It's realistic, gritty, dramatic... According to a video I watched online about it it's also pretty true-to-the-times of the 40's and the style of detective work you would find back then. (The video isn't the most exciting 11:16 of your life, but it is interesting and gives you a good look at gameplay and graphics.)
The game makes you feel like you are in control of a real open-world where you have to solve the crime. There are clues strewn about crime scenes, some requiring you to look in the surrounding area. Things aren't handed over to you like in some games, but it's also not impossibly difficult to find the clues and solve the cases. As in the video, the ex-detective says, "We never get this lucky" when Phelps (your main character) finds a murder weapon in a nearby trash can. You'll solve some crimes in a single area, while others will have you traversing the city looking for people you have to interview.
The graphics are beautiful. The game earned recognition with its face capture technology, finally giving characters in a game realistic animation of the face. And teeth! For once in a game, the teeth don't look wooden. I love it. You can watch a character talk and it feels oddly like watching a real live person talk. They flinch when then lie, they blink and fidget and look around.. It's really neat to watch.
When you first loaded the game up and looked at the city map it is easy to feel totally overwhelmed. The city is huge, but it is beautifully rendered. And, again referring to the video link above, it is realistic. The ex-detective mentions both the police station and coroner's office looking just like that in real life. Talk about total immersion. And probably my favorite part about the city is this: you don't have to drive it. When you are traveling places with your partner for solving crimes, you can set your destination and your partner will drive. I am a horrible driver in games, and this is a simple and easy solution. Of course, if you're adventurous you can jump in any car and drive around the city on your own, discovering the various landmarks or each of the 90+ cars.
There are some drawbacks though, as with any game. Most of all I have seen complaints online about it being too slow going, or boring. I'm here to tell you - it is a slow game. But you're solving crimes...That, to me, doesn't seem like the most high paced lifestyle. I like the pace of the game. It feels realistic to me that you would spend the majority of your time on a case in thoroughly checking out the crime scene, and then interviewing anyone and everyone you can find to help you out. Obviously, neither of these things are as thrilling as sniping someone from across the map on a FPS or taking down a huge boss in an RPG...but that isn't to say they are less fun, just a different kind of fun.
Second drawback? The realism! Seriously, looking at the murdered bodies freaks me out. But I am not down with all that homicide fascination that seems to be such a huge part of our culture. I mean, look at the TV lineup - half the shows on at prime time are murder shows. This game fits right in to that genre, so if that's your bag, you'll love this. I'm just the kind of person that gets nightmares when I see a woman who was beaten to death with a tire iron.
Final drawback: anti-climactic. I'm not through the game, so this isn't a statement on the end of it. This is a statement on the end of each and every case. You find the bad guy, you chase him down (they seem to run a lot), and then - gray screen showing your breakdown. How many clues you found, how many questions you asked correctly in the interviews.. And maybe a sentence at the bottom about how you could've done better or what the perp will get for a sentence. And that's it. I don't know what I want, I mean, I know this game is already gigantic and they probably didn't want to spend the time on stories about each and every perp... but maybe for a few of them? Every now and then give me a little bone - show the guy in court, or at least rotting away in a jail cell. The cases just seem to wrap up so abruptly, it leaves me wanting. This may be the style the chose partially because the game does play out like mini noire films. Each murder has a stylized title screen at the beginning, and then this sort of "credit roll" at the end.
So if you've made it this far in this crazy long review, I congratulate you. If not, and you skipped to the bottom hoping for a summary, here's the gist of it: try this game out. If you like the gameplay of Grand Theft Auto, you will be a natural at how L.A. Noire handles (and you'll enjoy the improvements they've made from the GTA series). If you like puzzle games, this is a fit for solving the crimes. If you just want to try a game out that looks and sounds really pretty, then give Noire some of your time, I don't think you'll regret it.