Team Bondi’s neo-noir detective game is back and better than ever thanks to current-gen hardware. Its announcement, though rumored beforehand, came as a bit of a surprise seeing as many didn’t expect Rockstar to remaster a title. L.A. Noire may not be the sequel everyone was hoping for, but it holds up well and the remaster is the perfect version to pick up if you have yet to experience it.
L.A. Noire originally released in 2011 on Xbox 360. At the time it was hailed for its advanced facial animation technology that played an integral role when interrogating suspects. Though the graphics do show their age, this technology is still a useful asset within the game. I’m actually surprised more games haven’t utilized it similar to how Team Bondi did.
L.A. Noire is receiving enhancements for the Xbox One X, but I played the game on a regular Xbox One. Even without the X’s benefits, the game is noticeably improved. Depending on your television settings, the picture quality may look too dark at times, especially at night when investigating crime scenes, but overall the image is fairly vivid with deep colors that don’t look washed out. NPCs’ facial animations are incredibly expressive even by today’s standards. You might encounter some areas where the frame rate drops a bit, but it runs fairly well on new hardware.
If you’ve already played L.A. Noire previously, you won’t be seeing anything new in terms of its story. You’re still getting a commendable noire crime plot, fully taking advantage of the eras’ stylistic aesthetics and tropes. You start off as a military veteran turned cop before being promoted to detective. This is where the story kicks into gear and you discover just how corrupt the city around you really is. Team Bondi did an admirable job crafting its narrative to make it so authentic to the type of stories that inspired it.
While the plot is interesting, the character unfortunately aren’t. It tries hard to make you care about some of its characters through flashbacks and present day scenes, but none of them are all that likeable. They’re well-written but just not characters that you’ll grow attached to. If another game in the franchise were to be created, it could star an entirely new cast of characters, even in a new location, and retain the same feel without you missing any of the previous characters at all.
None of its gameplay mechanics seem overhauled, for better or worse. The driving in L.A. Noire feels notably poor, with cars not handling like you would want them to. Thankfully, its third-person shooting mechanics work well enough for the occasions they will be used and fist brawls are satisfying ventures with responsive and intuitive controls. The bulk of its gameplay is spent searching crime scenes, and while I’d rather see visual cues instead of vibrations from my controller indicating a piece of evidence, investigations are activities I looked forward to. One aspect I didn’t like, however, was attempting to shoot a perpetrator while on the run.
I don’t think L.A. Noire needed a remaster, but I’m glad it got one. Though there are Rockstar titles certainly more deserving of the treatment, L.A. Noire is a franchise that has legs. Team Bondi really did nail the neo-noir atmosphere with a faithful crime fiction story. Some of its gameplay elements don’t hold up well, like driving, but its most important pillars, like investigations, stand as strong aspects to support the rest of the game.