The smashing success of the Switch has convinced many third-party publishers to return to the Nintendo fold, the most surprising of which may be Rockstar Games. Estranged from Nintendo platforms since the criminally underappreciated DS release GTA: Chinatown Wars back in 2009, Rockstar shocked everyone when it announced that its 2011 ode to film noir, L.A. Noire, is heading to the platform alongside the PS4 and Xbox One remasters.
If you missed out on L.A. Noire the first time around, here’s a quick briefing. A collaboration between Rockstar Games and Team Bondi, the game places players into 1940s Los Angeles as up-and-coming law enforcement officer Cole Phelps (played by Mad Men actor Aaron Staton). Over the course of the game, Phelps gets promoted from the patrol desk to become an LAPD detective, cracking several big cases by gathering evidence and interrogating suspects. As his career advances, he starts to unravel a city-wide conspiracy that climbs to the highest rungs of society, all the while wrestling with his traumatic memories from his service time in World War II.
We recently toured the upcoming Switch version of L.A. Noire, which includes all the cases from the original game, plus the DLC cases, new collectibles, and new suits that give Phelps unique abilities. The case we got to check out, The Red Lipstick Murder, showcased all the new features enabled by the Switch’s unique functionality.
While in docking mode, L.A. Noire glistens in 1080p resolution. Though the game is now six years old, its signature MotionScan facial animations and historically accurate open world design still feel contemporary. Watching the game in action, however, I saw spots where the Switch hardware buckles under the graphical demands. The short draw distance created pop-up driving in cars, particularly with the trees and foliage. During cutscenes, I noticed some slight screen tear around the character outlines as well. These are minor quibbles, and to be honest, I’m just impressed a game this big runs on the tech at all. These issues didn’t seem as prevalent or noticeable in the lower resolution portable mode.
In revisiting L.A. Noire for these remasters, Rockstar wanted to address one of the most pervasive complaints about the original game – the unpredictability of the interrogations. Detective Cole Phelps didn’t always react the way you expected him to when selecting one of the Truth/Doubt/Lie options. For the new versions of the game, Rockstar renamed the choices to Good Cop/Bad Cop/Accuse. I only used the new system in a couple circumstances, but the tone Phelps took in these brief encounters didn’t feel as unpredictable. I’m hopeful this holds true for the rest of the cases as well.
Nintendo fans who like motion controls have some unique functionality to check out with the Switch version of L.A. Noire. While you’re searching a crime scene for clues, you can turn the Joy-Con controllers to check objects for distinctive marks. The motion control functionality extends to aiming and brawling as well. I tried a few of these control options while searching for clues left behind around the victim’s body at The Moors and found them serviceable, though I still prefer the traditional analog stick controls the game also supports.
Touchscreen interactions give sleuths another avenue for finding clues. You can pinch to zoom into areas with items of interest, double-tap items to interact with them, and drag you finger left or right to rotate the objects.
The Switch version of L.A. Noire releases on November 14. If you prefer a higher resolution experience, the PS4 and Xbox One versions that boast PS4 Pro and Xbox One X support, respectively, debut that day as well.