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Old 05-27-2011, 04:33 PM   #1
Eric Bowman
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Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

**Fifth Draft: June 2nd. Addressed Sparky's criticisms.

*Fourth Draft: June 1st. Addressed Richard's additional criticisms.


L.A. Noire Review

The City of Angels... And Hairbrushes


HIGH: Accidentally stumbling upon a bloody knife in a trash can that was key to the case.

LOW: Struggling to find a barely-visible cigarette in the neighbor's yard for a half hour.

WTF: Why are there no dirty cars in LA?


With all the fuss made about L.A. Noire's motion capture technology, many people may be surprised to find there's an actual game underneath, and a pretty good one at that. I mention this because developers who talk more about the tech behind a game than the game itself tend to make me nervous. Amazing visuals didn't help the Star Wars prequels, and the same can happen to games if the technology isn't utilized in a way that makes the player care about what's going on. (Final Fantasy XIII comes to mind.)

Rockstar's latest epic avoids this terrible fate, but at the same time doesn't reach the bar it acted so confident in setting. What we're left with is a good game that was greatly oversold as being revolutionary. This isn't some beautiful hybridization of film and videogames, and the technology doesn't revolutionize storytelling. Even so, L.A. Noire knows how to get its hooks into you, and was certainly worth the cost of admission.

As a detective, War Hero Cole Phelps will engage in car chases, clue-finding, and interrogations; the latter of which players were told would make the most out of L.A. Noire's technology, allowing the player to accurately judge if someone was lying or telling the truth, although I never really understood what the purpose of the “Doubt” option was. So are the interrogations enjoyable? Yes. Is this technology somewhat undermined by how blatantly obvious it is to tell if someone's telling the truth or not? Also yes. The stuttering and panicked looks can be greatly overdone at times, and the interrogations would've been much more gripping if that had been toned down.

The Lie option in itself also has a major problem, and that's the fact that the evidence required to execute an accusation is far too specific. Even if the player is correct in accusing him/her of lying, picking the wrong piece of evidence will still get you counted as incorrect. One of the worst examples I can think of is when I was interrogating a man I suspected killed his wife. I ask him about the deterioration of his marriage, and he tells me they were happy together. I accuse him of lying, and cite the death threat directed towards his wife that I found in his house as proof that they weren't getting along. Apparently, I'm the only one who connected those two, because the game told me I got the question wrong, and only later did I find out I had to use something his neighbor had said to nail him. This simple oversight was a major drag on one of L.A. Noire's key elements.

Of course, if Detective Phelps wants evidence, he needs to look for it. The clue-finding was the thing I was most worried about going into L.A. Noire, but I've come out pretty positive on it. Team Bondi made a good decision in having the areas to search through be rather small, so I was never going through a mansion looking for one spec of dust. It's pretty simple, but not to the point of being dull. The game would occasionally overdo it with irrelevant objects, though. I've inspected so many hairbrushes in this game, I was expecting there to be a case called “The Hairbrush Murder.”

There aren't many games where the action sequences are the least interesting thing to talk about, but L.A. Noire is one of them. Don't get me wrong, they're good. Some of them are very good, one in particular being a sequence where you chase a trolley down a busy street. Some of the action sequences seemed rather forced, though, probably to ensure any gamers fresh off of Black Ops didn't fall asleep. Overall, the action sequences serve their purpose, but don't expect to be blown away by them.

Graphically, the game is fantastic. It's nice to see such graphical power being used on something other than a giant explosion or an alien spaceship, but instead on a detailed recreation of a time period that hasn't gotten much attention in videogames before now. Los Angeles felt as fresh and creative as any fantasy or sci-fi world I've been to in a videogame. This is the best looking game I've played on Xbox 360.


The graphical beauty of this game brings me to the biggest problem with it: its beauty is skin deep. The ultimate irony with L.A. Noire is that for a game set in a city with such a focus on entertainment, it never lets Cole Phelps have any fun. Perhaps I want this game to be too much like Grand Theft Auto IV, but it's not like this game takes place in the Dark Ages. There were plenty of ways to have fun in the 40's. It would be great if the game let me go bowling, see an old movie, or check out some television of the time period. This would allow me to engage more characters with some levity, rather than having to always be talking about death, rape, and drugs. I don't want to judge a game by what it should've been rather than what it was, but the city could've been so much more.

