Stu Strock has been gaming since his parents sat him in their laps while playing games on an Amiga. Raised mostly on RPGs, he has since developed a keen interest in the narrative potential and immersive qualities of games. As games progressed and evolved over the years, that interest grew and Stu decided to keep games and their culture close by. During high school and college, he worked part-time for Gamestop and became exposed to a wider range of thought concerning what the word game means to players. Now a recent graduate, Stu is currently living in Atlanta, GA and maintains his blog, Experience Points, which seeks to encourage the open discourse of the creation, enjoyment and potential of modern games.
Stu's favorites: Metal Gear Solid (series), Chrono Trigger/Cross, Breath of Fire (series), Grandia, Suikoden (I and II), Final Fantasy (VIII, X and XII), Mirror's Edge, Demon's Souls, Silent Hill (series), Eternal Sonata, Fallout: New Vegas, Batman Arkham Asylum, Legend of Zelda (series), Okami, Ys (series), Valyrie Profile, Kingdom Hearts (series), Tales of Symphonia, Twisted Metal (series), Legacy of Kain (series), Gex (series), Heavy Rain, Wing Commander IV, Ace Combat (series), Zone of the Enders (series), Atelier Iris (I and II), Ico, Shadow of the Colossus
Sometime during the first few hours of L.A. Noire, I decided that I wasn't going to play the game like a Rockstar game. Before you say it, I know it's a very different Rockstar game and it is not meant to be played like Grand Theft Auto. That makes perfect sense, but what I am referring to goes much deeper than refraining from running people over or shooting bystanders in the face. What am I talking about? I'm talking about playing Cole Phelps, the main character of the game. Cole Phelps, for those of you who have not played the game, is the definition of a hero cop. He follows the rules to the letter, and is an overall good guy.
Cole's character is placed in stark relief against the corruption surrounding him, making his adherence to the law stand out all the more. It therefore seemed only logical for my actions as the player to reflect those which I imagined would be Cole's. Immediately this meant not charging a suspect, no matter how sleazy, until I had all the facts and aiming below the waste during shootouts. Whenever possible, Cole would avoid killing a suspect. Unfortunately, this behavior only mattered when responding to street crime. Cole could shoot criminals in the legs to avoid needless death, or could even shoot a warning shot into the air during an on-foot chase to stop the suspect. These decisions meant the difference between calling a squad car, ambulance, or the coroner. None of these situations were game changing, but they were a nice touch.
If a suspect initiated a shootout during one of the main story missions, however, even a shot to the foot would kill them. Successfully cornering a suspect and shooting their gun hand immediately lost all reward when the following cutscene showed the suspect being taken away in a body bag. The writers wanted that character to die, and there was nothing Cole could do about it. My role playing was not restricted only to combat, however; there was something more in the city of Los Angeles that caught my attention. The Traffic.
Before L.A. traffic looked like this.
When I first got behind the wheel, I threw on the siren and weaved in and out of traffic at 80 miles an hour, doing my best to avoid hitting people. After all, I was playing a cop, right? This was particularly rewarding when responding to one of the aforementioned street crimes. Not long after being promoted to traffic detective, though, I decided to ease up on the accelerator. Seeing first hand the type of gruesome results that could come from driving irresponsibly struck a nerve in the part of my brain straining to be Cole Phelps. From that point on, the siren was for emergencies only. Besides, I was a detective now, and one doesn't usually see detectives tearing through suburban streets with their lights flashing just to stop and ask someone a few questions.
Going the speed limit wasn't enough, though; I would need to stop at red lights, wait for the right-of-way when turning and use turn signals! The rest of the traffic in L.A. Noire followed those rules, for the most part. Unfortunately for me, the game did not allow for the use of turn signals. It was at about this time when I started voicing these concerns to my roommate, Pat, who could not roll his eyes emphatically enough. "Seriously, though, they could use the right and left d-pad buttons, those don't do anything!" Pat just looked at me with confusion and asked why I didn't just drive like I was in a video game.
He's on to me...
Much to Pat's chagrin, I drove like that for the entire game. I like to think it was a positive and rewarding experience. I got to really take my time and see the meticulously recreated post WWII L.A. and the game lasted a lot longer than it would normally. To me, driving like a maniac around town causing tons of property damage and acting like a public menace would have cheapened Cole's character. Sure, it wouldn't have affected the plot, but the believability of Cole's by-the-book approach would have been contradicted by my Wacky Races-style driving. Damn, now there was a good show...