LA Noire Switch Review
When LA Noire first released in 2011, it was a one-of-a-kind game. The facial capture technology had never been seen before in a video game and its interrogation system made it stand out not only from every other Rockstar game but from everything else, period. After diving back into this gritty recreation of 1940s Los Angeles on the Nintendo Switch more than six years later, I realized there is still nothing else quite like it.
Not a lot has fundamentally changed in this version of LA Noire. Once again you will take control of Cole Phelps, a flawed but interesting character trying to be an honest cop in a city full of rotten ones. Cole isn’t exactly what I’d call likable, but he at least looks better compared to most of his partners and the people he interacts with throughout the campaign. Slowly but surely, we learn more about Cole, his harrowing stint in the war and his motives for wanting to make the city a safer place. Aaron Staton also does a great job voicing Cole, although some of his lines come off a bit hammy and self-righteous.
The story of LA Noire is broken up into 26 cases spread across five different desks. I won’t go into too much detail about the story, considering the original game has been out for more than half a decade, but I will say it does an excellent job of capturing the essence of what I’d imagine Los Angeles to feel like in that era. It’s a dark, sordid place filled with questionable characters and seedy locales hidden beneath a veneer of sunny skies and celebrities. Each case flows well into the next, and most of the cases on the various desks have an overarching connection that keeps the story cohesive. Of the five desks, homicide was the standout for me, providing the most interesting cases and a compelling mystery to solve. On the flip side, the vice desk is the least absorbing, mostly because it involves far too many boring tailing missions that feel like a slog to get through.
Where LA Noire really shines is during the thick of the investigations, when you are searching for clues, interviewing suspects and piecing together the evidence. In the interviews, you must use the evidence and your own intuition to determine if the information someone is giving you is authentic or not. Determining this relies heavily on the facial capture technology used in the game, which reproduces the actors’ expressions almost exactly to how they performed them in real life. Even today, I am impressed with how nuanced some of these animations are, and without them, the game would be fundamentally broken. Figuring out if someone is lying to you is more about gauging their reaction to the question than their actual response. This makes these interrogations feel exciting and challenging, and only rarely do they feel impossible to get correct. This is also a testament to how fantastic the performances of the actors are as they lend a huge hand in making this system work. There have been some complaints over the change from “truth, doubt, lie” to “good cop, bad cop, accuse” as Cole’s response options after someone answers one of his questions, but I actually feel the new wording fits better in most situations.
“the result is a truly engrossing experience”
The rest of the game, however, is not nearly as impressive. Though it is open world, there really isn’t much to do in it besides some various street crimes that will come in through the radio while you are driving. The shootouts and chase-scenes are also not super enjoyable, but they do inject a bit of much-needed action in between the quieter moments of the game. Eventually, doing these tasks become a bit repetitive, but thankfully the story remains engaging enough throughout that it doesn’t detract from the overall experience too much.
Though the Switch version will not look as good as its 4K counterparts on other current-gen consoles, one of the biggest draws is its portability. Since it is on Switch, you can take LA Noire anywhere you want, and because the story is broken up by individual cases it makes playing it on the go very enticing. Additionally, even though it runs at 1080p docked and only 720p undocked, I found that the game both looked and ran better in handheld mode. I encountered a handful of visual and auditory glitches in my time with the game but they seemed far more noticeable when playing docked. The Switch version also adds a few other console-specific features such as motion and touchscreen controls. Though I didn’t use these features much, it is nice having these options available to players in case they want to experience the game using alternative input methods. The default control scheme has motion controls turned on and aiming assist turned off, which causes gunfights and moving around during combat feel clunky, but this can be solved with a few tweaks in the menus.
Though LA Noire’s open world and graphics may not have aged nicely, its core aspects still work surprisingly well. The Switch version has some technical hiccups but being able to take the game anywhere you go makes up for it, especially considering the game runs best in handheld mode. LA Noire is one of the best detective games ever made because it actually gives you the tools to feel like a real detective. The game gives you all the puzzle pieces and asks you to put them together yourself, and the result is a truly engrossing experience.
** A Switch code was provided by the publisher **
- Engaging story
- Tense & rewarding interrogations
- Great for playing on the go
- Excellent voice acting
- Technical issues
- Tailing missions ruin vice desk
- Empty open world