Good Cop, Bad Cop
Review: LA Noire
With recent stories emerging from Hollywood’s sleazy underbelly, now might just be the best time to revisit the Australian-made 2011 game L.A. Noire. Its re-release is timely.
Arriving in November on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC, L.A. Noire is an interactive procedural police drama/thriller. Set in post-war Los Angeles, the game sees players control Cole Phelps, a former soldier and seemingly clean-cut cop who plays it by the book. Gameplay involves finding clues and conducting interrogations, where the player may alternate between good and bad cop. These interactions rely on the player’s ability to read the face and body language of the suspect, as well as aligning what they say to the evidence on hand. As the player progresses through Phelps’ career, from a uniformed cop to a detective, they take on different ‘desks’, including categories such as Homicide, Vice, and Arson.
L.A. Noire’s themes of themes of graft, secrecy, and a hostile world make it a worthwhile game for those who want to explore concepts of sin and redemption. Col Phelps’ preaching about morality falls on deaf ears and proves to be hollow when certain revelations surface in the game’s plot. He is revealed to be a flawed man. There is an argument to be made that he is not the game’s true protagonist. And yet, L.A. Noire’s story is all the better for his inclusion.
As Phelps uncovers a citywide conspiracy linking many of the crime gangs to corrupt police, his hypocritical, conventional approach is demonstrate to be ineffectual (and in some cases, even damaging). This is a worthwhile additional element, and should inspire further thought.
L.A. Noire is not perfect. When it debuted in 2011, it was praised for its narrative but derided for technical flaws. In many ways, it is a strange game. Needless to say for a game about investigating murders, L.A. Noire is not a game for kids, and its MA rating confirms this. As such, anyone who is squeamish is best to avoid it. Its narrative and intrigue, however, make it well worth playing for everyone else.
L.A. Noire is available now on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC. It is rated MA 15+
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ editor