Of all of the remastered games to come out this year, Rockstar bringing back Team Bondi’s LA Noire was a bit of a surprise. The police procedural crime thriller was received reasonably well back in May of 2011, the biggest selling point at the time being the game being the first to use MotionScan technology to fully capture an actor’s performance for their character models, but technology and design have evolved by leaps and bounds in the past six years.
The noir detective experience has officially been re-released on both PS4 and Xbox One as a touched up version of the Complete Edition of the game, with better textures and support for 4K resolution on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, but it has also been released on the Nintendo Switch with some extra features.
Are those extra features enough to justify this remaster? Ultimately I say yes.
The Facts of the Case
The first thing to address is that LA Noire has always been an odd duck when it comes to its tone compared to its game and level design. On the one hand, a lot of the work Team Bondi and Rockstar have put into the game on an atmospheric level still utterly shines. A faithfully recreated late 1940s Los Angeles, soldiers returning from World War 2 trying to settle back into civilian life, era appropriate antisemitism and racism, an awesome soundtrack full of jazz and R&B goodness, all of it blends perfectly into a solid crime thriller about a good cop trying desperately to seek justice in a world rife with corruption and moral gray.
Then it runs into the kind of basic puzzle solving that feel lifted from a 1990s point-and-click adventure game, complete with outlandish leaps of logic during some interrogations and problems that are two steps removed from being simple jigsaw puzzles.
It’s one of the biggest areas where LA Noire’s age shows, but it still didn’t stop me from slipping back into the game like a comfortable blanket or a trashy paperback novel. The biggest selling point of the game has always been solving cases. Collecting evidence, questioning eyewitnesses, and eventually catching the culprit. It’s a major selling point and with over twenty cases to solve, there is plenty of content to keep you busy, even if some of them aren’t as well written as others.
As for what is new, there are few welcome tweaks to the game. The smallest but most significant change has been in the dialogue options you are given during interrogation. The original game had three responses to any person’s statements: Truth, Doubt, or Lie, where you believe what was said, doubt that it’s the whole truth, or accuse them of lying flat out. The options were not only vague, but it was difficult to tell how main character Detective Cole Phelps would react to any one person’s statement.
These options have now been re-worded to Good Cop, Bad Cop, and Accuse. The difference is night and day. Believe a guy’s story? Go Good Cop to get them to open up. Think they’re keeping something to themselves? Press them with Bad Cop. You clearly have evidence that makes them guilty? Accuse. It’s a change six years in the making and it is quite appreciated.
There are also some additional motion controls and touch-screen features for the Switch’s handheld mode, which are a bit of a mixed bag. First, credit must be given to Rockstar’s implementation of the motion controls as well as the JoyCons’ HD Rumble. One of the fantastic elements of LA Noire is that it always informs the player in subtle ways about clues or people of interest, either through musical cues or some controller rumble, which the Switch’s controllers continue to embrace. As for waving those fancy controllers around, they’re mostly kept to either rotating items Cole is investigating, rotating the camera, and aiming your gun during shootouts. Not only can these controls be disabled, there’s even a sensitivity slider so you can adjust for yourself how much waggle is enough, an option that I wish more developers would include.
As for the touchscreen controls, they could be a bit smoother. While playing with the Switch undocked, you can play most of the game by tapping, swiping and pinching the screen with your fingers. Tap at a location and Cole will move there. Tap a dialogue option to highlight it, tap the screen with two fingers to confirm, and so on. The problem is that the controls aren’t the most in-depth and seem to cause input delay when you start tapping.
Performance wise, LA Noire runs quite well on Nintendo Switch while docked, maintaining crisp 1080p HD video quality and running at a reliable frame rate. Loading screens are also noticeably faster than the original PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. It’s in handheld mode that things get a little choppy. While the resolution maintains a reliable 720p, there is noticeable slow down during chase scenes on the ground, with objects popping into existence and overall texture quality trying to keep up. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s distracting when it does.
Yet I can’t help but feel that LA Noire was designed for the Nintendo Switch. As much as Rockstar is known for large sandbox playgrounds full of murder and vehicular hijinx, the more deliberately linear and scripted police procedural hits just the right level of intriguing and entertaining, perfect for playing on the way to work, in the waiting room, or just lazing on the couch, like a bingeable show on a streaming service.
Now if this takes off maybe Rockstar will continue to support the Switch with some other amazing games from their past. I know a lot of people that would love to take Red Dead Redemption with them anywhere. Let us know what games you’d like to see come to the Switch in the comments below!