Before there was the open world experience of gun toting criminals in flashy cars and violence-driven heists, such is the case with Grand Theft Auto V, there was L.A. Noire from Rockstar Games and Team Bondi. A six-year old game with hints of open world, a dash of mystery and noire and some visuals that are out of this world. Now the game has made a triumphant return on a newer system and included some goodies along the way on the Nintendo Switch. Let’s get right into it.
Set in the 40s/50s in Los Angeles, California, you play as Cole Phelps, an ex-veteran from World War II and an up and coming police officer that quickly becomes a detective for the LAPD. Your purpose as Cole is to investigate and solve murders, and keep yourself up high on the ladder with Cole’s superiors. Along the way, you also get to interrogate a lot of people, and you have to do it the right way or the game will fail you and make you do it again. Nothing has changed, at least on the surface, for the Nintendo Switch version of the game.
Everything you’ve either loved or hated about L.A. Noire is still very much intact in the Switch version of the game. The open world manner of the game is still there, which is neat to see on a portable screen. You can drive until your heart’s content and commandeer vehicles all you want (they couldn’t get the GTA out of the equation) to keep the dumb fun going for hours. I think the first time around in L.A. Noire I spent an extra amount of time simply enjoying the scenery and harassing the citizens of Los Angeles. It’s fun and it’s a relaxing way of playing the game, or at least avoiding completing the game.
Anyway, open world aside, the structure of the game is pretty simple for the most part. You get involved in cases, you find clues, you write them down, maybe you’ll get involved with occasional gunfire/running down a criminal and then you interrogate suspects to see if you can break them. The latter of the bunch is one of the driving points of the game, if not THE driving point, which is interrogation. When you finally get to this point in cases Cole is heading up the game is going to ask you to approach interviews of suspects with caution. You’ll have to choose whether to play the good/bad cop or whether to accuse suspects, which are literally three onscreen choices on how to interrogate a suspect. If you choose the wrong choice, then the game will either shut you down from talking to that suspect at all or require you to restart the interview. The uniqueness of this game, something that I believed in 2011 when I reviewed it and something I stand by now having re-played it again since 2011, is that the game asks players to actually think about their choices and put them in the shoes of Cole to get the job done. I suspect that the first time around players had issues with the game’s difficulty, which is valid, as it’s not an easy game, especially the interviewing portion. If you’re thinking the interviewing is just going to be a walk in the park, then you’re going to hate this game. It’s not easy, nor should it be when trying to get suspects to admit guilt. I’m sure in real life it’s not easy.
Interrogating and trying to use logic to figure out whether a suspect is guilty or not is what makes this a fun and intelligent game. Honestly, it was an intelligent game back in the day and it’s still as intelligent now, which requires you to be maintain some form of intelligence (I know some gamers have a tough time doing that, but we’re pulling for you). For me that intelligent requirement is the attractiveness of the game. Nothing in life is easy, nor should games like this be easy. Gamers shouldn’t be able to breeze through it and I’m glad Team Bondi didn’t allow that to happen. It reminds me of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, where gathering clues would eventually equal out to following a breadcrumb trail of truth to ultimately discovering ‘who done it’ at the end. Collecting clues/facts and applying them to intuitive assumptions during the interrogation process is what makes the experience of L.A. Noire cerebral. Interviewing suspects is fun as hell because of this, so if you haven’t experienced it before, then enjoy it. If you haven’t, then know what to expect.
Outside of cases, which are assigned to the player as the game progresses and that are interesting enough to drive the game in a good direction, the game also features some still unrivaled visuals. While I can’t say much for the bodies of the NPCs or Cole’s body, as they do contain some last generation movements with them and stiff hands, the facial capture that was done in the game is absolutely amazing. You get to see a full range of emotions with no dead-eyes or awkward mouth movements. Folks, it’s picture perfect face capturing and the actor’s efforts really shine through because of that capturing. It’s truly stunning. I would compare it to jumping from 30fps in video to 60fps, as the details come out so beautifully and meticulously. Sadly, though, to this day that type of capture hasn’t been done again, which is a shame because I think Team Bondi really did something special and revolutionary with face capturing for this game. It’s certainly a treat to behold in the game.
Beyond visuals, fun stories and awesome action/driving/interviewing sequences, a few new ways to play the game come with the Nintendo Switch version, though one in particular is the most interesting, which is touch screen capabilities. When you investigate areas in the game or objects/people, you can touch the screen to move through them and look for clues. It’s a fascinating and subtle change to how the game is played, but it surprisingly works well. It is on the borderline of gimmick, though, as you don’t need the touch screen to progress in the game, as it’s basically just a neat-o way of doing things. Having said that, it might open up the opportunity for future Rockstar Games, or other third party games, to find something clever to do with the Nintendo Switch’s touch screen. Incorporating that in a future game would probably yield some amazing uses, though I can’t think of any right now (I’m just a journalist, not an artist). Until then, it’s an option and not a bad one.
With all the above said, and sounding like gushing a bit, I will have to dock some points for how the game fit on the Nintendo Switch.
Up until this point, I have had no issues with the Nintendo Switch handling the size of a game. I have had to delete some games, especially when Skyrim showed up, but everything was kept under check and under my 32gb built in space limit that the Switch comes with out of the box. Sadly, I had to purchase an additional MicroSD card to dedicate to L.A. Noire, as it was a memory hog. Folks, I did my best to get it on the system without going this route, but it simply didn’t work out. I even threatened to delete my daughter’s Splatoon 2 game, but after doing the math it still wouldn’t have fit. Part of me wants to know why Team Bondi couldn’t have made the file size smaller, especially with upgraded compression software since 2011, while the other side wants to know why Nintendo couldn’t have put bigger internal memory into their system. Regardless of who is to blame, just prepare yourself for a MicroSD, if you haven’t gotten one prior to this game.
That’s the only downer for the title, though. It’s correctable and it’s a cheap correction.