L.A. Noire (opens in new tab) feels like some kind of turning point for Nintendo Switch (opens in new tab). One day you're collecting fairies or hunting down Multi Moons, then suddenly you're using the touchscreen to manipulate the naked body of a murder victim. Just like that, the handheld feels ready for games that tackle darker themes, ones with a little less sunshine and sparkle. Welcome back Rockstar Games, Nintendo has missed you.
In case you missed L.A. Noire the first time around in 2011, it was Rockstar's take on crime and crooks in 1940s Los Angeles. playing as a rookie cop, you worked your way up through various police divisions, exploring a perfectly recreated City of Angels. It was quite the technological marvel at the time, employing crazy face-scanning technology to capture actors like Mad Men's Aaron Staton. It's exactly that technology, plus a few tweaks from Rockstar, that means the game stands up six years L.A.ter, and looks like it will be worth a revisit for even hardened homicide detectives. If only we could all age so well.
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I got a hands on with the game in handheld and docked modes, playing through the grisly case of the The Red Lipstick Murder. It runs at 1080p docked and 720p handheld, and personally I prefer playing it in handheld. Something about the games sepia tones and detailed crime scenes just look particularly good up close and personal.
The game plays just as smoothly as it did first time around, with one noticeable improvement. In the first game when hero Cole Phelps had to interrogate a suspect the choices were with Truth, Doubt and Lie - a slightly vague set of choices that led to me accidentally screaming into the face of an assault victim - now they're the much clearer Good Cop, Bad Cop and Accuse. It sounds like small change, but it makes all the difference.
The other changes, the introduction of the option to use the touchscreen to navigate crime scenes, a Joy-Con mode, HD Rumble, felt less essential, but are all part of the Switch package. We'll have a full review of the game on Switch as soon as we can, but this feels like a perfect excuse to rediscover one of Rockstar's most intriguing experiments.
L.A. Noire will be released on Nintendo Switch on November 14.