I remember being floored the first time I booted up L.A. Noire on my Xbox 360 back in the day. Touted as the next big thing in gaming, Team Bondi’s facial scanning animation technique was something special. These days? Nah, not so much. What was once a massive accomplishment in the gaming space is now just a footnote. Those techniques have been surpassed and with greater quality on modern home consoles. But in VR? Not so much, and that’s what makes Rockstar’s L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files so special.
Being that L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files is a PSVR game (it’s in the title, folks) you will, of course, need a PSVR headset to play. Unfortunately, the game isn’t a free add-on for the regular version of the game, but a completely separate release. You’ll also need a pair of PS Move wand controllers to play. If you’ve got the gear, you’re ready to go solving crimes.
L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files isn’t the full game converted to VR, as much as that would be awesome. Instead, The VR Case Files are a selection of cases from the main game but played out in virtual reality. You’ll still follow a coherent narrative, though it’s nowhere near as fleshed-out as the regular game, but that’s a given. The handful of cases you do get to play through, though, have made the transition really well.
If you’ve played the original release, you’ll know what to expect. If you haven’t, I’ll sum it up quickly. You play as Cole Phelps, an ex-army man who has survived the war and now works as a cop in 1940s Los Angeles. You solve crimes, fight bad guys, and interrogate people. That’s the gist of it. The VR edition is very similar to the regular release in terms of content, it’s just the way that you play that is different.
You’ll still inspect crime scenes and look for clues, but in the first-person perspective. You’ll use the PS Move wands to act as your hands while you grope dead bodies – in the search for clues, not sexual gratification. It’s all very intuitive and, in fairness, it works really well, despite the PSVR’s sometimes iffy tracking system. I rarely found fault with it, to be honest, and in those rare moments that it did go on a wobble, it was for the very briefest of moments.
Gunplay wasn’t spectacular and it has been done better elsewhere. That being said, the gunplay in regular L.A. Noire wasn’t spectacular, either. If anything, it was a little drab and a chore to get through. That’s not the case here. Being able to move in and out of cover and aim in a fashion similar to real life is much more fun, but I found issues with aiming and the lights on the Move controllers interfering with the PSVR headset’s tracking lights. Again, it’s not a problem that hasn’t been seen before, but it’s still an annoyance.
The big achievement in L.A. Noire is in its presentation. The story I’ve played before and so there were no shocking revelations, nor any mystery, but seeing it as if I was there? That was something special. It’s one of the cleanest games I’ve seen in PSVR (I was playing on the PS4 Pro) and the facial animation is an impressive feat of game making. Sure, the faces could look a little odd at times with how the textures are handled on NPCs, particularly around hairlines, but I’ve yet to see a game do facial animation in VR in such a convincing way. Blood & Truth did a great job, but it’s still outdone by L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files.
Now, my absolute favourite thing about L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files is the driving. This is done by placing both hands on the wheel, and then using the triggers on the PS Move controllers you control speed and braking. It’s not quite 1:1 with real-life driving, but as far as I know, there’s no other VR game that will let me drive around 1940s Los Angeles however I please. You’re free to explore, though the open-world is a little lifeless with not much going on. There’s still traffic on the roads but there aren’t any random encounters. Still, it’s brilliant to get behind the wheel and go for a spin. The draw distance is impressive, considering it’s a VR game, and so the immersion is kept in-tact for the duration.
The PSVR release of L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files sees the addition of some mini-games, but it’s still essentially the same VR experience that released on PCVR a couple of years ago. The controls are different, mind you, but with enough customisation and comfort options, you’ll find your way of playing without any problem. It’s still a little tricky until you’re used to it, but I found myself acclimatised within minutes.
For the asking price, L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files may feel a tad short. Of the seven cases, the first three are tutorials. After that, you can be done within a matter of a few hours. The mini-games help give the game a little more replayability, though, and driving around Los Angeles is, in my opinion, worth the price of admission alone.
L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files PSVR Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files is a great addition to the PSVR’s already impressive library, but it’s also a proof of concept and show of force for Rockstar. If this is possible, what else could the famed developer release in the future?
- Brilliant graphics and animation
- Impressive draw-distance
- Driving and racing is some of the best fun I’ve had in VR
- Mini-games keep things going once the final case has been cracked
- Iffy controls that take a bit of getting used to
- The first third of the game is basically a tutorial
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella. (Bronze trophies, that is – he only has one Platinum.)