A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that L.A. Noire is a mature crime thriller featuring gunfights, nude corpses, and strong language. The game's complex cases force players to unflinchingly investigate some very disturbing crime scenes, absorbing as much as they can from mutilated bodies and other bloody evidence (including drug paraphernalia such as pills, syringes, and bags of marijuana) in order to identify and track down criminal suspects. While mature themes are prevalent throughout, the story is presented from the side of law enforcement, and its protagonist -- the character that players control -- is depicted as an incorruptibly good cop seeking justice in each case he's assigned. There's lots of strong profanity that covers every type of phrase imaginable, as well as plenty of racial slurs.
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What's it about?
Combining elements from film noir, modern procedural police dramas, and third-person open-world action games, L.A. NOIRE puts players in the shoes of Cole Phelps, a decorated World War II veteran who starts a career on the L.A. police force in 1946 and quickly gets promoted from beat cop to detective. Each new case requires him to study crime scenes in search of evidence and to record clues in his notebook. He puts the pieces together to identify persons of interest, then finds and interrogates them. Thanks to a bar-raising, performance-capture technique, characters are capable of subtle facial expressions that may indicate when an interviewee is holding back on the truth or outright lying. Players have to decide on the fly whether they trust the responses they hear, and they could accidentally send the wrong person to jail if they make mistakes. Players can also choose to accept quick one-off missions -- in-progress bank robberies, domestic abuse situations, suicidal jumpers -- via calls that come in over the radio as they drive through an intricately detailed re-creation of mid-century Los Angeles. Updated versions include remastered graphics, a better interrogation system, and touch controls on the Switch.
Is it any good?
There's no other game like L.A. Noire. Some elements -- the third-person gun battles, for example -- are clearly derivative. But the meat of the game -- procedural investigations that involve exhaustive crime scene searches, intense interviews with persons of interest, canvasing people who live near crime scenes, chats with the coroner to gather scientific evidence -- is something that's never been seen before in this manner in the world of interactive entertainment. And it's extremely compelling. To put it another way, it's a dark, gritty, and more cinematic version of Grand Theft Auto. Either way, it's a gripping game, one that's faithful to the hard-boiled, noir crime novels and movies that inspired it.
As for what this new edition adds to the crime drama, it not only includes all of the crimes added later, as well as upgraded graphics, but also changes your options when interrogating a suspect. Instead of "Truth," "Doubt," or "Lie," which sometimes made you seem unhinged, you can now choose from "Good Cop," "Bad Cop," or "Accuse," though what you and they actually say is still the same. In addition, the Switch edition adds touch controls. Otherwise, though, it's the same as it was six years ago. Which, sadly, means it has the same clunky shooting controls, some heavy-handed psychology, and interrogations that are as much about pattern recognition as they are about using your intuition. Still, if you're a fan of noir movies and novels, as well as open world action games, L.A. Noire manages to meld both into a compelling narrative.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in games. Does it bother you if games allow or direct you to hurt innocent characters? Do you prefer to always play as the good guy?
Does this procedure-oriented game make the job of a detective seem interesting to you? Do you think you might have a knack for finding clues, reading interviewee reactions, and putting puzzle pieces together?
Talk about obeying the law. Why do we have laws? What would society be like if we didn't? Do you understand why you have to obey the law like everyone else?
Discuss using drugs. What does this game show us about people who use drugs? Does it make them look cool, or does it make them look bad?
Talk about racism. Being racist was much more accepted in 1947, so how has our society changed? How has it not changed?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Rockstar Games
- Release date: November 28, 2017
- Genre: Third-Person Shooter
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.