torstai 26. heinäkuuta 2012

L.A. Noire DLC Guide

There's no more of this "sweetness", but a few
interesting riddles, anyway.
L.A. Noire was one of the most critically acclaimed and best-selling games of 2011. Being the picky bastard I sometimes am, I personally stamped the game with a mere 8.3 rating; the great story didn't  hold together throughout the line, the interrogation sequences were innovative - not to mention graphically stunning - but extremely linear, sometimes repetitive and often illogical, the general replay value of the game was quite low, and all in all, as good and fresh as the game was, it wasn't what a fan of Rockstar Games would've expected from a game that had their logo all over the covers. Of course, L.A. Noire was developed by Team Bondi instead of Rockstar themselves, and it remains a cult title as the inexperienced Australian development studio dissolved soon after the original console release of the game, due to a political fallout with Rockstar. Considering that L.A. Noire was their first and last game, it is an interesting title to look into, and it's interesting to judge what sort of places the studio could've went by the looks of it.

The PC version of L.A. Noire was developed by Rockstar Leeds in Team Bondi's stead, and by default, it included every bit of downloadable content released for the console versions, as well as every bit of previously platform-exclusive junk. The PC version was dubbed L.A. Noire - The Complete Edition, and it didn't come as no surprise at all, that just a week after its release, the bundle was released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as well. However I might've viewed the game back when I borrowed it from my friend to experience and review it, I always thought it would be a nice to own, and getting a fancy box set with all the DLC for a budget price wasn't a bad deal at all - especially considering that most retailers sell a used copy of the original retail version just a few euros shy of the price of a brand new Complete Edition. So, for the last couple of weeks, I've enjoyed (and cursed) another round trip in a 40's Los Angeles, and conquered a few brand new cases, which made the second round of this strictly one-round game that much more interesting. Or did they?

The tray of DLC has everything from the good to the bad to the ugly - but what can be said about each DLC pack in general, is that apart from a couple of disturbing details (like the operator's voice changing in the middle of a call to that of a completely different person's), they mesh with the story quite well. They're all integrated into the main story, which means that if you start a new game with them installed, you'll have to play them, you can't turn 'em off or anything like that. If you download them after you've completed the game, you can choose them from the Cases menu and play them separately - so thank heavens, no, you don't have to restart the game to access the DLC. There are no street crimes taking place during the DLC cases, so you can beat 'em pretty quick by just letting your partner drive from scene to scene. You do not have to five-star these cases to get "The Up and Up" Achievement, BUT your actions are accounted for just about any other retail Achievement. So, if you're missing something, these are fine tools to fill in some gaps with, and each one of them - with the exception of The Consul's Car - comes with five high-level Achievements. A couple of these cases are pretty lengthy, and each pack sells for less than four. Bad, ugly, it doesn't matter. If you own L.A. Noire and dig the shit out of it, you probably own each one of these babies already. I'm still doing the guide.

As always, I consider only the expansive add-ons to be viable for a review. In addition to these five downloadable cases, the Complete Edition also includes two extra suits, a Badge Pursuit Challenge conquering which also grants you access to a new suit (but strangely, no Trophy or Achievement), and two new weapons.


RELEASED: May 2011
PRICE: €3.99 (PlayStation Network EU), 320 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE)

The Argentinian Consul General's car is reported stolen, then found abandoned and stripped of parts at someone's backyard - literally.

The Consul's Car is the black sheep in the L.A. Noire DLC family, as it is a story case, originally exclusive to the North American PlayStation 3 version. It was made available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 worldwide as DLC last out of all the packs in July 2011. So, it wasn't planted in a later version of the game - instead, it was exclusive to one, and removed from the others, which resulted in dialogue referring to a case that didn't exist, as well as meeting characters later on in the game, that were introduced during the case, namely crime scene investigator Ray Pinker and the security guard Oswald Jacobs. The circle of bad storyboard design comes to a close.

The fact that the case was originally part of the storyline makes things interesting, it immediately raises the bar - to heights the case can't reach. It's also the only "DLC" case that doesn't have any Trophies or Achievements to go with it.

The Traffic desk has a couple of really interesting cases, but the moment you get promoted to Homicide is one of the highlights in L.A. Noire. The Consul's Car doesn't do a lot more besides merely being in the way of that promotion; not as bad as the next A Slip of the Tongue case, though.

The Consul's Car is a very simple, basic case - it's placed as the second Traffic case, which makes it the second REAL case in the whole game - and a quite innocent and harmless one, really not from the grittiest side of L.A. Noire. It's good practice for beginners, but veterans of the game might find it a bit dull. It brings illegal street racing to the Traffic mix, which is the most interesting bit.

RATING : 6.8


RELEASED: May 2011 
PRICE: €3.99 (PlayStation Network EU), $3.99 (PlayStation Network US), 320 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE)

A stolen car legitimately bought by a young man leads Phelps and Bukowsky to the trail of the biggest auto theft and fraud ring investigated in the history of Traffic.

