L.A. NOIRE may not be the Rockstar IP everyone wants to see grace the home computer, but how does Team Bondi’s opus fair on the PC? We’ve done some digging and present the evidence below.
Getting L.A. Noire to work became my introductory case. For a while, no matter what I tried the game would simply refuse to load. After much experimentation, it turned out that the problem lay in Window’s User Account Control service, which was preventing the game from running (it’s still the most common issue looked at on the Rockstar support forums). A worrying sign of things to come? Not at all as it turns out, because the PC version of L.A. Noire copes incredibly well and does very little different to its console origins.
Phelps’ speedy ascent through the police force is still a dark and gritty story, and engaging when it decides to get going. Mad Men alumni, including leading man Aaron Stanton, and the rest of the main cast offer excellent performances throughout. The writing and voice work are superb, imprinting some character into the city, a city in which you will only ever experience death, misfortune and misery.
Exploring it, your freedom is still an illusion. It’s strange. The world of L.A. Noire is huge, yet it feels so empty, so pointless. Most of it is just a blur past your window as you drive from point A to crime scene B and crime scene C, closely scrutinising discarded cigarette packets and beer bottles for the next lead or person of interest to grill.
Interrogations still frequently plummet into guesswork, as your mind is pulled in different directions by conflicting thoughts. The knowledge of the game’s One Right Answer approach muddles your own intuition and instincts, sapping any confidence. You may know what to do, to some extent, but unless you follow the opaque steps the game is trying to lead you along, the damning failure jingle mocks your idiocy. Deciding whether to take what a person has said as truth, doubtful or a lie is often an insurmountable challenge no matter how clearly they hesitate, how frequently their eyes shift or how nervously they wring their hands.
Meanwhile, Phelps tends to operate on another plane of existence, barking accusations he’s pulled from some unimaginable recess of his brain at eyewitnesses because of your misdirected claims. “No! That’s not what I meant,” you scream. The definition of ‘doubt’ seemingly fluctuates throughout time, from pressing a suspect who is clearing withholding information to unexpectedly declaring them a psychopathic murderer. The result is embarrassing (and sometimes hilarious) conversations, which completely jolt you out of the experience.
But then it goes right. There are many times when a case makes sense and the steps you need to take are logical. The evidence appears conclusive and connections come together in your mind. You know how to handle the suspect, you get confident, and the positive jingle for taking the correct approach is conditioning you to expect continual success. And then it goes again, on the verge of a confession the conclusive evidence you’ve presented is the wrong item at this point in the conversation. You’ve failed and the suspect suddenly remains tight lipped from now on.
It’s not ‘Game Over’ though. You can still fumble through cases with incorrect decisions and a crushed morale, clues will just materialise from elsewhere to help you towards a solution. In the instances where this is done well, new or alternate avenues of investigation open up or close down providing incentive to repeat a case. Still, the main path is far straighter than it wants you to believe.
City of Angels
Even with ‘street crimes’, which pop up as you drive to your next destination, they never really account for anything more than another tick on an extras checklist: a brief shootout here, a quick chase sequence there. In some you arbitrarily can’t pull out your gun to take down a fleeing criminal. In another you can, but you’re forced into killing the perpetrator when you want to fire a warning shot and get an arrest. In others, it’s impossible to even catch the runner and you’re forced into a final confrontation, usually involving the rescue of a hostage. By the time you’ve worked out which moves can and cannot be used, your suspect is in a body bag and you’re watching in despondent silence as he’s wheeled into the coroner’s van.
What is new for the PC crowd, though? Well, not a lot really. Getting all the DLC bundled in is a welcome bonus, but the quality inside is similarly hit and miss, with some noticeably pasted in and vaguely linked to the main story thread. The facial animation tech still shines, even more so with the PC’s graphical perks, but those cardboard bodies and their painted-on hair still look off. There’s 3D functionality, but not everyone’s going to have a capable rig. Still, while Los Angeles may be stale and lifeless when you peek behind the wall, the facade is stunning on a PC monitor at high resolutions and with extended draw distances.
Keyboard and mouse controls aren’t bad either, but losing the controller removes the rumble hints when scouring for evidence. The problem becomes more pronounced when you’re trying to manipulate an item to look at for an extra clue hidden on it somewhere. For this reason, it didn’t take long for me to reach for a pad, which the game recognised and adjusted to instantly.
The technical issues that have plagued previous Rockstar’s PC ports before are nowhere to be seen: it’s a solid version and something you should definitely consider if you missed it on consoles. What we have is a frustrating, yet equally compelling game. L.A. Noire cannot be faulted for its strong ambition, but it does shoot itself in the foot from time to time.
Time may have drawn more attention to its flaws, but this is a solid port of a stylish, mature and confident adventure. A curiously empty open-world lets it down.
L.A. Noire, by Team Bondi and Rockstar Games, is Out Now on PC.