Life

Games: Police procedural LA Noire a vastly entertaining hard-boiled blast from the past

Players slip 'neath the grey flannel of Cole Phelps, a gumshoe tracking down a crazed sociopath in 1947 Los Angeles
Neil McGreevy

LA Noire (Multi)

By: Rockstar

AFTER taking their GTA formula to the dusty Old West with Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar stuck with period antics for 2011's LA Noire, though the hard-boiled crime epic wasn't the GTA: 1940s fans expected.

While there was plenty of driving and blasting, the lavishly mounted crime epic was less about gunplay and hooker-bashing, and remains the only videogame that comes close to a police procedural. And now the underrated gem gets bejazzled for PS4, Xbox and even the Switch, going all HD (or 4K with the right kit) and with a host of fun gubbins thrown in.

Doffing its fedora to Raymond Chandler, players slip 'neath the grey flannel of Cole Phelps, a gumshoe tracking down a crazed sociopath in 1947 through open-ended investigation and deduction in the City of Angels. Over 21 cases, Phelps moves through the ranks in a big city world of corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames. All Buicks and smoky jazz, LA Noire's rich period detail perfectly captures 40s Americana. Yet while it looks and sounds like GTA, this ain't GTA.

Sure, Cole gambols about (with much gate-scrambling cop chases), drives a vast array of shiny rides and fires off many a bullet, but these play second fiddle to investigation and interrogation.

Much of your time is spent combing crime scenes, collecting evidence and hob-nobbing with witnesses and suspects amid a minefield of red herrings, crosstalk and period patter. Of course, being Rockstar, you can still play it more Naked Gun than Columbo, careening through the scenery and pedestrians, while the Street Crimes side quests are welcome respite from the main event.

Using Cole's powers of observation, thousands of objects can be examined to open up investigations in the largest virtual world Rockstar has ever created while advanced facial motion-capture means players can pick up clues from how folk react during questioning. Even in the do-over, however, the tech still isn't quite up to the task, and it's easy to misread your perp's mug.

With full HD output, better textures and improved lighting (particularly welcome at night), this remake looks and sounds swish on every platform. There's 4K support for PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, virtual reality case files on Sony's PSVR and motion controls for the Switch, while all of the original's bonus content is present from the off.

Changing the often confusing interrogation options from "truth", "doubt" and "lie" to "good cop", "bad cop" and "accuse" may seem a cursory tweak but it makes much more sense when playing.

Deliriously dark n' dirty (boasting full frontal nudity and use of the C word), LA Noire is a hard-boiled, vastly entertaining throwback to an era when videogames didn't exist. For some sepia-toned blasting from the past awash in retro cool, this proves just as immersive and enjoyable now as back in 2011.

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