L.A. Noire was released back in May to almost unanimously positive reviews, although it also saw its fair share of criticism regarding its linear and somewhat repetitive nature. The immediate aftermath of the game’s launch also highlighted a spat between Team Bondi and Rockstar, which strongly suggested the two companies would never work together again anytime soon.
Regardless of some of this later controversy, however, a lot of gamers enjoyed their time spent in the company of Cole Phelps in sunny LA, and now they have a reason to return (other than collecting those elusive film reels) – some real, honest to goodness downloadable content.
Taking the form of new cases for the main desks that Phelps passes through on his rise (and fall) within the LAPD, Team Bondi seem to have addressed a lot of the criticism regarding the main game, with these four new cases probably the best example of individual missions yet.
Be warned, though: if you disliked the slow pace and start-stop nature of the original title, this DLC certainly won’t change your mind, though that’s all part of the L.A. Noire experience, love it or hate it. Personally, I really enjoyed the title, so I didn’t need much persuasion to don my fedora again (in the game, obviously. I don’t actually own a fedora. Although I wish I did). Weighing in at around an hour per play-through per case, this content gives a real episodic, TV show feel to the game, which fits well given its subject matter.
If you haven’t yet reached the specific desk in your play-through of the main game, all the new cases will be played sequentially along with the rest of the story missions. If you’ve completed the game, however, you can go back and play them as standalone adventures through the ‘cases’ section of the main menu.
The first new case is A Slip Of The Tongue, for the traffic desk. The mission itself is probably the weakest of the four, but still has an interesting story involving a stolen car fraud operation, and the double-crossing exploits of some of the racket’s perpetrators. As with all of the DLC cases, it’s a nice mix of interrogation, car chases and shoot-outs, with the difficulty level seemingly ramped up slightly to appeal to those of us who’ve already finished the main game.
The Naked City is next, and fits nicely into your investigation of stolen morphine, which is the main thread throughout the narcotics desk. In this instance, a fashion model and wannabe actress is dead as a result of supposedly self-administered morphine, although, of course, it isn’t long before you realise there may be slightly more to the death than first appears.
Completion of this case brings with it the badge pursuit challenge, which provides something more to hunt out in the city, if you’re bored of looking for film reels. Again, this case displays some much needed variety, but highlights one of the most annoying aspects of the game design – the stealth sections where you have to trail a suspect.
Apart from that, though, it’s got a decent story with a nice mixture of action and detective work. The final twist comes out of nowhere, however, and it would have been much more satisfying to have been allowed to come to the conclusion myself.
Nicholson Electroplating was the third DLC case to be released, and thankfully, provides the arson desk with a much more interesting case that isn’t associated with the pretty dull main plotline of Elysium housing. In terms of story and intrigue, this is quite possibly the best of the DLC, with an arresting early morning blast bringing a temporary (and impressive) post-apocalyptic look to Los Angeles and then going on to incorporate factors as diverse as the Spruce Goose and corporate espionage. There are some quite cool puzzle sections as well to test the budding code crackers out there.
Finally (so far), we come to another vice case, Reefer Madness. Rather than focus on morphine smuggling, here cannabis is the drug of choice, blended with Mexican immigrants and minestrone soup for another strong tale. This one features some particularly hard to read interviewees, making the interrogation aspect especially challenging, and there are also a few decent shootouts.
Although there are a few puzzle/investigation elements to even things out, it probably isn’t as impressive in that respect as the arson case. I also missed the inclusion of much vehicular action, although with L.A. Noire, the chances are there could have been a car chase if I had played out the investigation differently.
One particularly strong aspect of the new content are the conversations between Phelps and his various partners. With the benefit of hindsight, these shed new light on several aspects of the main plot, for example, the progress of the Black Dahlia case, Phelps’ taste in women, and in later cases, discussion of his domestic arrangements. Bearing that in mind, probably the ideal way to experience these new missions is in the body of the main game itself, if possible.
Knowing that I would be keen to dive into the DLC as soon as it was available, and that there is no way I would be able to resist new cases, I decided to get the Rockstar Pass, which cost about half of what all four of the DLC cases would cost individually. There was also a discount available on the pass (now expired, sadly) which made the decision an easy one, but my advice would still be, if you enjoyed the main game, purchase the Rockstar Pass rather than buy all the DLC separately.
Of course, the first two cases, The Naked City and A Slip Of The Tongue were pre-order bonuses from different retailers, though even for the cost of three new missions, if you already own one, the pass is well worth it. American PS3 gamers also got an additional free traffic case as well, called The Consul’s Car. It really would be a crime if we don’t get that over here as well.
Overall, these new cases show the strongest aspects of L.A. Noire while avoiding most of its shortcomings. The sometimes unsatisfying conclusions to cases, as well as the repetition that set in on a number of the desks, have largely been avoided, although the game’s main problem still remains, in that it’s basically impossible to fail.
Unless you choose to play the game properly, and aim for five stars in every case without using intuition and hints, it still very much feels like Team Bondi want to hold your hand through the mean streets. Another annoying aspect still not totally fixed is the way that interrogations can lead you astray, not providing all the information you need to make a judgement until you pick the lie option and see what Cole will suggest. Too often, it means you rely on looking for facial movement rather than actual puzzle solving brainpower in quizzing potential baddies.
It is unknown at this stage whether any more DLC cases will be forthcoming. Here’s hoping that, if it does arrive, we see a little bit more variety of the kind seen in the final homicide case, or the fraud investigator missions in the main game.
In fact, how about a whole set of new cases starring Jack Kelso as the Distict Attorney office’s investigator? The game already feels like a TV show, so why not benefit from that and have a season of DLC, released monthly, continuing the plot in some way? Something that gamers could follow in the same way as a TV series?
Let us know what you think about that idea and the available DLC in the comments section.