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As the city is so well designed, I would like to wander around a little bit, discover the monuments, etc...
The issue is that the story goes from one case to another, without a break, whereas, in GTA:IV, you had to go to a given spot to start a new mission.
So the question is simple: in a middle of a case, will I get a penalty for doing something else for days or will I be marked as a detective taking days and days to go from crime scene to suspect's house? Will the final appreciation of the case (in term of number of stars) be affected by this behavior?
I perhaps have to wait to finish the game to be able to do the side missions and tourism...?

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Thanks asking the question. I want to buy this and I try to read everything on that game. I hate games where you're constantly rush to complete something. –  Luc M Jul 13 '11 at 18:18
    
@Luc M You're welcome :) I also prefer having games when I can take time to do the things properly and it is clearly important in this kind of games, when analyzing crime scenes, etc... You should get it, it really deserves the good reviews. –  LudoMC Jul 13 '11 at 20:43
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up vote 10 down vote accepted

With a couple of obvious exceptions you can take as long as you like to go from one case point to the next, it is even encouraged that you detour to do things like street crimes. You will not be penalized in any way for taking too long to get to the next objective (unless the story states it).

However you do lose points for causing accidents and damaging property, as this is more likely the longer you drive around it will have an impact on your case. This is why at the end of each desk you can open free roam and go mop up street crimes, go site seeing etc. This way there is no chance of it impacting the case you are in. It is one per desk as street crimes are locked to a certain desk and open during a certain case, but stay open from then on as long as you in the right time slot.

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You can just wander around forever between objectives. Or, after you complete each station, you unlock them for freeplay, where you can just wander around and find all the collectables.

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It should be noted that at least one case times how long it takes for you to get to the suspects house, and it does affect both story progression and your end-case rating. –  Tzarium Jun 27 '11 at 9:42
    
@Tzarium At least one case or only one case? Is it clearly stated in this case that you have to do it the quick way (i.e. is it said or obvious due to the events)? Thx for your comment –  LudoMC Jul 13 '11 at 20:44
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@LudoMc Well, I've only noticed it once. In that particular case it was spelled out in the end-case rating, something like "If you had made it to X's apartment faster, you would've been able to catch the goons in the act of wrecking it." I haven't replayed the case since, so I can't vouch for what the differences are. –  Tzarium Jul 14 '11 at 7:52
    
This case is actually quite obvious. It clearly says it on the police scanner, and your partner yells at you to hurry it up and get there. This is the only case that speed actually matters. Its impossible to miss. –  McAzzaMan Sep 7 '11 at 7:39
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L.A. Noire doesn’t seem to invite sightseeing trips. Because you’re doing important police work, it doesn’t feel right to stop the car and look around or even to drive slowly (or even to obey the traffic signs!).

The following discussion sheds some light on this aspect of the game. I'm copying it in case of link rot.

Bearing in mind that I’ve only played L. A. Noire for a few hours, I’m getting a strange feeling from its city. As we all know, L.A. is a “driving city”, but it feels as though all the driving you do in the game serves to somehow negate the city around you. In some ways, I guess, this feels like the real L.A.: epic drives in which you just want to get where you’re going. For a game with attention lavished on a virtual environment, though, it just feels off.

The major reason for the awkwardness of the virtual L.A. is that, so far, the structure of the game has revolved relentlessly around cases. Specifically, you’re always in the middle of investigating something, and that means driving from place to place. Because you’re doing important police work, it doesn’t make sense (or, to me, feel right) to stop the car and look around or even to drive slowly (or even to obey the traffic signs!). What dawdling there is in the game is reserved for very local environments in which the pace of the game, quite pleasingly, slows to a crawl and you find yourself scouring an alleyway for clues.

In this setup, L. A. Noire reminds me of the original Police Quest. In that game driving was extremely functional – irrelevant locations in space barely existed. If you pulled over to somewhere that wasn’t a part of the narrative, you’d just see a generic parking lot or suburban street. Move along. L. A. Noire has the same impatience with the majority of its city, except that in this case the “irrelevant” parts are lovingly modeled and detailed.

As such, this ostensibly beautiful city is generally just whipping past my windshield as I drive on and on, listening to my monotonous partner’s directions for where to go. Technically I could stop and experience the sublimity of the general environment, but I don’t. It would be rude and unprofessional and, frankly, kind of boring. Although the city is there, it’s also not there: it’s irrelevant. This doesn’t have to be the case, either: consider how consistently ripe with meaning Fallout 3‘s wasteland manages to be.

In a way, it might be that L. A. Noire falls “victim” to its devotedly cinematic style: you’re always trying to get to the next scene in both a crime-busting and a movie-making sense. The rest of it is all chaff in the wind. Which is actually pretty ironic. Consider that in watching a movie you’re transported from scene to scene without the intervening space being required, just in some sense implied. Because it doesn’t contribute to the story it’s literally not there. In video games, of course, in this age of large scale virtual environments, the intervening space generally has to be there – game design simply demands it. Thus, in this extreme cinematic mode of play, we have the worst of both worlds: the intervening space is both irrelevant and frustratingly present.

In fact, as I’ve played, I’ve found myself wishing more and more that the rest of the city wasn’t there. As I walk toward my virtual car with my partner I pause for a moment, and then I say:

“You drive.”

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Except that as other answers point out, you are free to explore just about whenever you want, and will be rewarded for doing so. So the only thing pushing you to continue the investigation is yourself. –  bwarner Jul 19 '11 at 11:52
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