Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review: L.A. Noire's 'Reefer Madness' Case

By David Downs
Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Calling all cars, calling all cars. The three million gamers who've purchased Playstation3 and Xbox 360 game L.A. Noire won't be disappointed with the latest downloadable case, "Reefer Madness". The $3.99, 90-minute saga has detective Cole Phelps killing his way to the top of a 1940s marijuana trafficking ring. Expect vicious, stylized gun battles, foot and car chases, and boxes and boxes of rather high-quality sticky icky.

Sorry, grasshoppers, this stash is for the LAPD
  • Sorry, grasshoppers, this stash is for the LAPD
Publishers at Take-Two Interactive must be lighting cigars with $100 bills and laughing at the success of the highly praised game, produced for Rockstar by Australian development team Team Bondi. The $60 title moved brisk units thanks to its masterful storytelling, cutting-edge facial motion capture, and novel crime-solving mechanics. But the film-quality game is also structured into specific cases, which perfectly lends itself to serialization.

At $3.99 per additional story, L.A. Noire's downloadable content revenue adds up for Take-Two, and there's no reason Rockstar shouldn't keep pumping them out. Serialization worked for Oliver Twist, and it's cool to see the form reinvigorated.

Past downloadable content introduced sleazy Argentinian diplomats, Howard Hughes, and the Spruce Goose; “Reefer Madness” takes Cole into the burgeoning marijuana trade. Available by prescription as cannabis until the '30s, the federal government banned 'marijuana' and turned the industry over to criminals.

Just like today, the L.A. Noire's vice squad doesn't stop drug use so much as manage it. And without spoiling it, the plotline echoes parts of the TV series The Wire, in which the peons get bullets, while the big fish are suspiciously well-connected.

This particular piece of content relies less on keen evidence-gathering and interrogation than brute force. But we found ourselves newly amazed at the graphics as we poured hundreds of Tommy gun rounds into a warehouse office space during a big, midnight shoot-out. Glass partitions shattered, wood paneling burst, and paper flew as we sprayed the cubicles, each round flash-illuminating the darkness like a good noir should.

“Reefer Madness” is the last bit of extra content announced for L.A. Noire so far. But Rockstar might give us a little bit more before we take on the role of a less conventional crime fighter in Batman: Arkham City.

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