Date: 9th of May
Time: 9:45 A.M.
I was sitting at my desk enjoying my usual morning snack of a Nature Valley bar and a cup of hot chocolate. The weather was seasonally balmy and the day, so far, was turning out rather pleasant. Well as pleasant as any Tuesday could ever hope to be. That’s when she came into my office. At first glance she seemed like any other 360 game. I mean sure she may have had 3 discs in her, but there was no way I could have known what a stunning game she would turn out to be.
It is hard to describe Rockstar and Team Bondi’s L.A. Noire and give the game the credit that it deserves. The temerity of the game is notable in its own right. From the lack of emphasis on combat, the uniquely torpid pacing, and push away from the player doing anything on auto pilot; most game studios wouldn’t back such an idea. However, this game design allows for the storytelling, the art direction, and sound design to culminate into and experience that can be best described as relentlessly captivating.
“I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.”
You start the game in 1947 as Cole Phelps. Fresh from the Pacific Theater in WWII, Phelps is carrying a rare honor for bravery from his time on Okinawa. Upon his return home Phelps shifts his service to from the military and decides to join the LAPD. Phelps is a guy on the up and up and quickly becomes the poster boy for the department so that he might draw away attention from the cloud of corruption in L.A.’s finest. He’s basically the young Jim Gordon of the LAPD. Phelps works his way up the ladder from traffic to eventually homicide. This allows Phelps to interact with historical figures like Mickey Cohen and real life crime events. The most notable of them being the infamous Black Dahlia murder. It would ruin the game to give away any more since the major focus of the game is the story. However, all the character and cases are memorable and will have you truly despising certain ones.
The game is afoot
Just like a real detective, you’ll be visiting crime scenes looking for evidence and clues. The collection of said evidence is pretty straight forward but is the most important aspect of figuring out a crime. Look around the crime scene for what is out of place, but evidence can be as obvious as a blood cakes crowbar or as mundane as a hair brush. This will lead you to interviewing certain suspects or can lead to conflict with them. The combat is similar to Red Dead Redemption so any Rockstar fan will be able to pick it up right way.
Real Police Work
The interviews are completely unique to L.A. Noire and it is hard to compare them to anything else in gaming. One might make a comparison to Bioware’s dialog wheels, but L.A. Noire is about the reaction rather than the player just driving the story. Questions are available in your journal and are derived from the clues and evidence you have obtained. Once the suspect has answered the question you are given the choice to respond to them if you thought they were being honest, lying, or withholding information. Careful examination of the character’s facial and body movement allows the player to truly get an understanding of how a real interrogation works. Did the suspect look up to the left? Well then they are creating a new visual image answer to your question, rather than recall the information they already have.
This part of the game is also my one gripe about L.A. Noire. If you mess up an interview, you just follow the suspect to see what they are up to. While it does fit what would really happen in a interrogation, I would have liked to see there be more of a consequence to failing an interrogation. The game moves on and you reach the same conclusion. It’s just the path on how you got to the conclusion that changes.
None of this would be nearly as successful with out the facial motion capture involved. It’s not the big things that make it as profound as it is, but the small ones. Such as the twitch of an eye or the quiver of a lip. All of this adds to the completion of the rich cast this game provides. Sure a guy can say he didn’t do it, but when that guy is on the verge of tears it means a lot more. It’s mesmerizing how detailed and believable these models are.
She’s broken, corrupt, and crime ridden. But she’s mine…
Like GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption, the strongest character of the game is the City of Angels herself. You’ll be able to explore eight square miles of 1947 Los Angeles. Anyone who didn’t live in 1947 L.A. isn’t going to recognize much though since most of the memorable L.A. architecture wasn’t built until the 1950’s. But I still found it quite enjoyable looking at the street cross-sections to try and find my apartment. The town itself is historically accurate and it was interesting seeing what would be destroyed for subdivisions and freeways.
Pros: Superb story telling, Interviewing is one of a kind, Real historical events, Like nothing I have ever played before
Cons: Wish there was more consequences for failing an Interrogation, but that’s a minor gripe.
L.A. Noire is a remarkable accomplishment that will define character driven stories in gaming for years to come. People looking for another GTA game with be disappointed, but what Rockstar and Team Bondi have achieved is second to none in crime drama games. The story is phenomenal and the player will become emotional invested in both the cases and the character that make them up. If you’re looking for something that completely unique and a contender for game of the year, then I highly recommend you pick up L.A. Noire. It get’s 5 “oh god I think that’s semen” out of 5.
As for me, I’m going to head over to pick up something to eat at Canter’s Deli. I got a feeling it’s going to be a long night….
Post by Ninth Batter the author/creator of Nobody Like You.
Any opinions expressed in posts on Polygamerous are not necessarily the opinions of Polygamerous or the other Authors/Editors/Podcasters of Polygamerous.