L.A. Noire is set in the post war 40s. The Holywood sign still reads Holywoodland. It is the golden age of cinema. L.A. is a city built about the automobile. There is the fear of Communists. And for the citizens of L.A. the murder of the Black Dhalia is still on the loose.
Into this city of crime and glamour the player takes on the role of Detective Phelps. Starting off on the street as a beat cop you progress to taking on cases on in Traffic crime, then Homicide, and onwards to Vice and Arson. Along the way you have to deal with the opinions of the day, be it sexism or racism, displayed by cops, partners on cases or from criminals. Fortunately, Phelps is of sound mind and liberal, moderate ideals, and so acts as an island of sense in the world. On this note, I feel that compared to some films that depict the genre, L.A. Noire lays it all on a bit too thick. While Sin City displays the same attitudes it does so knowing it is a pastiche, while L.A. Noire seems to present it as fact.
Of course, as to be expected, the city is wonderfully rendered, and one of the things I love is how the game has reinforced the role that you are playing. You can't just go about running people over, or shooting them as you would in GTA.
Of course the main focus of the game is the invesitgation of crime scenes. The manner in which this is done is by walking about, waiting for the telltale vibration to say a clue is nearby. Of course some of the objects that you can pick up are in fact just read herrings. Once a clue is piked up, by moving it about you can look for further information. In a similar manner the bodies can be investigated. It is at this point I have to mention that while there is nothing inherently bad about investigating the bodies, I feel that it would have been better to remove the shock factor and have the bodies shown with a sheet covering them.
With clues collected the next major factor in the game is the interviewing of suspects. This is where L.A. Noire shows its main feature, the amazing rendering of faces the actors. With the level of detail captured you are able to look for the changes in attitude as the questioning progresses, allowing you determine whether the suspect is telling the truth, holding back something, or lying. Of course acqusations of lying requires evidence to back this up.
Added to all this are side missions such as stopping bank robberies, gun men, car heists, and so there are some shoot outs that make use of cover in a manner more like modern over the shoulder fps like Gears of War.
My main gripes so far has really been the amount of deaths that have just been women. I understand that they are try to give a certain vibe to the game, but I don't see why the Homicide desk case could not have be a bit more broken up. Plus more positive women characters in the game would be a bonus, rather than the femme fatal, the whore, the nosey old lady. it would have just eased my resentment for the Homicide desk and the Rusty character. Perhaps cutscenes are a bit long, but then I have to say I find the game rather relaxing to play.
So overall a few faults but a game that rewards careful thinking. I'd be happy to see the same style used for a different time period, and perhaps has a more positive equality (hey how about a female lead detective next time during the 70s).