L.A. Noire Wiki
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L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire cover 2.jpg
Developer Team Bondi
Publisher Rockstar Games
Release date(s) PlayStation 3/Xbox 360
NA May 17, 2011
EU/AU May 20, 2011
JP July 7, 2011
Microsoft Windows
NA November 8, 2011
EU/AU November 11, 2011
PS4/Xbox One/Switch
EU/AU November 14, 2017
HTC VIVE
December 15, 2017
Platform(s) PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Microsoft Windows
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
HTC Vive
Engine(s) Custom MotionScan engine
Havok (physics)
Mode(s) Single-player, Sandbox
Genre(s) Adventure, action, neo-noir, mystery
Media 3 DVD-DLs, Blu-ray Disc, Download
Rating(s) ESRB: Mature 17+
PEGI: 18+
BBFC: 18
ACB: MA 15+

L.A. Noire is a third-person neo-noir crime adventure/action video game developed by Team Bondi in conjunction with Rockstar North and Rockstar San Diego, published by Rockstar Games. It was first released on May 17, 2011, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Setting

L.A. Noire is set in a near-perfectly recreated 8 square miles of Los Angeles circa 1947. As the title suggests, the game draws heavily from both plot and aesthetic elements of film noir - stylistic films from the 1940s and 1950s that shared similar visual styles and themes including crime, sex, and moral ambiguity, often shot in black-and-white with high-contrast lighting and dark shadows. The game uses a distinctive coloring style, as well as including the choice of a grayscale filter, in homage to traditional film noir. The post-war setting is the backdrop for plot elements that reference history and detective films of the time, such as corruption and veteran trauma, accompanied by a classical jazz soundtrack.

Gameplay

The gameplay of L.A. Noire is similar to that of other crime-based adventure and third-person action games. However, the roles are reversed. You play as Cole Phelps, a US Marine returning from World War II, solving crimes as a policeman in Los Angeles. By finishing cases, Phelps rises through the ranks of the LAPD, from a regular patrol officer all the way to a widely respected Vice detective.

Supplementary modes of play include driving, shooting and hand-to-hand combat, but the bulk of the game is comprised of investigation, which can require combing through crime scenes, following leads, solving puzzles or tailing suspects, and the signature interrogation mechanic, for which the game's proprietary MotionScan facial animation technology was developed, which allows the player to read each character's exact expressions when attempting to deduce the veracity of their statements.

The main story campaign is largely linear and mission-based, but the open world every chapter takes place in can be freely explored at almost any time, with various collectibles and side missions scattered throughout; for these, the game additionally includes a free-roam mode, The Streets of L.A., which has no mandatory objectives to follow.

Synopsis


Following the end of World War II, Cole Phelps (Aaron Staton), a USMC Pacific Campaign veteran who was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery during the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill, returns to Los Angeles, California to live with his family while taking on work as a patrol officer of the LAPD. In 1947, working with his partner Ralph Dunn (Rodney Scott), Phelps successfully and almost singlehandedly solves a murder case, impressing the captain of the Homicide department, James Donnelly (Andrew Connelly), who helps promote him to detective.

Working alongside Stefan Bekowsky (Sean McGowan) in Traffic, and then Finbarr "Rusty" Galloway (Michael McGrady) in Homicide, Phelps earns a reputation for solving difficult and high-profile cases, which eventually lands him a promotion to Vice. Around this time, he begins falling for German lounge singer Elsa Lichtmann (Erika Heynatz), and eventually has an extramarital affair with her. Unknown to him, Roy Earle (Adam J. Harrington), his partner in Vice and a corrupt cop, uses this information to help several prominent figures in the city cover up a major scandal by making him a distraction for the media, in exchange for a place in a syndicate known as the "Suburban Redevelopment Fund" (SRF)—an illegitimate development program that claims to supply housing for homecoming WWII veterans. When his adultery is exposed, Phelps becomes disgraced within the LAPD, hated by Los Angeles at large, is demoted to work in Arson, and his wife kicks him out, leaving him to go live with Elsa.

Just prior to this, Phelps discovered that several Marines of his former unit had been selling morphine syrettes stolen from the ship that had taken them home, the S.S. Coolridge, which later led to most of them being assassinated by mobsters working for Mickey Cohen (Patrick Fischler), who held major control of the drug trade and resented the competition; most of the stolen drugs remained unaccounted for by the time he was demoted, after which he was unable to pursue the case any further.

