Arresting Development: ‘L.A. Noire’ Review

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Aside from great presentation, there’s an interesting use of asynchronous social play. If you’re a member of the Rockstar Social Club network, you can access community data by using Intuition. So, if you’re unsure of whether a suspect’s lying, you can see what option other people picked. Mind you, they all could’ve gotten it wrong, too. But it’s an interesting use of hivemind in an essentially solo game. Speaking of solo, it should be noted how Cole Phelps–ably portrayed by Mad Men‘s Aaron Stanton–stands apart as a new kind of Rockstar protagonist. It’s not just that he’s a police detective. It’s also that he’s so ambitious, arrogant and by-the-book as to be a little off-putting. The college-educated cop represents a shift in crime-fighting methodology, away from the bare-knuckle lawmen who’d beat confessions out of people, and towards more methodical procedures. The game built around Phelps is long and episodic in nature, with a subplot that only begins to coalesce in the game’s last third. Nevertheless, for Rockstar, Cole Phelps stands as a watermark of maturity for the developer that was held out only ten years ago as the worst the medium had to offer.

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You could dismiss L.A. Noire as a less-than-game, where you spend more time watching things unfold than pressing buttons or making things happen. However, watching is playing in this sometimes grisly detective title. It’s common to look away from the screen–to glance at Twitter or check e-mail–when playing through a game. But with L.A. Noire, the partnership of innovative technology and assured craftsmanship demands your attention in ways other games don’t. If you look away from Rockstar’s latest, you could fail to notice something important–a clue to another evolutionary offshoot of what modern video games can be. You don’t want to miss that; you’ll need the evidence for later.

Techland Score: 9.1 out of 10

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