Intro

L.A. Noire remastered for the Nintendo Switch is a welcome addition to the already great roster of Nintendo Switch titles released in 2017, especially a remastered version of the classic hit from Team Bondi (may the studio rest in piece) and the always great Rockstar Games. Its simple yet intuitive gameplay feels right on the Switch. With added motion and touch screen controls, the Nintendo Switch delivers a more immersive feel that wasn’t felt on last-gen consoles. Who doesn’t want to solve crimes and bust bad guys on the go? The Switch release does display some issues, but also brings some new elements to the table.

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Graphics

Team Bondi did a great job back in 2011 with the original version of L.A. Noire. The face capture system they used was ahead of it’s time and was one of the core standout elements of this game. Using this technology, Team Bondi was able to implement a system which requires players to study the faces of characters they interrogate in order to tell if they are lying or not. As a detective, it’s the player’s job to become familiar with and recognize certain facial patterns and cues. While Team Bondi put a lot of effort into the facial capture, I feel as though the rest of the game suffered as a result. Cut scenes look fine, but when strolling around town and exploring the city of angels you start to notice how stiff everything looks.

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Now, Rockstar Games has tried to bring a little more life to the city with the remaster, but on the Switch I don’t really see a difference from last-gen consoles. Obviously the Nintendo Switch port won’t look as good as it does on Xbox One or Playstation 4. When undocked, the Nintendo Switch displays at 720p resolution, when docked it’s bumped up to a 1080p. Even when docked it’s hard to make out any graphical differences between the Switch version and the last-gen versions of L.A Noire. 

When starting the game, I noticed that my frame rate was solid. No lag and no chopping. As I started to explore more of Los Angeles, I began to notice hotspots where my frame rate would drop significantly. This was mostly in areas with a lot of foliage and non-player characters (NPCs). Some cases would have the victims lain-out near a park or around some trees. Whenever I would go investigate these corpses I would be struck with a sudden drop in FPS, making trekking around the crime scene slow and annoying. It was hard to become immersed during my playthrough because it looked like I was teleporting around a dead woman.

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The draw distance for the Nintendo Switch version of L.A. Noire is, at times, laughable. When going at high speeds it is actually possible to beat the traffic, cars will be unable to spawn due to how fast you’re moving. I found this hilarious as I would easily avoid ruining my end-of-case score by not hitting any cars. Sometimes, the world literally unfolds around you. The city, when going at high speeds, would actually load as I was driving. Looking forward I’d be able to see a sea of white when all of a sudden a building would pop up. There was also the rare case when the game would randomly spawn cars on top of each other in front of my car, causing me to crash, same goes for pedestrians. Now as bad as this all may sound, it’s not exactly the Switch’s fault. It doesn’t possess the same processing power as normal consoles, so a dip in some areas is to be expected. The graphics quality is fine, and honestly doesn’t really look that much different than the previous version.

Gameplay

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Solve crimes and catch bad guys once again on a brand new console with new tricks up it’s sleeve. The Nintendo Switch doesn’t compromise when it comes to gameplay; in fact, it enhances it with the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers. The remastered version possesses the same controls you’d find in the previous version. All mapped accordingly to the Switch’s Joy-Con buttons. If you don’t prefer the Switch’s Joy-Cons, a wired or Nintendo Switch Pro controller may be used for a more console-like feel. I actually prefer the Joy-Cons. They act more as hands when investigating.

The Nintendo Switch has brought some new features to the classic game. Players can zoom out and get a better look at their surrounding area. This is useful for looking over crime scenes as you may spot something you otherwise would miss. The Switch’s touch screen also plays a role in L.A. Noire. Players can pinch and zoom in the screen with two fingers to change how far the camera is centered on Cole Phelps. Players can also switch to an over-the-shoulder camera angle using the d-pad to get a close look at objects. Additionally, player’s can touch a spot on the ground and Cole will walk to it. However, the joysticks make moving around objects easier. Sliding a single finger in any directions will also rotate the camera. Again, it’s easier to use the joysticks; they provide more freedom and more precise focus. When sliding your finger the camera tends to be a little sensitive and can wind up looking every which way.

When investigating a body at crime scenes, the player can use their finger to tap on a certain limb or section of the body to look at it. I found this to work only half of the time, but others may find it works better for them. L.A. Noire also makes use of the Joy-Cons’ gyroscope function. When undocked the joy-cons can rotate the screen and act as hands. When holding something in your hands, you can actually rotate the Joy-Con to move the object around and inspect it further. I found the camera feature very annoying as it was too sensitive, and I found myself moving the camera when I didn’t want to. I ultimately turned off motion controls, as I found the game better without them. Some features were great, but others made gameplay a hassle.

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There’s one feature in the Switch version of L.A. Noire I didn’t anticipate, but should have known was coming. The Switch doesn’t possess pressure-sensitive triggers. So when driving, unless you let go of the right back trigger occasionally, you’re going to go full speed. Very dangerous, as crashing into city property and pedestrians severely affects your case score. As long as you let go of the trigger every once in a while and make use of the brake you should be fine.

The Switch version of L.A. Noire has an obsession with vibration when it comes to ladders and pipes. Every step you take on a ladder will trigger the rumblers in the Joy-Con controllers. Of course you get the normal triggers like crashing your car or getting shot, but I noticed this touch to be strange, and rather unnecessary. I didn’t want to turn vibration off, so I just dealt with it. It seemed like a waste of battery, considering the Switch’s already poor battery life while undocked.

Interrogations

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With the remastered version of L.A. Noire comes a few changes to interrogations. Previously, players had three choices of dialogue when speaking to an alleged perp: “Truth,” “Doubt” and “Lie.” These have been replaced by three new selections: “Good Cop,” “Bad Cop” and “Accuse.” I didn’t really see the need for the change, the previous wording worked better from a logical standpoint. Lie, doubt and truth sound more fitting with the serious tone of the game. Good cop, bad cop and accuse sound silly and even when selecting good cop, Cole can say some rather bad cop things. The changes are harmless. They don’t change the original dialogue behind each speech choice. Players can use finger gestures to move throughout Cole Phelps’s notebook. Swiping up and down scrolls though options and evidence. Double-tapping selects whatever item you’re hovering over. I found this feature useful as I was able to have a split second to change my mind in case I selected the wrong piece of evidence.

Additional Content

The remastered L.A. Noire comes with every single piece of DLC released for the original game. Every single DLC case is available as soon as you pop the game in. Of course you’ll have to progress though the game in order to experience them, but they’re there. Once players hit the traffic desk they will also be able to access the additional outfits, which can be found in the “Outfits” section of the start menu. Each outfit comes with a special ability, such as weapon steadying or the ability to take additional damage before going down.

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Conclusion

So why was L.A. Noire ported to the Nintendo Switch? I believe Rockstar Games is experimenting with the Switch. Possibly to test it’s limitation and see how well their games sell to a crowd that prefers the Nintendo Switch as oppose to the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Perhaps they are planning more ports and remasters down the line. L.A. Noire feels good on the Nintendo Switch. It’s simple yet intuitive style matches normal Switch games. It’s great how a console game can be manipulated into a portable title you can take with you. Buyers should be aware of the “Switch Tax” that is imposed when buying the game. The Nintendo Switch version actually costs $10 more than the Xbox One and PS4 versions. Of course, this a result of the proprietary cost of manufacturing Switch cartridges. Now players can solve crimes at home or on the go and get the full experience of Team Bondi and Rockstar Games’s 2011 hit: L.A. Noire on the Nintendo Switch.