While investigating a pair of suspicious house fires with his partner in Arson, Herschel Biggs (Keith Szarabajka), Phelps notes a connection between them and the housing company Elysian Fields, but is explicitly warned by Earle not to investigate it's founder and CEO, tycoon land developer Leland Monroe (John Noble).

Seeking help to find the truth once he is banned from doing so, Phelps has Elsa refuse a suspiciously large Elysian insurance payout, and instead take it to his former USMC comrade Jack Kelso (Gil McKinney), now a claims investigator for California Fire & Life Insurance Co., to prompt him into looking at the matter instead. Cole doesn't go ask himself, not just due to the legally dubious nature of a police detective outsourcing an unauthorized investigation to an outside party, but also because of their complicated and unsavory personal history from serving together in the war. Kelso quickly discovers that the development is using unsuitable building materials for the houses, which could potentially indicate an intent to quickly destroy them later. After escaping pursuit from a bevy of Monroe's goons attempting to keep him from the truth, he is given an offer by Assistant District Attorney Leonard Petersen (Larry Sullivan) to become a D.A. Investigator, to which he accepts. He learns afterward that his former employer Curtis Benson (Jim Abele), vice president of Fire & Life, is also involved in the SRF syndicate.

Kelso and Phelps eventually learn from their investigations that the Fund is merely a front for an entirely different objective: to defraud the US Federal Government. Run by several local businessmen, dignitaries, as well as Monroe and Chief of Police William Worrell (Ryan Cutrona), the syndicate had learned the proposed route for the Whitnall Parkway that was to go through the Wilshire district of the city, and thus bought the land it would run through. Monroe then built communities of "matchstick" houses while Fire & Life falsely claimed the land was of higher value, knowing that the government would pay whatever the land was worth in order to gain eminent domain over it. Further investigations reveal that Courtney Sheldon (Chad Todhunter), another corpsman of Phelps and Kelso's former unit, had been involved in the theft of the morphine Phelps was investigating while in Vice. The unsold remainder of the morphine had been given to Sheldon's mentor and pop psychiatrist Harlan Fontaine (Peter Blomquist), who sold it on to finance the Fund, and eventually murdered Sheldon with it after he began questioning the syndicate's plans.

After learning all he could from investigating outside sources, and not eager to be jumped again, Kelso takes the initiative by rounding up the last few surviving veterans from his unit and mounting a direct attack on Monroe's mansion. After successfully shooting his way into Monroe's office, Kelso discovers that the SRF had used Ira Hogeboom (J. Marvin Campbell), a former flamethrower operator who had also served alongside Phelps, Kelso and Courtney in Okinawa, to help them with their plans. Hogeboom, suffering from PTSD and schizophrenia after inadvertently killing a vast number of civilians on Phelps' orders, had been manipulated by Fontaine into torching the houses of holdouts who refused to sell their property to the SRF, and eventually went insane after being tricked into incinerating a house that had an entire family inside. It is also during late-game war flashbacks that Phelps' Silver Star is revealed to be illegitimate, since his status as the sole survivor of the Sugar Loaf battle was purely based on luck rather than gallantry in combat; out of terror, he had gone into shock while lying in a foxhole as the rest of the troops were slaughtered around him.

Elsa went to see Dr. Fontaine and, after letting how much she knew about the conspiracy slip, he knocked her unconscious, intending to kill her as he had Courtney. But before he could do anything else, Hogeboom burst in and strangled him to death, kidnapping Elsa afterward in an attempt to keep her safe from any other SRF collaborators. After learning this and finding his hideout, Phelps and Kelso pursue him into the Los Angeles river tunnels as heavy rain begins to fall, fighting their way through corrupt policemen and thugs chasing in tandem. The pair rescue Elsa, with Kelso mercy killing Hogeboom to put him out of his mental anguish. With the tunnels flooding due to the heavy downpour, the group uses an open manhole to escape, but Phelps is swept away in the current and killed before they can pull him out.

Whilst the SRF scam is exposed, several members escape justice by making a deal with the Assistant D.A. to testify. They attend Phelps' funeral, with Earle delivering the eulogy in his memory, much to the disgust of Elsa, who leaves. Elsa is in disbelief when Kelso seemingly wants to prevent her from causing a scene, questioning if he was really Cole's friend. As Biggs follows her out to console her, he remarks to Kelso that Phelps was never his friend, to which Kelso agrees, but then responds that he was also never his enemy. Herschel states that he believes Cole knew this, hoping he had made peace with it, before exiting.

