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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (496)

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House Party 3.5/5
Persona 5 Royal 4.5/5
A Hat in Time 3.5/5
Sunset Overdrive 4/5
The Vagrant 4/5
Honkai: Star Rail 3.5/5
MechWarrior 5: Mercenar... 4/5
Rage 2 3.5/5
Alan Wake 4/5
Riverbond 3.5/5
Dead Island 2 3.5/5
Saints Row IV 3.5/5
The Last of Us Part II 4.5/5
Torchlight III 3/5
Wolfenstein II: The New... 4/5
Ghost of Tsushima 4.5/5
Battletoads (2020) 2/5
Danganronpa: Trigger Ha... 4/5
Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
Maneater 3/5
Door Kickers: Action Sq... 4/5
Spider-Man (2018) 4.5/5
Red Dead Redemption 2 4.5/5
Boot Hill Heroes 3.5/5
Control 4/5

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L.A. Noire   PlayStation 3 

L.A. Noire: Just the Facts, Man    4.5/5 stars

It's hard to classify L.A. Noire as a video game. It's more like a detective simulation with game elements thrown in for good measure. For people with short attention spans or who prefer twitchy FPS games, this might seem like a slog. Yet for me, Rockstar has once again proven they are on the cutting edge of game technology and has delivered a game that comes closer than ever to being to immersing you in a true interactive experience.

I thought that Heavy Rain looked amazing and didn't think anything would be able to match that for a long time, yet Rockstar not only managed to be just as good, but actually took things to the next level. The game design is simply flawless - from the truly impressive facial animations to the dead-on recreation of the streets of 1947 Los Angeles - a lot of time, effort and talent went in to creating this virtual world. And the detail is astounding, you can go up to individual buildings and read menus and advertisements - background characters will comment on current stories or on your character - it's these little touches that make the experience even more unique.

Yet the design isn't the only thing the game has going for it - the vocal talent has to be some of the strongest yet. Aaron Staton of Mad Men fame plays the lead role of Cole Phelps - reluctant war hero-turned LAPD cop who rises (and falls) through the ranks as the game progresses. If they gave out acting awards for video games (and who knows, maybe one day they will), this would be a home run. Some games have good voices, others pretty terrible, but you can often tell they are doing voice-overs - in this, it actually feels like Staton is there giving an actual performance. Heck, an hour-long version was shown at Tribeca as a film that's how good it was. Plus Staton isn't the only good thing - pretty much all the other roles are great. Many faces I recognized (as the characters in the game are modeled after the actual actors) - some like John Noble (Fringe, LOTR: Return of the King) and Greg Grunberg (Heroes) I know right off hand, many of the other roles are filled by TV and film veterans with a long line of supporting roles from the likes of Michael McGrady, Adam Harrington, Steven Rankin, JD Cullum and Patrick Fischler just to name a few (if you don't know the names, don't feel bad, but I certainly recognized the faces).

You have the setting, you have the talent but you still don't have anything unless the story is good and L.A. Noire doesn't fail in that aspect either. The story is two-fold - you follow Phelps through his time at the LAPD while you also have flashbacks (via newspapers you read or in-game cut-scenes) of Phelps time during WWII or events that are happening concurrent to the story. I love how many of the in-game cases mirror actual cases that took place in the 1940s Los Angeles. For example, at your time on the homicide desk you deal with murders related to the Black Dahlia case while working on Administrative Vice you have a run-in with Mickey Cohen, based on the actual gangster. Some of the cases are also based on famous noire films as well.

The war scenes add another dimension to the character, as you find out that far from being the war hero many people believe him to be, Phelps time in Okinawa left some pretty deep scars. Throughout the game he shows reluctance to talk about the war and as the game progresses, it's easy to tell why he wants to keep things buried. His former marine battalion comes in to play as a huge supply of army surplus morphine goes missing and plays a huge part in the last half of the game. The game is also not shy about the rampant corruption surrounding the police and city officials along with the dangerous Hollywood lifestyle.

This is a game that will be wasted on the young. This is one game where I really think the M rating applies. Not only for the violence and language, but I don't even think many teens would get into this. This is truly a game for my generation and not necessarily the current generation. I have a feeling the younger you are, the faster you will lose interest. Maybe I'm being too swift to judge, but it's just my opinion.

The gameplay itself is pretty low-key. Most of the time you are either searching for clues or interrogating suspects. The gathering process is pretty easy - a sound alerts you to clues, you can pick up most of them, sometimes examine them closer, and they go in your clues. While questioning various witnesses of people of interest, you can use these clues to catch them in a lie. The facial recognition truly stands out during this time as you can usually tell if a person is lying by the way their eyes shift or mouths twitch. If you get stuck, you can use intuition points (kind of like the the lifelines in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) to narrow down answers, but observant people should never need them. Some people may find this portion of the game a tad boring, but like a said, this game requires people with a decent attention span and who actually prefer to utilize a bit of intellect.

Outside of the evidence and interrogation you do have some moments where you are throw into fistfights or car chases. There are also "street crimes" which usually involve chasing or subduing suspects (usually by shooting them). These are the action elements that people familiar with the GTA games will recognize. Unlike GTA though, you're penalized for doing stupid things like running over civilians and trashing cars. You can't even pull your gun out in regular game play and racking up damages can cost you to lose ratings at the end of each case. The only reason I won't give this a complete five-star rating is because some of these elements seemed shoe-horned in, along with the Rockstar item-fetch elements. I hate having to pick up "golden film reels" I don't care if there names coincide with classic film noire (The Third Man, The Maltese Falcon, etc.), it just feels tedious.

I also didn't like the "drive all cars" part - but I really wanted a platinum on this one. Still, some of the rare autos (which you get just by earning experience) are pretty awesome. Apparently the game makers turned to auto enthusiast Jay Leno to help them out. The car designs are just as good as the characters (even if a few are from the later 1940s). You can also do "free roam" and drive around like a madman without fear of affecting any cases and pick up the street crimes you may have missed. I love some of your partner's reactions when you decide to drive over pedestrians. It's frowned upon, but still entertaining.

All in all, I have to say this game has impressed me. Even the DLC adds extra layers to the story and for once I feel I got my money's worth (with one case still to come). Aside from the unnecessary item quests, I can't think of a single thing I would change in the game. Plus, unlike some other releases, the worst bugs I came across were some slightly off audio/visual tics (where voices were ahead of or behind mouth movements) that resolved themselves shortly and a few interesting driving experiences - a few times I drove over an obstacle or bump and my car launched itself. With so many buggy games being rushed, this was done right. I can't say for certain this will be named Game of the Year, but it should definitely be in the running.

 

 


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