Hey internet, itís July 7th, 2011, and I have a digitalized collection of opinionated written pieces.
For this fine evening, I want to write on something completely new and complex. An entirely unique venture for interactive gaming entertainment. It doesnít really do the game justice to call it an open world game, perhaps even a game. In some ways itís just a television show where you lead the plot twists and choices of the main character. In other ways itís one of the best videogame experiences to date, albeit a very unorthodox videogame, hence my previous statements. This is a game called L.A. Noire, and this is a review of L.A. Noire.
True to the name, Rockstarís triple A crime drama takes place in America during the golden age of the 50s. As youíd probably read on the back of the case, the 1950s was a big boom on many levels, including industry, fashion, art, and most importantly, film, which sets a shining stage for the gameís story and characters. The game heavily centers on a retro genre of movies and style directly out of the 50s, with a Film Noire personality. There is mystery, sexuality, and of course, illegal shenanigans wrapped up in absolutely lovely acting from the main cast, excellently pinning down 1950s stereotypes as well as truly believable people.
The realism and feel in the story and characters stems from the motion capture technology, which most of us will know about considering itís a huge selling point for the game. Rockstar invested a lot of time and cash into extraordinary animation, taking in every little emotion and facial movement into lovingly crafted graphics that drive the story and the gameplay. There were several times during interrogation sequences where I truly felt in the game. At least, while looking at the characterís faces. Clothing textures tend to be hit or miss in comparison to the MoCapping, but thatís really a miniscule thing.
Of course, itís not just some love letter to film noire in the 50s. There is an original story, as you control a LAPD detective as he rises in the ranks and solves cases. It sounds pretty basic, but itís not until you play the game that you realize how every case is gripping and special(save for a series of serial-killing cases that got predictable, but still fun). Action sequences like car chases, sneaking around, fist fights, and shootouts are sprinkled everywhere in the cases, hitting you at just the right moment. They never get old, nor do you ever start missing them. The pacing is absolutely perfect, and I have yet to even mention how the unique case stories are just as engaging. Youíll find clues, investigate leads, and engage in some interrogations(all of which Iíll touch on later).
All behind these small case stories is the main plot surrounding said Detective you play as, a war veteran named Cole Phelps. His own life takes interesting twists and turns that really distance you from him. I wonít spoil it, but the game basically makes sure you know that you arenít him, and he isnít you. I donít know exactly how I feel about this. Again, I try not to spoil, but Phelps makes some certain choices I donít like, not to mention a very regretful career in WWII. This disconnection between player and avatar certainly makes for a great story however, and while the plot and setting, as well as Phelps himself, take some new turns, the gameplay stays completely true to the investigation routine, as well as evenly keeping in the action sequences perfectly. The story is just damn good on its own, too.
As for the actual gameplay, all the action sequences are usually great fun. Itís top grade stuff, as you can expect from Rockstar. I did get frustrated on a few missions where you tail a suspect on foot, or where you have to take down a ton of enemies(The Arson desk and the Vice desk really love doing this)with a shooting system that is sometimes too realistic for its own good. But otherwise, itís all addictive. I especially love the driving sequences. While I did get messed up on some parts due to the fact that the city is extremely realistic(traffic is populated and hard to avoid, while you will also be penalized for destruction, as a member of the LAPD.), it was very satisfying to take down a runaway suspect, bumping into them and having my partner shoot out wheels until they came to a rolling stop.
The investigation sequences have their own problems, and itís really where the game starts to distance from actually being a videogame and it starts being an interactive show. It starts with gathering clues, and the main problem there is that itís pretty easy. Itís only in so many cases where evidence is hiding far in the corner, or behind a tough puzzle. Otherwise, itís a simple sequence of running around a crime scene until you hit a musical clue, then pressing A. Sometimes you have to press A again, or look at the clue in a certain way, both of which are easy tasks that the game practically tells you to do, rather than subtly hinting at it so only good detectives will find the extra information hidden behind the scenes. Donít get me wrong, itís all very fun to discover clues. Itís just not much of a challenge, or rather, one Iíd expect from a videogame. I was hoping for much more of a mind puzzle, instead itís just quick entertainment like something out of a HBO crime show set in the 50s. Itís not a bad thing at all. Itís just so very different, and you should consider it before making a purchase.
While the clues maintained actual entertainment while still being a little too easy, Interrogations are a real hit and miss. As it was said in the Dtoid official review of the game, itís entirely based on the extreme realism in the facial animations. Itís up to your own human instinct to truly see if someone is lying or withholding info. If theyíre avoiding eye contact, or if theyíre acting uncomfortable, or if theyíre upright telling you something that conflicts with the evidence, than theyíre doing one of the two aforementioned things. Itís absolutely amazing how they did this. Itís just not an absolutely amazing videogame experience. While itís all fun to watch, as well as very satisfying to get right, it can be very frustrating and very easy to get wrong. The problem is again in the player-game disconnection. There are only three responses in interrogation. Truth, Doubt, and Lie, the last of which requires substantial evidence to prove that the suspect is fibbing. All three options are very variable. Sometimes Doubt could be outright anger, or pushing a suspect to doesnít really understand that all information they know is very important, rather than curiously questioning something that seems like a lie. Better yet, selecting Lie will most of the time result in Phelps accusing the suspect of something almost very irrelevant to the statement you are responding to, and the evidence you have to select to prove a lie isnít always very easy to see. Sometimes, you could prove a lie with several items of evidence(in real life)but the game decides that only one is right. Itís extremely frustrating, especially since replay value is low in that you canít skip cut scenes or dialogue.
Itís a bit of a cop out on the part of the developers in my opinion, there could have been a much deeper interrogation system with options like Ďpush topic,í Ďquestion statement,í Ďask for more infoí, and so on. Itís horribly hit or miss. It doesnít entirely ruin the game, and perhaps I am exaggerating. None the less, it feels like it could have been a lot better. Also, Iím so damn tired of Phelps saying things that I didnít intend.
As clues start to become easy to find and interrogations only seem to do you right half the time, the experience becomes assimilated into watching your character solve mysteries, with the odd action sequence and choice of following a lead. Again, itís not necessarily bad. Itís just so unique, itís something that I honestly thing everyone needs to experience, maybe only for the reality bending graphics or perhaps the stupendous story and pacing. Itís unlike any game before it, at least, any game Iíve played before. I love it, even if it sometimes it betrays me in the interrogations and the story, or even if itís a bit too easy. Itís so enormous as well. 1950s L.A. is stunningly recreated with real landmarks and a huge amount of collectibles like film reels and hidden cars. Not everyone will like it. But everyone needs to try it. I canít possibly give the game a score, either. Itís a yes or no, really. I say yes, but again, not everyone will. Despite that, the game easily deserves a look by every nerd worth his salt. Hell, it might be really fun for casual players too, considering the wavering difficulty. So, for like, the third time, you really really really need to check out L.A. Noire. Itís not always a great game but itís a REALLY good experience.
On a side note, get the Rockstar Pass for all the DLC. The extra cases are worth it, they are fun and fit in seamlessly into the game, which is to be expected from Rockstarís high level of quality. I also recommend that you rent the game. As I said, the replay value gets low within the gameís heavy focus on story. However, Rockstar is clearly working on consistently providing DLC content, with a new case out just next week, so if you loved the game just as much as I did when you first got into it, and you are willing to invest some more bones, itís fully worth your cash.
As always, Iím bad at conclusions. See you next time internet.