An additional flashback epilogue shows that Kelso had always known about the stolen morphine and Sheldon's involvement, having witnessed when he and the other Marines first found the surplus supply during their ride home on the Coolridge. However, Kelso refused to be involved in Sheldon's scheme to sell it alongside them, stating that he would lose all respect for them if they went through with it, setting the events of the game into motion.

Themes

Befitting a noir narrative and in league with Rockstar Games' two other major properties, Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, the story of L.A. Noire centers around violent, adult themes such as crime, war, pride, ennui, corruption and morality under the legal system.

A possible theme that can be gleaned from the game's ending in regard to Cole Phelps' arc is atonement, and a lack of forgiveness for those who have done great harm. In noir, there is often no redemption except for in death; no matter what lengths Cole goes in trying to make up for his past mistakes, he can never truly escape them.

Development

L.A. Noire was originally going to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive title. Brendan McNamara, who previously worked for Team Soho departed from his original company which developed the extremely successful crime game The Getaway. Team Bondi and Sony Entertainment Studios at some point parted ways and Rockstar Games, developer of the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto series and Midnight Club IPs, announced that L.A. Noire would be developed for the home consoles, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, despite originally being a PS3 exclusive.

L.A. Noire was originally meant to be released during 2007, but was delayed then announced to be released in 2008 and 2009 before being delayed again. Information about L.A. Noire was minimal until GameInformer chose L.A. Noire to be its front cover game in March 2010. Team Bondi released a trailer for L.A. Noire, since there hadn't been any video footage of the game since a trailer released not long after the games original announcement, showing actual in-game footage. Team Bondi released a new trailer for the game about the Red Lipstick murder and a few weeks later, another trailer about The Naked City pre-order exclusive was shown and the technology behind MotionScan, the technology used to capture the facial movements of the game.

Team Bondi has also released 2 Gameplay series trailers since then, the first look at actual gameplay. Gameplay series Orientation shows basic gameplay mechanics such as fighting, interviewing and searching for clues. Gameplay series Interrogation and Investigation was based on two of some of the most important gameplay mechanics in the game, investigation, and interrogation.

L.A. Noire was released on the 17th May for North America and the 20th of May for the rest of the world.

The Xbox 360 version of L.A. Noire consists of 3 discs; the PS3 version comes with a single Blu-ray disc.

Reception

L.A. Noire has largely received critical acclaim, with critics praising the game for its story and facial animation technology.

The UK newspaper The Guardian gave the game a perfect score of five stars, stating "Ever since it first worked out how to assemble pixels so that they resembled something more recognizable than aliens, the games industry has dreamed of creating one thing above all else – a game that is indistinguishable from a film, except that you can control the lead character. With L.A. Noire, it just might, finally, have found the embodiment of that particular holy grail." X-Play, GamePro, and Giant Bomb gave the game a perfect score of five stars too, praising it for its story, graphics, and feeling.

Famitsu gave the game a near-perfect score of 39/40, with a 10, 10, 10, and 9, placing it as one of the highest rated games in Japan. IGN gave the game 8.5 out of 10, stating that the game "may not reach the emotional heights of a game like Heavy Rain, but it's something everyone must try out. It reaches high and almost succeeds as a brilliant new type of video game narrative." GameTrailers gave the game a 9.1 out of 10, concluding that it "floors you out of the gate, loses some steam due to repetition, but eventually wins the day thanks to its subtlety, attention to detail, and stunning character interaction." GameZone gave the game an 8.5/10, stating that "The story is intriguing, albeit a little slow at first. L.A. Noire takes an old-school approach toward its storytelling. It’s a much slower approach, similar to older movies, with a heavy emphasis on detail. It is that attention to detail that sets L.A. Noire apart from other games and makes it enjoyable to play."

Eurogamer and Edge both gave the game 8/10, with Edge praising the facial technology, and pointed out that while there are no other major aspects of the game that had not been done better elsewhere, the fact that Team Bondi had brought together such a wide range of game genres in such a stylish, atmospheric, and cohesive manner was an achievement that few developers had managed.The Official Xbox Magazine gave the game an 8/10 too. 1UP gave it a perfect score, but the website also warned that the extended cut-scenes in the game could make some players feel they lost control of the action.

Awards

  • GameTrailers - Best New IP of 2011
  • VGChartz - Best IP of 2011
  • GameSpot - Best Atmosphere of 2011
  • Eurogamer - 11th Best Game of the Year

Sales

L.A. Noire was the best selling game of May 2011, selling more than 899,000 copies for both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game became the best selling new IP ever in the UK, and stayed on the top of the charts for over three weeks. In Japan, the game sold more than 71,000 copies for both consoles.

