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General Description

L.A. Noire is an open-world mystery game in which players control an up-and-coming detective named Cole Phelps combing the streets of Los Angeles in 1947 to solve a series of crimes. It was developed by Team Bondi and Rockstar Games and released for Xbox 360 and PS3 in May 2011. 

While the game is built on the framework of Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto series, the game's mechanics tend to avoid action whenever possible. The main game takes place over 21 story missions that are made up mostly of searching crime scenes for clues and interrogating witnesses and suspects. Players are judged based on their ability to read the features of interviewees and find contradictions in available evidence.

Each case acts as its own individual challenge, though there are hints from early on of an overarching plot. While Phelps drives to a crime scene or to chase a lead there are often opportunities for him to pursue smaller crimes. These lead to action sequences which can be made up of foot or vehicle chases, fistfights or gunfights. These kinds of action-oriented challenges also pop up regularly during main story missions, though if players fail at them multiple times they can be skipped, allowing less skilled players to proceed with the game.

Developer creativity is one of the game's strengths. The move to make an open-world action game and take out most of the action is a bold one, and the game's interrogation sequences are remarkable. Whatever new technology Rockstar has used to animate the faces of these characters is pretty amazing; players will find themselves easily spotting facial ticks and small twitches in the faces of these characters, which certainly can't be done in any other game.

Grade by Game Type Overall Grade
Ratings at a Glance
Facts: 2 Title: L.A. NOIRE
Creativity: 6 Publisher: Rockstar Games
Business: 3 Developer: Team Bondi & Rockstar Games
People: 2 Year: 2011
Problem: 4 Genre: 3rd Person Shooter/Action Adventure
Simulation: 3 Strengths: popularity, creativity
Popularity: 9 Platforms: PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Extra: 0  
Rating Details

Classroom Facts

L.A. Noire is a realistic game in many respects. Players must follow traffic laws when driving, for example, or else they are penalized at the end of the case. An expansive and detailed map of Los Angeles allows players to find their way around and mark various points of interest.

Creativity & Imagination

By the Player:

L.A. Noire is an interesting case. It proceeds linearly, but it is curious in that it openly allows players to make mistakes. Cases always feature plenty of opportunities for players to miss pieces of evidence or incorrectly connect information during an interrogation. Some cases even allow players a choice of characters to ultimately accuse. Players' decisions may even affect the overall plot of the game as the larger stories come into focus.

Besides these more interesting elements, players are also allowed room to explore the streets of L.A, finding hidden collectibles and hunting down small-time criminals. These activities add to a player’s rank, which has several rewards, including the fascinating Intuition Points.

By the Developer:

L.A. Noire is a unique game, though most of its elements can be traced back clearly. Plenty of games offer similar action sequences, and the game's mysteries and interrogations can be traced directly to various point-and-click adventure games and particularly to the Phoenix Wright series of courtroom dramas.

What L.A. Noire does is combine these elements into a highly-polished package. The game - like all of Roackstar's output - clearly has amazing production values. The voiced dialogue, film noir style, amazing facial animations and fully-realized edition of 1940's Los Angeles are enough to leave many players in awe, and the game's mysteries are well-written enough to match. A few innovative touches also impress, including the online player-polling Intuition Points and skippable action scenes.

Ultimately players can find deeper versions of L.A. Noire's mechanics in other, more niche titles. But never has what is essentially an adventure game been made so accessible and had such great production values. L.A. Noire is sure to inspire followers.

Business Skills

Business skills are not prominent. Players are assessed a dollar value based on the damage they caused during any given case. Players do not collect money in the game, but high damage values can lead to lower rankings.

Players also receive a limited number of Intuition Points throughout the game that can be used at crucial moments to help solve a case. They come along rarely enough the players are encouraged to conserve them carefully.

People Skills

L.A. Noire is in some ways all about people skills, though it is a single player game. Players will interrogate a number of suspects, and one of the game's central mechanics involves reading their faces to detect dishonesty. While sometimes a piece of evidence will openly break down a statement, more often players will need to detect a lie that they have no proof of. Players that pay careful attention to the details of a case will often be able to spot these, but they can also usually be spotted based on the expressions on the characters' faces. L.A. Noire's face-rendering technology has been one of its most-touted features, and it is pretty remarkable.

One other interesting bit involves the game's Intuition Points. After a witness statement players must decide whether they believe it, doubt it, or can prove that it is a lie. One use of intuition points is to poll other players of the game online and see what the most popular response was.

Problem Solving

Players that pay attention to the story carefully are most likely to be successful in L.A. Noire's cases. Characters will constantly make statements that don't ring true, and it's up to players to know when this happens. A notebook filled with details on collected evidence is always available, but it's almost always more important to know the details of the current case.

One of the interesting things about L.A. Noire, though, is that players are completely allowed to make mistakes. Phelps can skip investigations and even send the wrong people to jail and the game continues on. Rather than saying that the player has failed, it is more that the character has made a mistake. It's an interesting alternative to the idea that players must see one line of conclusions through to the end of a game.

Then there are L.A. Noire's action sequences, which are less forgiving. Phelps often finds himself chasing suspects through alleys or waging lengthy gunfights against superior numbers, and here there is only one possible outcome: Phelps has to win.

Players that fail repeatedly, however, are allowed to skip these sequences and go straight to the next phase of the case. This is a concession to inexperienced players, to be sure, and allows those interested in the game's well-written mysteries to experience them without the typical "videogame" stuff getting in the way.


L.A. Noire is not a simulation game, though it constantly calls back to various tropes from "film noir" movies. It also includes a city inspired by 1940's Los Angeles, and while the game is clearly fictitious it does tend towards realism for the most part.


L.A. Noire has had an impressive reception. The statements made by some reviewers that it revolutionizes videogame storytelling are easy to read as hyperbole, but the game's story has been praised consistently. The game's few criticisms are aimed at its sometimes-repetitive nature and action sequences that can feel forced.

Controls & Options

Players can toggle various hint systems that offer aural cues to the locations of clues on crime scenes. While the game defaults to a color display, players can change it to black and white in homage to the film noir style the game borrows so heavily from. Standard options are also available.


L.A. Noire was rated M by the ESRB with descriptors for Blood and Gore, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Violence.