Although the lack of additional activities was a big issue, it actually speaks to the strongest part of L.A. Noire, and that's the dramatic weight the story sustains from start to finish. Just about every aspect of this dangerous city worked to make every crime feel as real to me as possible. The motion capture and acting greatly helped me feel for these characters as I revealed to them a loved one had been murdered. So to tie this back to the lack of additional activites issue, the reason I wanted L.A. Noire to have distractions so much was because the game's increasingly disturbing narrative can be mentally exhausting to the point that I wanted an escape from it, and that bold tone is not something a lot of games can effectively pull off.

Almost every aspect of L.A. Noire has flaws, enough to keep me from considering it the masterpiece that so many reviewers have. What saves the game for me is the incredible craftsmanship of the entire city and its inhabitants. I love the feel of my 1940's car going through a gorgeous recreation of Los Angeles, the relief of nailing a line of questioning, and the satisfaction of chasing down a fleeing criminal. While the flaws in the interrogation system and lack of side-activities certainly chipped away at my enjoyment and immersion, they weren't able to stop me from having a specific kind of fun that videogames haven't been able to nail before now.





8.0 out of 10



Disclosures: This game was bought from Best Buy for the Xbox 360. Approximately 20 hours were devoted to the story, and the game was completed. An additional 5 hours were put into redoing cases to get a better score. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game is rated M for Mature by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, and Violence. The game actually isn't as violent as I thought it would be, but in terms of nudity, language, and drug use, it is undoubtedly not meant for children. In addition, I doubt very many children will understand the game, so there's a good chance they won't like it anyway.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game offers subtitles that show up MOST of the time, although the occasional unscripted dialogue won't show up. (Such as when you shove a pedestrian and your partner yells at you) It's recommended to play with vibration ON because the indicators of a clue being nearby are a vibration and a noise, so without vibration, you'll have no indicator.

Last edited by Eric Bowman; 06-02-2011 at 07:39 PM. Reason: Shortening Review, other things (see above)
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Old 05-27-2011, 06:04 PM   #2
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Very nice first review!

I'd drop the case spoilers. I dont think theyre necessary.
Other than that the only criticism I'd offer would be to cut a paragraph/focus your criticism of the game environment.

I knew what you were getting at, having felt the same way about Red Dead Redemption.. a beautiful yet strangely uninteractive & uninteresting game world? I get that totally.

Anyway, I'll holler at the mods to check your review out! It's good stuff, I think.
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Old 05-27-2011, 06:12 PM   #3
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Quote:
Originally Posted by RandomRob View Post
Very nice first review!

I'd drop the case spoilers. I dont think theyre necessary.
Other than that the only criticism I'd offer would be to cut a paragraph/focus your criticism of the game environment.

I knew what you were getting at, having felt the same way about Red Dead Redemption.. a beautiful yet strangely uninteractive & uninteresting game world? I get that totally.

Anyway, I'll holler at the mods to check your review out! It's good stuff, I think.
Thanks for the kind words, Rob! ^_^
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Old 05-27-2011, 10:57 PM   #4
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Good first draft, but there are a few things that need addressing.

1) The review is to long. For this site, reviews should be around 1000 words.

2) You keep going from first-person to second-person. Here, they prefer the writers to use first-person in their writing. Use words like "the player" and "I" instead of "you" and "we."

Fix those things and I'll be happy to give it another read for ya.
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Old 05-27-2011, 11:56 PM   #5
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Quote:
Originally Posted by coyls3 View Post
Good first draft, but there are a few things that need addressing.

1) The review is to long. For this site, reviews should be around 1000 words.

2) You keep going from first-person to second-person. Here, they prefer the writers to use first-person in their writing. Use words like "the player" and "I" instead of "you" and "we."

Fix those things and I'll be happy to give it another read for ya.
Thanks for the comment! Just to be clear, since I'm new to this, what do you mean "give it another read"? Is there a way to resubmit this after editting? If so, is there a special way to do this, or do I just post it again?

