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L.A. Noire: The Naked City

Transplanted from the middle of L.A. Noire’s plot, The Naked City is a letdown. But as a downloadable case for what essentially amounts to an action-packed adventure game, it’s also very solid and representative of the way the retail version feels. Most of the action sequences and other gameplay types are represented. There are investigations, car and on-foot chases, and a handful of interrogation outcomes. You get the idea that it could have just as well been ripped from the main game’s content – and at least on some level – it feels like it probably was intended to be in there.

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The content can either be accessed in the cases menu or when it’s assigned around the midsection of the game. By this point, you’ve already seen everything The Naked City has to offer, more-or-less, and little else is provided in the way of larger, overarching narrative development. The way the downloadable drops lead detective Cole Phelps straight into the role as a Vice cop is off-putting. If you haven’t gotten to this part already, you’ll be missing out on quite a few references to prior cases. It will lack the impact it would’ve otherwise had.

The episode’s story revolves around the death of a promiscuous young dame; a fashion model with a dangerous chemical addiction to uppers and downers. She is sprawled out on the floor, still resilient in youth, but face flushed with death all the same. At first glance, the cause of death appears to be strangulation. However, an overdose also seems like a likely outcome, as large quantities of amphetamine and barbiturates are strewn all over her apartment. The narrative develops strongly as connected parties are brought under fire in interrogation.

The Naked City’s interrogations are its strong suit. Some emotionally entangled characters are introduced, complicating the storyline fairly quickly. There are some hokey bits where the suspects make unnecessary statements that closely corroborate with clues found in the victim’s apartment, but the acting is solid and the facial animations, telling.

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The action-based content in The Naked City comes across as contrived. A slow-paced car chase followed by an on-foot tailing sequence are awfully boring compared to some of the action-packed content that precedes them. There’s also an escort trip that nearly spans the entirety of the game’s map of Los Angeles – while also removing the option of fast travel. By this point, you’ve already driven back and forth across the map countless times. It’s a frustrating feeling, being lead by the hand this late in a game, and as the last case in the Vice division, it’s an anti-climatic end to what had been one of the game’s most enjoyable districts.

There are also a slew of police badges to be found across a number of the Los Angeles landmarks. They’re often hidden out of plain site, begging you to explore the intricately detailed interiors and lush exteriors, the locations often coinciding with points of interest in the story. This “badge pursuit challenge” may add a couple hours of replay value to the title and the badges can be found at any point during the course of the game. Of course, there’s a slight downside to this. Finding all twenty of the badges will yield Phelps a new “The Button Man” outfit, increasing Phelps’ ammo capacity for all weapons. Before I unlocked the outfit at around the twenty-something hour mark, I hadn’t even realized there was ammo in the game, due to the limited number of non-dispatch related shootouts up until that point. So it’s a bit of a bust, despite being a nice diversion and a reason to tour the best scenic locations Los Angeles has to offer.

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So, does Team Bondi’s attempt to sort out early downloadable content satisfy enough overall to snuff out the weak points?

The short answer is yes. Yes, The Naked City’s a competent addition to L.A. Noire and on the strength of the interrogations alone, it’s easy to recommend. But it’s not without flaws. This isn’t the L.A. Noire equivalent to an expansive, full length downloadable entry. Instead, it’s a solid showcase for the things L.A. Noire does right, oddly plotted in the center of the game, adding on some moderate replay value. So while it’s not the best product, it relays an unique potential for Team Bondi to continue developing self-contained downloadable episodes of a similar ilk. If you’re looking to extend your stay in the City of Angels for another night, The Naked Citywould be a fine thing to download.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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