If you told me last year that I would be playing a game as mature as L.A. Noire on Nintendo’s next system, I would have called you crazy. Turns out, this is reality, and L.A. Noire has been re-released on current-gen platforms including the Nintendo Switch. Right off the bat, I will analyze the Switch-specific features before diving into the game itself, because it honestly isn’t that much different.
Visually, the Switch version looks better than the 360 and PS3 ports and not as good compared to the PS4 and Xbox One. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell unless the games were playing side-by-side, with the key differences lying in color saturation, reflection and shadow quality, and draw distance. The last one is especially noticeable on Switch, because you could be driving so fast down the city to the point where the textures have an incredibly tough time trying to keep up. I’ve also experienced minor sound glitches and framerate dips, but other than that, the engine holds up very well on this portable device.
The developers also didn’t skimp out on the Switch’s unique HD rumble, Joy-Con motion controllers, and capacative touchscreen. You can use the touchscreen to walk, pick out and analyze evidence, and pick interrogation options. It’s nothing more than a gimmick, but it works. What doesn’t work are the awful motion controls. If you’re playing the game using the detached Joy-Cons, you can aim your gun with the built-in gyroscope. The problem with this is that if you’re already locked on to an enemy, you can only move within a very small circle. It certainly doesn’t help that the shooting in this game isn’t that good to begin with, but we’ll get to that later.
In short, the Switch version is a substantial port, and you won’t feel like you’re missing anything by playing on here as opposed to the PS4 or Xbox One. However, this is also the first time I’ve played a Switch game that doesn’t feel like it works as well as a handheld title. When I got the game, I had to take the bus to college, so thank goodness for the Switch’s portability! The problem with that is the game is extremely story-heavy and is not ideal for short playtimes. You’re going to need at least about an hour to get the ideal experience. This is also the first time since Breath of the Wild where I’ve played a Switch game more on my TV than in handheld mode. Even with those issues in mind, I’m glad I got L.A. Noire for the Switch, since the convenience of handheld play will always be a plus, even at the cost of minor visual sacrifices.
As for the game itself, L.A. Noire is set in 1947 Los Angeles, where you’re thrown into the shoes of Cole Phelps, a detective and WWII vet who makes his way through the ranks of Traffic, Homicide, Vice, and Arson. What ensues is a long and detailed story that is still easy to understand, involving the heinous crimes of L.A.’s criminal underground. This story progresses through a series of cases that are mostly related to the underlying plot of the game. It’s well-written, well-acted, and everything you would expect out of a Rockstar-published game. What makes the performances in L.A. Noire unique is the facial capture they used on the actors to give them a more realistic look. However, this was a feature mainly used to aid the interviews/interrogations Cole Phelps will need to conduct.
In the original L.A. Noire, the interview options were Truth when you believe the witness, Doubt when you suspect they’re withholding information, and Lie when their story doesn’t line up with the evidence. Now they have replaced Truth with Good Cop, Doubt with Bad Cop, and Lie with Accuse, which are more straightforward options that take up most of the screen. At first the faces witnesses make are obvious, but as you progress, it may be tough to figure out if someone is doubtful, or they’re distraught because they just found out their wife has been murdered. Be careful though, because if you pick the wrong option, you will miss out on key evidence that will help your case, but it will not effect how the main story progresses. You will also be rewarded with intuition points depending on how well you tackle an interrogation, and you can use these points to reveal all the evidence in a crime scene or take out one wrong answer in an interview. There is also an option to ask the community for help online, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to get that working.
As expected, there is an open-world of Los Angeles that you can explore, but you won’t find much besides collectibles and historic L.A. sites. You’ll mostly just be driving from point A to B. If you hear your scanner go off, you can respond to it to tackle one of the many crimes that are occurring in the city. They each have their own little stories wrapped up in them so they won’t feel like simple random events you would find in most games to this day, each varying from a car chase, a shootout, or an on-foot chase. Completing these will reward you with more Intuition points.
Overall, L.A. Noire was a legendary game when it came out in 2011 and still holds up quite well to this day, but you have to go in with the right expectations if you plan on getting it. It’s not your typical open-world game like we see a lot of in this climate, it’s more of a linear, story-based adventure with an open-world setting. Get past that and you will find a lot to enjoy from the anticipation of getting interrogations right to the twists and turns that come from the story. If you’re thinking about getting it on Switch, I highly recommend it as somebody who owns all the systems. When you get a chance to play a competent port on the go, nothing can beat that.