Thanks!

Last edited by Eric Bowman; 05-28-2011 at 01:54 PM.
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Old 05-28-2011, 06:19 AM   #6
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

You can repost or just re-edit the original post. If you do the latter, post a msg letting ppl know what changes you made
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Old 05-28-2011, 06:01 PM   #7
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Thanks Rob, I editted the review to reduce it from 1809 words to 1398.
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Old 05-28-2011, 10:43 PM   #8
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

still unsure about this game. very good review tho.
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Old 05-29-2011, 03:17 AM   #9
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

I think this has some potential, but try to address the following:
  • Don't use "you" ever, unless it's a rhetorical question or something like that.
  • In the first paragraph you say the game was "greatly oversold". What exactly was it hyped as that it did not live up to?
  • Not sure what this means:

    Quote:
    Although the lack of things to do in the world is a big issue with the game, it actually speaks to the strongest part of L.A. Noire, and that's the dramatic weight the story provides
    The following paragraph doesn't really explain it. How exactly does the lack of things to do add dramatic weight?
  • Can you be a little more specific in regards to what saved the game for you in the face of all the problems? Was it the "craftsmanship" of the city itself? Of the cases? The characters?
  • Gotta cut down the word count. The 1000 word goal isn't a hard limit, but try to make your arguments a little more concise. I'll leave it to you to decide what to cut, but I'm not feeling that your arguments require this much text.

I realize I'm trying to pull you in two different directions by asking you to cut down on wordiness while expanding some of your explanations () but it's the balance that every writer must find, and sometimes it can be tough. Give it another rewrite while keeping an lookout for broad statements that aren't backed up, and let's see what you come up with.
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Old 05-29-2011, 09:00 AM   #10
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Naik View Post
I think this has some potential, but try to address the following:
  • Don't use "you" ever, unless it's a rhetorical question or something like that.
  • In the first paragraph you say the game was "greatly oversold". What exactly was it hyped as that it did not live up to?
  • Not sure what this means:



    The following paragraph doesn't really explain it. How exactly does the lack of things to do add dramatic weight?
  • Can you be a little more specific in regards to what saved the game for you in the face of all the problems? Was it the "craftsmanship" of the city itself? Of the cases? The characters?
  • Gotta cut down the word count. The 1000 word goal isn't a hard limit, but try to make your arguments a little more concise. I'll leave it to you to decide what to cut, but I'm not feeling that your arguments require this much text.

I realize I'm trying to pull you in two different directions by asking you to cut down on wordiness while expanding some of your explanations () but it's the balance that every writer must find, and sometimes it can be tough. Give it another rewrite while keeping an lookout for broad statements that aren't backed up, and let's see what you come up with.
Thanks for the advice, Richard!
  • Good call, I made sure to take all of those out.
  • I see what you mean, I added to that paragraph to explain what it was hyped as being.
  • I feel the final sentence of the paragraph makes it more clear:

    Quote:
    So I guess the reason I wanted L.A. Noire to have distractions so much was because the game's narrative can be mentally exhausting due to its tone and depth, and that's not something a lot of games can pull off.
    Basically, I'm saying I wanted side-activities because the game's dark tone started to wear on me after a while, and I was sick of dealing with death, drugs, rape, etc. Not many games these days can cause such emotional exhaustion, and I think the fact that L.A. Noire was able to speaks to its craftsmanship.
  • I found the interrogations, clue finding, and action sequences enjoyable, but what really pulled the game out of the fire was the amount of detail throughout the world. As I said, the feel of driving a 1940's car through a beautifully recreated L.A. provides a great feeling that this game has in spades. So that's what really saved it for me, despite the game's many flaws.
  • I'll try to cut down on the word count some more. It's tough, because I use a lot of specific in-game examples, and this can get wordy pretty quickly, but I agree, the review needs to be shorter.

    Thanks again, Richard!
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Old 05-29-2011, 10:46 AM   #11
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Just made my third draft of the review. It is now down to 1,094 words, and I've addressed the criticisms I've been provided.

