its actors to bring their characters to life in ways that a real detective game required. And it worked, but the many parts around it failed to deliver on a title that was even and engrossing all the way through. And despite some neat visual touch-ups here and there, the same is true for L.A Noire in 2017.
Released as a remaster on Xbox One and PS4 (and ported over to Nintendo Switch), L.A. Noire now stands as a far more complete package for those who might have never tried it. It includes a full 21 detective cases, ranging from your early days as a beat cop, the dirty world of Vice, and the more captivating moment in homicide. The game bundles together the core story and the additional DLC cases that were released after the fact. They give you some additional time in the dingy crime scenes of L.A, but don’t really add much to the otherwise complete narrative.
And that narrative is still as hit and miss as you might remember. Protagonist Detective Cole Phelps still ranks in as a finely crafted case, with his own backstory and personality shining through his performance. He’s the most interesting piece in play here, while many of the supporting cast fail to live up to him. There are some standout performances on some cases for sure, but Cole’s arc is riveting and noteworthy in a way that the overall story doesn’t deserve. It shows its hand in too many ways too quickly, and doesn’t quite get to the stop it wants to in time for the credits to roll.
Gameplay hasn’t changed much at all, which means you’ll still mostly be sorting through crimes scenes with a bunch of useless junk lying around and wrestling with the same sticky shooting. What has changed for the better, however, is interrogations. Originally L.A. Noire featured three response types: Truth, Doubt and Lie. Each three did a bad job of foreshadowing how Cole would respond to those he was questioning, often leading to some strange bouts of shouting when all you wanted to do was question a simple response.
Instead, the remaster labels these responses as Good Cop, Bad Cop and Accuse, which does a better (but not perfect) job. Hitting Bad Cop to try to squeeze more information out of a reserved suspect makes more sense, but Cole still has some odd lines that don’t seem to line up with any of your expectations. Still, it’s the preferred method over the original, and a change that does make the most important aspect of this game a little more predictable.
The realistic motion captures for all important faces also plays into this, but six years haven’t been as kind to this technology as you might have expected. Since then games have quantum leaped forward in terms of technological advancements, making the once benchmark setting feature feel very out of place. They’re still crucial to the gameplay in a way that many other games can’t touch, but it’s going to make you raise your eyebrow more than before. Especially when you recognise how janky every other animation in the game feels in comparison.
The remaster does spruce up the rest of the visual presentation in a neat way though, including some decent HDR support for both Xbox One and PS4. It makes driving through the dark streets of L.A slightly more ambient, while also adding some weight to crime scenes in dodgy alleyways. It’s a neat addition if you have the TV to support it, while resolution bumps and slight texture upgrades don’t quite impact the overall presentation as much. It’s an empty world most of the time, with the less detailed texture work you might have already forgotten about in the years of truly remarkable visual leaps forwards. Expected, but still slightly disappointing.
L.A. Noire is still a game you probably should play at some point, if only to engage with the experimental take on a noir thriller and to see its once phenomenal motion capture in work. But returning to this adventure only shows its flaws in a stronger light. And if you’ve already solved the case of Cole, it’s a hard sell to do it all over again.
Last Updated: November 24, 2017