Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What I thought of L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire is not like other Rockstar games. The game is focused around interrogations and investigating crime scenes. It is also spattered with action scenes such as shootouts and chase scenes. I really enjoyed the game overall but there were several aspects that I wish they’d have either tweaked or just left out completely. 

This game does something no game has done before, make facial expressions important to actual gameplay. I don’t think I’m going to be able to play another game without comparing the facial animation to L.A. Noire. It is amazing how many subtle things go on when a person is speaking. The muscle movements and various expressions that are unique to the person in question are all represented in the character models and the voice acting is fantastic as well. I am a little wary of this technology because I don’t want to end up seeing the same actors in all the games I play but in this case I enjoyed it. I saw several actors I recognized from Madmen, Bones and Fringe.

This image dedicated to Scott Chambers

Another part of the game I enjoyed was investigating the crime scenes or poking around in suspects apartments. This all felt very much like an adventure game, and if you listen to the podcast you will know I love the genre. Special investigative music plays as you try to find all the clues in an area. When you pass something that can be looked at, a certain musical cue plays. Once you have found all the clues the music stops. I thought this was very helpful and nonintrusive to the feel of the game.

I found a clue!

The story is very intriguing, although the ending felt completely random to me.  The character development was very interesting for Cole Phelps and he is very likeable even though he isn’t as perfect as I thought he was going to be. It is too bad that the ending felt so disjointed with the rest of the game.

The first thing I felt aggravated by was the fact that if you accidentally get an interview question response wrong you can’t restart it, unless you restart the entire mission. I understand that they wanted to make the game challenging to read all of the witness’s and suspect’s facial expressions, but I am not sure how I feel about being able to fail a dialog sequence.

That leads me into my second concern. Even though you cannot restart dialog scenes, the cases are not hard to solve. In fact, as long as you find the clues, the game basically solves itself. There wasn’t a lot of thinking required on my behalf. I just found all the clues and tried to perform all the dialogue correctly and the story concluded.  This was pretty disappointing to me because I was hoping I would actually have to do some of the crime solving myself.

Beautiful city that I don't want to drive around in

The game takes place in a big open world that seems historically accurate and very beautiful. But traversing this world suffers from some of the same problems I had with the GTA series. I don’t want to obey traffic laws or have to worry about bumping into other cars. I couldn’t really even look at the world because I was focused on my driving. This annoyance is amplified by the fact that you are a very GOOD LAPD police detective and accidentally killing anyone can result in a game over. Ultimately I felt this open world was completely superfluous. All the most interesting scenes took place in exactly that… a scene.  There is nothing to do in this 40s version of LA but respond to dispatch calls which serve as the game’s side quests. These are tedious and almost ALL feel the same. I have not played all of them but I did play over half. There was only one that stood out to me and it involved trailing a perp. This was very disappointing to me because in the last Rockstar game that I played, Red Dead Redemption, I enjoyed all of the sidequests and the quirky stories they told. These just feel like a waste of time, the only motivation to complete them all being a trophy or achievement.

Overall Opinion:
I think this is a great game and I respect that it tries to break the mold for games of this kind. I highly recommend that everyone at least try out this game. There are a few problems with this game but I think that is to be expected in most new IPs. The good acting and interesting gameplay make up for the few flaws it has. 


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