Video Games

Bullet Points: L.A. Noire, Part 1

Los Angeles. Nineteen-forty-something-or-so. My name? Chris Livingston. I’m a police officer. My name? Cole Phelps. So, uh… forget about the Chris Livingston thing. I got confused.

I’m investigating a murder. It’s not just any old murder. It’s a tutorial murder. Maybe it’s the damn heat, or maybe it’s just this damn city, but tutorial murders are up 23% on my beat. Damn these tutorials! They cost too many lives. Lives this damn city can’t afford.

I find a gun, and take it to a gun dealer to see what’s what. The gun dealer won’t give me a damn thing, except for the fact that he had the gun in his shop, that he sold the gun, the name of the person he sold it to, and that person’s home address. Fine, play it cool, Buster. Let’s see how cool you are when I closely examine all the DECORATIVE WOODEN DUCKS you’ve got in your store. Feel like talking now? Oh, wait, you did talk, and you’ve been extremely helpful. I’ll just put all your decorative wooden ducks back and leave. Thank you for your time, sir.

So, yeah! I started playing L.A. Noire yesterday on X-Box 360, and here are my thoughts in bullet-point form. I won’t spoil any specifics of the cases (I’ve only played through three of them so far).

  • I’m almost instantly in love with this game. I have a notebook. A NOTEBOOK. Everything I find — every clue, every detail, every witness statement, every location, every suspect — goes into my notebook. I love my notebook.
  • I think Rockstar/Bondi looked into my brain and mapped out exactly how I wanted crime scene investigations to work. It’s great. Examine the body, search the pockets, hunt around for nearby clues. Not everything you find is a clue. Sometimes decorative wooden ducks are just decorative wooden ducks.
  • Okay, the much-heralded motion-captured facial expressions. They’re a little weird, especially pasted onto very generic looking computer game bodies. As a complete package, the characters are kind of awkward. It’s sort of like how in The Incredibles, everyone has cartoony bodies but ultra-realistic hair. Doesn’t quite all fit together.
  • That mis-match aside, the facial expressions are undeniably great. You can really see the actors’ performances, and it makes a world of difference, not just when interrogating a suspect but when someone — a witness, your partner, another cop — is talking to you. It’s just fantastic. I just stare like a gob-smacked owl anytime anyone is talking to me.
  • The interrogation itself is a little lacking. You ask someone about a topic from your notebook, they answer, you can choose to believe them, doubt them, or decide they’re lying, but you have no idea what you’re going to say to the suspect after choosing from those options. I think a Mass Effect dialogue wheel might have been better to let me feel a little more personally involved, for a more tailor-made interrogation.
  • Doubting and lying seem to equal yelling like a mean jerk. I was talking to an underage victim and she was clearly lying, and I was a big old mean jerk to her, and I didn’t want to be. So, that’s not so great. At least give me a good cop button and a bad cop button.
  • If you decide someone is lying, you need some evidence to confront them with or they can shut you out.
  • Sometimes you can talk to someone, gather evidence, and talk to them again. Sometimes you can’t.
  • I do love that while looking through your notebook, you can look up at your witness or suspect and observe them squirming. Or not squirming. It’s fun.
  • There seem to be multiple ways to solve a case. I screwed up an interrogation: I thought a suspect was lying, but didn’t have evidence to prove it, so the interrogation didn’t lead anywhere. I got to follow the suspect, though, and wound up solving the case that way. Fantastic.
  • You can also partially solve cases. In one instance, I nailed one person for a crime, but someone else who was almost definitely guilty got away because I didn’t gather all the evidence I should have.
  • Cases you’ve completed are replayable independently from the main menu, so you can try them again as sort of a stand-alone experience: also great.
  • Flashbacks! My brain is remembering things and I don’t care about them right now. I just want to solve my case.
  • The huge explorable city of 1940′s Los Angeles laid out for me like a glittering whatever. I don’t care about it right now, I just want to solve my case.
  • Apparently, there are 95 different cars I can discover and drive! DON’T CARE. WANT SOLVE CASE.
  • Seriously. This game could be taking place on gm_flatgrass in Garry’s Mod for all I care. I don’t want to explore, or drive, or remember things about my past. At all. I just want to solve cases!
  • There is some shooting in this game. I care about it a little because I like shooting. But mostly, I’d prefer to use my notebook instead of my gun, and most of the game is about your notebook.
  • While driving a cop car, you can answer radio calls, which take you to street crimes. I did one street crime, which involved chasing a dude and shooting him. Chasing is kind of fun, and so is shooting.
  • There is a pretty big, ridiculous gunfight at one point. It’s entertaining and silly. I guess after a couple hours of walking and talking, it’s nice to see things explode. But I’m still eager to get back to walking and talking.
  • Sometimes the instructions flash on the screen too quickly and I miss them, because they’re explaining what to do at the same moment I’m supposed to be doing it. Sometimes they don’t explain things at all, like how to fire warning shots. It took me like five replays to learn how to fire a warning shot because I didn’t know that was what I was supposed to be doing.
  • I think this is a pretty ballsy game. I know critics are loving it, and I’m loving it, but it’s almost entirely talking, taking notes, and examining clues. Curious how it’s going to go over with the mainstream crowd who are maybe expecting Grand Theft Auto: Noire and are instead getting Grand Talking To People: About Murders.
  • I mean, part of the appeal of GTA and Red Dead Redemption was, that when you didn’t feel like following the story you could go off on destructive rampages for a bit. I don’t know how to rampage in L.A. Noire. There doesn’t even seem to be a way to pull your gun unless a crook is involved. I guess you can drive around fast and crash into things, but that’s about it. Again, ballsy game.
  • This would be great on PC.
  • What, no multiplayer? Just picture up to 24 homicide detectives wrestling over shell casings and blood spatters, then all of them cramming into a widow’s kitchen, shouting dozens of questions at her, then everyone tearing off in their own cars on the way to the next crime scene.
  • Almost entirely loving it. I just wish there were comprehensive dialogue options during interrogations so I could really become my detective, instead of sitting there wondering what my detective is going to say.

Comments

  1. Jacquilynne says:

    I want to play this game so very, very, very, very, very, very much. But I think I’d still need a couple of additional veries in order to justify buying a whole new gaming console just to play one game.

  2. “Just picture up to 24 homicide detectives wrestling over shell casings and blood spatters, then all of them cramming into a widow’s kitchen, shouting dozens of questions at her, then everyone tearing off in their own cars on the way to the next crime scene.”

    Pure, pure gold.

    • Dityblue929 says:

      Well, this has certainly gotten me interested.

      In all seriousness, multiplayer co-op would be pretty cool. It would only be 2-4 players, but it might be fun. Coordinating with your friends on who questions who, and who should follow what lead, then putting your heads (and evidence) together to solve the crime.

      Well, now I kinda want to make a game like that myself.

  3. I wanted this game awhile ago and as its release date loomed I didn’t care as much but now I’m really excited to play it for all the reasons you listed!

  4. Nonomu198 says:

    24 detectives taking turns to slap a guy in an interrogation.

    Something like the classic scene from Airplane!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0GW0Vnr9Yc

    Gold!