Well, its been a month and a bit since Portal 2 came out, so I was ready to be wowed again by the second game to drop on my most anticipated list for 2011. Firstly I forgive Rockstar for releasing the game in Australia two days after the US even though it was developed in Sydney, cos I’m just a nice guy, but as I sit here listening to the free Portal 2 soundtrack, it’s kinda apparent that LA Noire didn’t have much of an impact on me. It might be because I’m too dumb, I thought the game was well made, but nothing special. In this article I will go through the negatives I experienced in the game, if people think I’m hating on it then don’t, I’m just going through what I found was wrong. Correct me on it if you want, write your own fanboy article if you want, be my guest.
Before I properly start, this article will judge the game for game’s sake and not on the fact that Rockstar published it or Team Bondi developed it or SCEA originally funded it before Rockstar bought it. That’s just arbitrary, the game is what is actually important about LA Noire.
I played LA Noire on PS3. It took me 24 hrs of game time to get through the main story, play all the Street Crime side missions and achieve 45% trophies (unfortunately including trophies from DLC missions which I can’t get on PSN yet due to the Store still being down).
First up, if you haven’t bought the game and are worried that the game wont look like the screenshots and the trailers, then fear not because it looks just as pretty… Alright that should be enough being nice, time to go nasty.
This game will be great as a present if you know anyone who wants to spend most of the game failing. Even by the end of the game I’d be dished out with 2 stars out of 6 because I failed most interrogation questions. I even knew what I wanted to do in the questions, but picking ‘Lie’ instead of ‘Doubt’ because I misunderstood evidence. I think that happened wayyy too much for me to take it as an error on my part.
It was unclear whether some evidence would be relevant because they don’t note all the details of the pieces of evidence in Phelps’ journal. For example you will find a list of names and Phelps will note it in his journal in a very basic form so when the time comes to interrogate the suspects, it’s difficult which person the list would be relevant to or if it would be relevant to the case at all.
And speaking of names, Team Bondi assumed that my memory was immaculate. I have trouble remembering names in real life, so it doesn’t help that each case in LA Noire requires you to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the suspects names, then after the case is over you have to forget them and remember a whole other set of names in the next case. Then they go and make references to previous cases (like during specific Street Crime side-missions) expecting you to remember who people they are out of a collection of at least 50 names and faces from past cases. I just ended up letting it skim over my head as there was no way in the world that seeing a former suspect for 5 seconds was adequate time to remember what he was accused for and which case(s) he was in.
They used ‘revolutionary’ facial capture technology (which everyone would know by now) and assumed that you’d be able to remember faces better that way. I don’t want to sit here and say that it was game that sold entirely on a gimmick alone but, aside from the excellent use of shadows/shadowplay, the facial capture technology was the most impressive part of the game. Plus, I personally don’t think it was a technology properly utilized in the game. To be honest I remember different faces in Final Fantasy 7 for the PS1 better than I can remember and distinguish faces in LA Noire. This probably could have been solved easily by just adding in more close ups of character’s faces which not only familiarize yourself with the character but also enable you to better emotionally relate to them. I suppose they could be excused by saying that their facial models weren’t detailed enough for shots that went any closer than shoulder-to-head, but I’m pretty sure they could have done it.
The hidden vehicles all look awesome and are fast but they aren’t practical because they don’t have a siren or a dispatch radio which, in a game that doesn’t encourage free-roam except for an impossible list of useless collectible film reels, means you wont spend more than a minute enjoying a fancy fast car before ditching it for the stock standard police vehicle. On the topic of sirens, in LA Noire they are pretty much useless if you’re trying to get anywhere fast because 1) traffic stopped at traffic lights will not pull over for you to pass them 2) Moving traffic wont move to the side until the last minute, especially if you are driving fast 3) If you are on the outside lane the moving traffic will still pull over to the side of the road, resulting in them crashing into you 4) cars coming across intersections wont stop or move out of the way also resulting in them crashing into you. In a game that judges you for vehicle damage among other things, that’s a long list of unrealistic elements within the game’s traffic mechanic which shouldn’t have been too hard to get right.
LA Noire claims to be made up of 90% historically accurate buildings. It’s great to see that they are also 90% historically accurately racist toward African Americans and sexist toward women, props to you LA Noire.
Flashbacks seemed like spoilers that dull the main storyline in an attempt to make the game shorter to fit on discs for consoles. They don’t really reveal anything important about the story and just serve as breaks between cases.
Every element in this game that they used just seemed to immerse me less and less emotionally in the story. The game went downhill in the Vice cases after a plot point which stumped me and many other players as to why it happened and what actually happened. For a game that explained everything to the dot, it definitely marked the rest of my experience of the game. I suggest playing the game on repeat during the Homicide missions, which I think is where the game really shined and should have climaxed. Some criticized Portal 2 for being too short, but in my opinion it is the opposite for LA Noire. It will be interesting to see if Rockstar will disown the game as a publisher after the DLC cycle like Bethesda will most probably do with Brink.
Let me know in the comments if you found the same issues as I did, if you think I’m wrong, if I saved you 60 bucks or if this article made you like the game even more because you wanted to decide what you thought about it yourself. Like I said, LA Noire was a decent game, I finished it and the side missions, but I’m just listing the holes I found in the otherwise smooth road. I didn’t mention anything about the graphics or the shooting mechanics because they were good… well the cover system was a little sticky… but the half of the game before you hit Vice was really darn good.
More of my reviews/ideas/thoughts/bizarre at twitter.com/warmanator