While I’m always eager to tear into any new Rockstar game, I was particularly enamored with L.A. Noire. After thumbing through preview after preview first in Game Informer where the logo resembled that of the lettering on a classic car to its evolution into neon lighting, I was hooked.
I pored over every single bit of information I could about the forthcoming detective adventure until finally, May 17 rolled around. One day before my birthday, at that. It was L.A. Noire’s release date, and I couldn’t deal with the overwhelming excitement that mounted up until then I received the game as a gift on my 22nd birthday, and all throughout my special day I powered through the tale of drugs, arson, love, and sex fronted by one Cole Phelps. I was in love. Everything spoke to me, from the time period to the classic cars and old Hollywood, an era I find endlessly fascinating.
There’s a certain allure to the classic “good guy” role Phelps was meant to fill, and while he didn’t always meet those standards, he was as endearing to me as any other protagonist out there, always delivering swift justice where it needed to go. Or saying something completely inaccurate when I really just wanted to press a subject for more information. Even throughout all the times Phelps annoyed me and accused suspects of crimes when all I meant to do was bluff them into confessing, I was still glued to the screen thanks to magnetic personalities, criminals that were easy to hate, and the simplistic ideas of black and white “right” and “wrong.”
The search for clues at each crime scene to obtain enough items that might make questioning a suspect work in your favor had to be my favorite part. I loved poring over the mess in front of me and working to make sense out of the detritus, decaying bodies, and dilapidated locations. I was driven to solve each murder every time I examined the poor victim’s wrist or bloodied neck. It was painfully real, and always kept me guessing. It felt like something truly significant was at stake each time I was assigned a new case.
L.A. Noire managed to be one of the most engrossing crime dramas I had ever seen, and to this day Rockstar’s best game, in my eyes. A far cry from his snarky, bumbling Mad Men role, Phelps is nearly the picture of a “hero” — you know, if you excuse all of his indiscretions. It was the closest thing to watching a classic film unfold, though it was all in vivid color, with a lot grimier crimes taking place before your very eyes.
The banter and the rampant self-loathing surrounding Phelps and most of his partners is both hilarious and sometimes distressing, but it makes for some entertaining situations, even if things do get a little awkward at certain points.
Now that the game is making its way back again on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and even the Nintendo Switch, now’s the best time to explore the dazzling Hollywood lights, the tough-talking L.A.P.D., and the glamorous veneer behind a thick layer of filth and grime covered everything the everyday people back then touched. You can even experience the game in VR now, thanks to L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files, which is coming to the HTC Vive.
If I had some kind of way to experience the game by way of virtual reality back then, I know I would have jumped on it, so this is absolutely something worth picking up a Vive for even though I’ve got a perfectly good Oculus Rift waiting in my living room.
If you caught wind of the re-release (which, incidentally, is $10 more when it comes to the Switch version) you should take the time to experience L.A. Noire, even if you find yourself gravitating more to the Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series or even Bully. From the tech used to the missions within the game, there’s plenty that you won’t want to miss. Now that it’s coming to modern consoles, there’s not even an easy excuse, either.