Thanks for reading
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Old 06-01-2011, 01:14 PM   #12
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Hey Decabo, a couple more things:
  • You've got a typo in the 6th paragraph-I think you meant to say "least interesting thing to talk about".
  • Don't use bolding for emphasis in a review-use italics.
  • In the 9th paragraph, take out the "so I guess" portion of the sentence about why you wanted more distractions. You're trying to be definitive about how you feel, so uncertainty isn't something you want to communicate.
  • ALso in the 9th paragraph, be a little bit more specific about your point on the story's dramatic weight. For example, instead of " and that's the dramatic weight the story it provides", say something like "the story was so dramatically heavy I wanted a distraction". Try to be as blunt about your points so the reader understands you as quickly as possible.

You're very close Decabo. Just a few more tweaks and I think this will be ready.
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Old 06-01-2011, 05:08 PM   #13
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Fourth Draft: 6/1 (Will update OP as well)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Decabo View Post


LA Noire Review

The City of Angels... And Hairbrushes


HIGH: Accidentally stumbling upon a bloody knife in a trash can that was key to the case.

LOW: Struggling to find a barely-visible cigarette in the neighbor's yard for a half hour.

WTF: Why are there no dirty cars in LA?


With all the fuss made about L.A. Noire's motion capture technology, many people may be surprised to find there's an actual game underneath, and a pretty good one at that. I mention this because developers who talk more about the tech behind a game than the game itself tend to make me nervous. Amazing visuals didn't help the Star Wars prequels, and the same can happen to games if the technology isn't utilized in a way that makes the player care about what's going on. (Final Fantasy XIII comes to mind.)

Rockstar's latest epic avoids this terrible fate, but at the same time doesn't reach the bar it acted so confident in setting. What we're left with is a good game that was greatly oversold as being revolutionary. This isn't some beautiful hybridization of film and videogames, and the technology doesn't revolutionize story-telling. Even so, L.A. Noire knows how to get its hooks into you, and was certainly worth the cost of admission.

As a detective, War Hero Cole Phelps will engage in car chases, clue-finding, and interrogations; the latter of which players were told would make the most out of L.A. Noire's technology, allowing the player to accurately judge if someone was lying or telling the truth, although I never really understood what the purpose of the “Doubt” option was. So are the interrogations enjoyable? Yes. Is this technology somewhat undermined by how blatantly obvious it is to tell if someone's telling the truth or not? Also yes. The stuttering and panicked looks can be greatly overdone at times, and the interrogations would've been much more gripping if that had been toned down.

The Lie option in itself also has a major problem, and that's the fact that the evidence required to execute an accusation is far too specific. Even if the player is correct in accusing him/her of lying, picking the wrong piece of evidence will still get you counted as incorrect. One of the worst examples I can think of is when I was interrogating a man I suspected killed his wife. I ask him about the deterioration of his marriage, and he tells me they were happy together. I accuse him of lying, and cite the death threat directed towards his wife that I found in his house as proof that they weren't getting along. Apparently, I'm the only one who connected those two, because the game told me I got the question wrong, and only later did I find out I had to use something his neighbor had said to nail him. This simple oversight was a major drag on one of L.A. Noire's key elements.

Of course, if Detective Phelps wants evidence, he needs to look for it. The clue-finding was the thing I was most worried about going into L.A. Noire, but I've come out pretty positive on it. Team Bondi made a good decision in having the areas to search through be rather small, so I was never going through a mansion looking for one spec of dust. It's pretty simple, but not to the point of being dull. The game would occasionally overdo it with irrelevant objects, though. I've inspected so many hairbrushes in this game, I was expecting there to be a case called “The Hairbrush Murder.”

There aren't many games where the action sequences are the least interesting thing to talk about, but L.A. Noire is one of them. Don't get me wrong, they're good. Some of them are very good, one in particular being a sequence where you chase a trolley down a busy street. Some of the action sequences seemed rather forced, though, probably to ensure any gamers fresh off of Black Ops didn't fall asleep. Overall, the action sequences serve their purpose, but don't expect to be blown away by them.

Graphically, the game is fantastic. It's nice to see such graphical power being used on something other than a giant explosion or an alien spaceship, but instead on a detailed recreation of a time period that hasn't gotten much attention in videogames before now. This is the best looking game I've played on Xbox 360.