As of early 2012, L.A. Noire had sold over 5 million copies.

Re-releases

Complete Edition

In July 2011, Rockstar Games announced a PC version of L.A. Noire, dubbed "L.A. Noire: Complete Edition", which contained all of the previous DLC from the game, including the Nicholson Electroplating Arson case, Reefer Madness Vice case, The Consul's Car Traffic case, The Naked City Vice case, A Slip of the Tongue Traffic case, The Badge Pursuit Challenge, and all weapons and outfits released to date.

The game was released on 8 November in North America, and 11 November internationally. On 20 October 2011, Rockstar announced that the same edition would be available for the PS3 and Xbox 360 a week after the PC release, on 15 November in North America, and 18 November internationally.

Remastered Edition

On September 7, 2017 Rockstar Games announced a new version of the complete game, remastered for 4K resolution for Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and a 7-case special VR version exclusive to the HTC VIVE. In addition to the Complete Edition's content (except on the HTC VIVE) the Remastered Edition includes four new outfits and two new collections. Certain whole-game achievements that only included the main cases and not the DLC cases in previous versions of the game now require every cases' progress. During interrogations, the "Truth," "Doubt," and "Lie" options are now labeled as "Good Cop," "Bad Cop" and "Accuse" respectively. The same applies to Jack Kelso as well.

Just like in the original Complete Edition, DLC cases in the Remastered Edition are story missions that must be completed in order to progress the storyline. Just like the original Complete Edition, there are no DLC cases in the Patrol or Homicide desk chapters. In addition, there are no new Vehicles, Newspapers, Landmarks, or Gold Film Reels to unlock aside from the ones that appear in the original game, nor are there new Street Crimes to complete. However, new Outfits will become available as the player progresses; some are exclusive to the remastered versions, and new Collectibles will become available as well, each offering various challenges and rewards for completing them.

  • The PS4 & XB1 versions also include new cinematic camera angles and a Photo Mode that lets the player freeze the scene and change the camera position, exclude characters, and add filters & effects to take custom screenshots.
  • The Nintendo Switch version includes a Joy-Con mode with gyroscopic, gesture-based controls, HD rumble and new wide and over-the-shoulder camera angles, plus contextual touch screen controls.
  • The HTC VIVE version consists of 7 of the 26 cases.

The Remastered games were released on 14 November in worldwide on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The 7-case VR edition for the HTC VIVE was released December 15th.

Trivia

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  • L.A. Noire is heavily influenced by the films L.A. Confidential, Chinatown and The Naked City, among many others, using characters and locations similar to various noir movies, with some characters being outright named in homage to others (an example being Roy Earle).
  • "Noire" is the feminine form of the French word "noir," meaning "black."
  • When the player encounters the orange Neon sign reading "L.A. Noire" before loading the game, the letters L, I, and E never flicker, spelling "LIE" in that order.
  • Being set in 1947, the game's setting has a few features that did not exist at the time, as well as making a few factual errors, although many of these can be interpreted as taking artistic license.
    • Many of the vehicles and songs in the game are from 1948 or 1949, the most notable being the 1949 Chevrolet Styleline.
    • In one case, there is a letter with a ZIP code. ZIP codes were not introduced until 1963.
    • The animation for characters entering cars shows that they are putting on 3-point seatbelts. Lap style seat belts were not even offered as options in cars until 1949 and 3-point seat belts were patented in 1955.
    • Many storefronts display a 50-star American flag. The 49th and 50th states would not be admitted until 1959.
  • L.A. Noire is banned in Saudi Arabia for containing scenes of nudity.
    • In the same vein, although L.A Noire was released in Japan, the Japanese version is censored so that naked homicide desk murder victims are instead dressed in skimpy clothing. This is to stay within regulations of the Japanese rating board, CERO, which forbids full frontal nudity, particularly when applied to the context of sexual violence. This version of the game was ultimately given the Z rating, the highest possible rating on the scale (the ESRB equivalent would be the higher end of M for Mature, or AO for Adult Only).
  • L.A. Noire was the first game to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was shown as an hour-long film, followed by a session where the audience could ask questions to the developers about the making of the game.
  • A majority of the actors in this game have appeared on the show Mad Men, including Aaron Staton who plays Cole Phelps.
  • It is the only seventh-generation game to be published but not developed by Rockstar.
  • The vast majority of cutscenes in the Remastered Edition are unable to be recorded or have screenshots taken by the gameplay recorder features on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.

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