For $4, New Case Adds More of a 'Video Game' Tone to L.A. NoireS

At the price of just a few dollars L.A. Noire gamers can see what this spring's gently-paced acclaimed detective adventure would have been like if it was more of an action game.

A new downloadable arson case, Nicholson Electroplating, presents L.A. Noire at its action extreme.

I played the case this weekend in advance of its official release. It took me about 80 minutes, complete with all clues found, one bungled interrogation restarted and almost all of the driving handled by my partner, Herschel Biggs. That length felt right for a case that started with a massive explosion and followed with a gunfight, included a car chase and, in general, more action than any other case in Team Bondi and Rockstar's game.

The Nicholson Electroplating case involves a massive explosion at an industrial plant. It winds its way, as last week's trailer for Nicholson Electroplating showed, into the real-life realm of the famously bizarre captain of industry Howard Hughes and, more specifically, his notorious jumbo plane, the "Spruce Goose." As Phelps chases leads and bad guys, even the game's evidence-based clues prove to be more "video game"-y than what was typical in L.A. Noire. A handful of clues involve solving small puzzles—nothing too hard, but they do involve more than just peering at the label on clothing or reading the writing on the back of a photo.

The case doesn't feel misfiled. It does belong in L.A. Noire. In fact, it nestles neatly into the late part of the game's plot, right as the game is about to kick into its grand finale. Incidental dialogue between Phelps and Biggs, plus comments from supporting characters in this case, ties into the game's overall plot. But the tone of Nicholson Electroplating and its mixture of gameplay certainly lean more toward what a typical gamer might have expected from L.A Noire. Moreso than the main L.A. Noire game, it presents a detective adventure that follows any moment of quiet examination or interactive conversation with some sort of violence or the interactive doing-of—slightly-tricky-things. While the case does fit into the game and can even be played within the flow of the main game (I didn't; I played it from the case menu), it proves to be an interesting tonal diversion, making things feel a little closer to action game than old-school adventure game. L.A. Noire's critics couldn't accuse this case of feeling like an interactive movie.

You are detective Cole Phelps again. You're still spending a lot of time peering at clues and keeping your gun holstered about as much as you do in any game this side of Tetris. But if you want to see L.A. Noire of a slightly different, more typical flavor—or simply want to extend the game out with its fourth downloadable case of five, give it a shot.

The Nicholson Electroplating case is out today for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. While it costs $4 if bought alone, it can be bought as part of a Rockstar Pass, a bundle of existing and forthcoming L.A. Noire downloadable content the cuts the per-case cost in half.