The graphical beauty of this game brings me to the biggest problem with it: its beauty is skin deep. The ultimate irony with L.A. Noire is that for a game set in a city with such a focus on entertainment, it never lets Cole Phelps have any fun. Perhaps I want this game to be too much like a Grand Theft Auto, but it's not like this game takes place in the Dark Ages, there was plenty of ways to have fun in the 40's. It would be fun to go bowling, or see an old movie. This would allow you to engage more characters in a much more levity, rather than having to always be talking about death, rape, or drugs. I don't want to judge a game by what it should've been rather than what it was, but the city could've been so much more.

Although the lack of additional activities was a big issue, it actually speaks to the strongest part of L.A. Noire, and that's the dramatic weight the story sustains to such a degree that I felt I needed a distraction. Just about every aspect of this dangerous city worked to put me in the shoes of Cole Phelps in a way that made me want to play for hours on end. Los Angeles felt as fresh and creative as any fantasy or sci-fi world I've been to in a videogame. The motion capture and acting greatly helps you feel for these characters as you reveal to them a loved one has been murdered. So to tie this back to the lack of additional activites issue, the reason I wanted L.A. Noire to have more of them so much was because the game's narrative can be mentally exhausting due to its tone and depth to the point that I desperately wanted to get away from it, and that bold tone is not something a lot of games can effectively pull off.

Almost every aspect of L.A. Noire has flaws, enough to keep me from considering it the masterpiece that so many reviewers have. What saves the game for me is the incredible craftsmanship of the entire city. I love the feel of my 1940's car going through a gorgeous recreation of Los Angeles, opting for the scenic route whenever I could. And while the flaws in the interrogation system and lack of side-activities certainly chipped away at my enjoyment and immersion, they weren't able to stop me from having a specific kind of fun that videogames haven't been able to nail before now.





8.0 out of 10



Disclosures: This game was bought from Best Buy for the Xbox 360. Approximately 20 hours were devoted to the story, and the game was completed. An additional 5 hours were put into redoing cases to get a better score. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game is rated M for Mature by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, and Violence. The game actually isn't as violent as I thought it would be, but in terms of nudity, language, and drug use, it is undoubtedly not meant for children. In addition, I doubt very many children will understand the game, so there's a good chance they won't like it anyway.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game offers subtitles that show up MOST of the time, although the occasional unscripted dialogue won't show up. (Such as when you shove a pedestrian and your partner yells at you) It's recommended to play with vibration ON because the indicators of a clue being nearby are a vibration and a noise, so without vibration, you'll have no indicator.
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Old 06-01-2011, 05:23 PM   #14
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Naik View Post
Hey Decabo, a couple more things:
  • You've got a typo in the 6th paragraph-I think you meant to say "least interesting thing to talk about".
  • Don't use bolding for emphasis in a review-use italics.
  • In the 9th paragraph, take out the "so I guess" portion of the sentence about why you wanted more distractions. You're trying to be definitive about how you feel, so uncertainty isn't something you want to communicate.
  • ALso in the 9th paragraph, be a little bit more specific about your point on the story's dramatic weight. For example, instead of " and that's the dramatic weight the story it provides", say something like "the story was so dramatically heavy I wanted a distraction". Try to be as blunt about your points so the reader understands you as quickly as possible.

You're very close Decabo. Just a few more tweaks and I think this will be ready.
Thanks for your continued help Richard, all of your points have been well addressed.
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Old 06-01-2011, 10:24 PM   #15
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Re: Please Rate This Review: L.A. Noire

This looks pretty good, but that paragraph about dramatic weight still needs some work. It ends up being redundant; if you like the second way you phrased it better, just use that. Also, the paragraph makes the main story sound oppressive rather than intense, which may not be what you're going for. Maybe don't say that you "desperately" wanted to get away from it.

There are still a few minor grammatical things you should check, too. For instance, the sentence "Perhaps I want this game to be too much like a Grand Theft Auto..." is a run-on and has a subject-verb agreement error.

Otherwise, I agree that it's pretty close.
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