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L.A. Noire apes '40s detective melodramas

L.A. Noire is a lavish tribute to the detective melodramas of the 1940s and '50s. Its epic tale of corruption and redemption draws from dozens of films while being moving in its own right. As a game, however, it's not entirely rewarding.

The protagonist is Cole Phelps. He moves up the ranks from beat cop to homicide detective and ends up investigating a series of murders that bear all the signs of the notorious Black Dahlia killing.

The main story line has 21 cases, and the action consists of two activities. First, you examine crime scenes for evidence. This involves walking around the scene until your controller vibrates, then peering at whatever piqued your senses. It's tedious.

Second, you interrogate witnesses and suspects based on evidence collected. This is more intriguing, since you have to watch other characters' body language and guess whether they're telling the truth, lying or something in between. Guessing wrong won't prevent you from solving a case; the worst penalty is a chewing-out from the boss.

Film noir fans will have a blast playing spot-the-influence, with scenes drawn from genre classics like "Out of the Past," "Double Indemnity," "The Set-Up" and "The Third Man." Two more recent films, however, seem like the scriptwriter's main inspirations: 1974's "Chinatown" and 1997's "L.A. Confidential."


RATING M for Mature

PLOT A film-noir cops and robbers

DETAILS Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $60

BOTTOM LINE A few cracks in this hard-boiled drama

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