A few years ago, Rockstar Games released the innovative L.A. Noire for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, proving that it could do more than the not-so-usual open world fare of its Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption games. It harkened back to a time when Los Angeles was filled with much more mystery, and even though it wasn’t quite perfect, it provided to be a valiant effort for the developers at Team Bondi, as well as the publisher.
Now here we are, years later, giving the game a revisit on the Nintendo Switch. And while the product isn’t altogether new (it’s a modified port with all of its downloadable content included), the experience it provides – especially on the Nintendo Switch – is one-of-a-kind.
Now, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. One, you’re going to need a lot of hard drive space in order to play this game. It’ll max out your system memory of 32GB way too easily, and even if you have a memory stick, it’s likely to get wiped out, too. Your best bet is the physical version, though you’ll still need to download some data.
The second thing is that this version’s visuals aren’t quite as good as the Xbox One/PS4 editions. Those are fully remastered with visuals that take advantage of the hardware, and, by comparison, the Switch version is slightly fuzzy, although it looks just fine in portable mode. There are noticeable pop-ups in this version, particularly with those pesky trees and passerby. It's not a deal-breaker, as the motion capture still looks spectacular. Just consider yourself informed.
Now, with those caveats out of the way, I can say with confidence that L.A. Noire is a terrific experience on the Switch. It’s a great game on other formats as well, but Rockstar went all out to assure that this version actually takes advantage of the hardware, making it feel like an almost altogether experience that feels custom made for it. It’s really something.
The game follows detective Cole Phelps as he begins solving cases left and right, working his way up the ranks to full-blown L.A. detective. But the cases aren’t always easy, and sometimes you’ll find yourself at greater odds with people who aren’t quite what they say they are. You know, the kind of stuff that can make for a great mystery.
There are some great touch screen controls thrown into the game, making it easier to file through your book of clues, especially when you’re trying to cross-examine someone in questioning. The motion controls are okay, I suppose, but playing the conventional way really is the best way to go.
I’m also a fan of some of the refined elements within the game. Questioning suspects and people of interest wasn’t always the easiest thing to do, mainly because of Phelps’ weird responses. But the system has been refined tremendously, so while you’re still be challenged, it won’t be by your own accord. Playing the good cop and the bad cop and going to a full-blown accusation is way more satisfying.
The rest of the open-world elements are nicely captured, but there are some questionable choices with controls. For instance, in shootouts, the “fire” button isn’t as well mapped as I would’ve preferred, even though it still works. And driving is fun, though the consistent nagging of your co-rider can be a bit annoying. Yes, I know I’m driving badly. Thanks for reminding me consistently.
As for the general content, it’s still quite good, and the story, which delves into Phelps’ past and also brings a few details back to light, is very well told, if not quite as solid as some of the earlier Grand Theft Auto offerings. It’s very good overall, though, and fans that have dug in before will no doubt want to do it again here.
The extra DLC, paired with the neat touch-screen set-up and various hours’ worth of cases, make L.A. Noire worth the investment again. While the presentation isn’t the greatest and there are some quirks that keep this from being amongst Rockstar’s elite, it’s a wonderfully done port that will make Switch owners feel right at home.
And consider this as a bonus. If Noire becomes a hot seller for the system, that means Rockstar Games may consider Red Dead Redemption 2 and Grand Theft Auto V at one point – and what we wouldn’t give to take those on the go.
WWG’s Score: Four out of five.
Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.