Tuesday, May 24, 2011

L.A. Noire

Games that are not on my radar have no expectations to fulfill or hopes to dash. If they come out, like L.A. Noire did, to fantastic reviews, they can easily delight and fascinate me for unexpected weeks. Noire is a game unlike any I have ever played before. Sure it takes it's driving, shooting and melee combat from it's GTA predecessors (not a good thing), but that is where the similarities end. It is a big budget adventure game in an open world.

Less action and more police work. Investigating crime scenes, questioning suspects and putting clues together. Unlike most "police" games that boil down to "shoot the bad guys", Noire has brains and makes you use yours. I described it to my wife as one of her crappy CSI games done with a big budget, awesome graphics and incredible writing. Of note, the facial animations are almost unsettling realistic, they are a must see.

That is not to say it isn't without flaws, for me personally at least. I have a hard time being completely happy with a game when I think I am "doing it wrong". Splinter Cell is a perfect example, I've loved all of the games in the series, but I know there is a way you are supposed to play them. I.e. a stealth ass spy, not Rambo with a 50 caliber. Inevitably I end up stepping into a search light or leaving a body out for another guard to find. The immersion breaks down when I go hauling ass to the next check point knowing the guards won't follow me past a load screen. It gets the job done, but not in the most satisfying way.

I am tamping down the urge to reload and retry scenes in Noire were I get an interview with a suspect or witness completely wrong. Sometimes I could see the blame falling to me. For every time that is the case though there is a confusing question or answer that seems to have no solution. Coming to the game as a flawed human police officer instead of action packed super cop seems to be the best answer to this. Except there is no way to fail, fuck up an interview royally or Columbo that shit and you still move on to the next case. It gets the job done, but not in the most satisfying way.

If you can't fail, then it boils down to performance or star rating. Ultimately that is less satisfying then story changes due to failure or even hard resets to get it right. That is not to say I don't like the game, but without consequence it feels less meaningful. I'm playing it for the acting, story and dialog, and crossing my fingers that Noire is just the tip of the iceberg. This game could be a watershed moment for gaming with the way it is selling and I for one welcome the iterations that might follow.

1 comment:

Chuck P. said...

my problem with the game (and we should talk about it over lunch sometime) is the writing. The black dahlia case really bugged me because I knew from square one what it was going to lead to but the game only lets you investigate in such a narrow path that it is to linear and no real investigation. No spoilers here, but when you get to the end of homicide i'd like to know what you think.

I am still liking it at times (except street crime, those are dumb), but it feels like i'm just half playing in some poor man's james ellroy book and not really doing anything (felt the same way about GTA IV).

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