I've never owned a car and I know practically nothing about all the paperwork that comes with it. Even less of buying a car as a middle-class U.S. citizen in the 40's. A Slip of the Tongue is filled with pink slip mumbojumbo that is difficult for me to follow, not to mention uninteresting. I screwed up the case pretty bad simply 'cause I didn't understand it. It has some good parts, but it's indeed tough to follow, and moreover, the final solution to the whole thing left me hanging ice cold. Looks like Team Bondi had a lapse of total unimagination here.

A Slip of the Tongue is the all-around weakest case in L.A. Noire. In its defense, I can say that all that talk about insurance frauds and stocks in the worse parts of the retail game's later half almost equal to all this gibberish. It's not even that fun to play just once; if it wasn't for the Achievements AND if I had had some choice in the issue, I would've let it pass if I knew what it was like.

RATING : 5.0


RELEASED: May 2011
PRICE: €3.99 (PlayStation Network EU), $3.99 (PlayStation Network US), 320 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE)

An incredibly beautiful fashion model by the name of Julia Randall is found dead in her bathtub. Homicide detectives Bukowsky and Galloway are ready to close the case as yet another "society suicide", but the coroner isn't convinced, and summons Phelps and Earle from Vice to the crime scene. They manage to uncover a net of suspicious relationships, the victim's involvement in a series of burglaries, as well as more details on the stolen morphine they're primarily investigating.

Now this is more like it! The Black Dahlia Homicide case series in L.A. Noire was seamless. It was (almost) perfectly written, and strictly limited to six victims, including Betty Short, the original Black Dahlia who's never seen in the game. I still think Homicide could've been expanded with one more murder that would've obviously been done by a B.D. copycat, but on the other hand, I guess that would've watered the whole desk down a bit. The most important part is that they gave us a murder case to chew on - there's a giant mystery behind this so-called "innocent girl's" murder that goes way beyond a simple drug overdose. Drawing inspiration from a movie of the same title, The Naked City is the best Vice case there is - actually, it's placed so that it puts every case that follows to shame - and when I say "giant mystery", I mean it. The Naked City is one of the lengthiest, if not THE lengthiest, single case in L.A. Noire.

It has everything you'd expect from a balanced L.A. Noire case: tough interrogations (almost everyone is full of shit that's difficult to spot), car chases, shootouts, tailing, a lot of dark humour, and as the cherry on top, a couple of really random Achievements. The Naked City is fun, and I couldn't quite imagine L.A. Noire without it anymore. It's the only DLC pack that really affects me that way. It's not as good as the Dahlia series, but pretty close to what L.A. Noire is at its best.

RATING : 8.9


RELEASED: June 2011
PRICE: €3.99 (PlayStation Network EU), $3.99 (PlayStation Network US), 320 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE)

A devastating explosion at an industrial plant in the heart of downtown Los Angeles has the downtrodden pairing of Phelps and Biggs attempting to cash in on the case of the year.

Nicholson Electroplating was the first of two real downloadable content packs for L.A. Noire; it wasn't a pre-order bonus or a platform-exclusive like the previous ones, although there was a pre-release code for it that came with the copies sold at Best Buy's midnight openings. That narrows down the list of people who owned it from the start, and expands the list of potential buyers. Is it worth the buy? For sure.

Nicholson Electroplating adds in a lot of contextual elements from the era that were all but missing from the retail game: fear of "the bomb", fear of World War III, industrial espionage, and the shady businesses of actual rich and famous people in the introduction of Howard Hughes (from Team Bondi's perspective).

It's a very interesting case, a very balanced one, it has some of the best action sequences in the whole game, and it gives the Arson desk a huge boost after all that boring dealing with insurance policies. However, it falls a little flat, since the espionage part ultimately fails to come full circle, and it comes with probably the most difficult (and random) Achievement of the whole game, only unlockable during the last couple of minutes.

RATING : 8.6


RELEASED: July 2011
PRICE: €3.99 (PlayStation Network EU), $3.99 (PlayStation Network US), 320 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE)

Vice receives a tip of a marijuana smuggling ring from a known junkie informant named Freddie. Phelps and Earle question the reliability of Freddie's information, as he claims that the ring is able to smuggle extremely large shipments of pot in plain sight.

Jesus. Pot is illegal (in most places), and has been for decades, but I never knew it to be this nasty of a business in any part of the world. There are some epic gunfights to get involved with during this case. They kind of distract me, as I never thought pot to be worth getting killed over. I always thought of getting caught for possession or distribution as more of a "shieeeeeeeeet" kind of situation than an all-out gunfight of life and death. Well, I trust the case to be based on an actual sign of the times. Oh, and while this might seem like acceptance and defense, I don't smoke pot, and I don't encourage others to do it. Don't play with drugs, kids. Play video games instead.

Aside from blowing a bit out of proportion in my view, Reefer Madness is a quite interesting case that carries on the "crooked cop" theme very prominent in Vice, and adds more depth to it. There's really not much more to say about it.

RATING : 8.0

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