Jun 03 2011
Yeah, I know, another journal already? I’ve never done a day one and two back to back before, but I’ve been playing a LOT of L.A. Noire and I have too many thoughts not to share, so I decided to come back with another installment.
My time with the game so far has been a rollercoaster of love and hate. What you’ll find below was written over the course of a few hours playing the title, and my emotions swing from immense frustration to complete satisfaction. What will I think tomorrow? Who knows, but the more I play this game, the more I’m appreciating it. It’s not without flaw, but I’m learning from my mistakes.
The next journal starts below, and I’ll try to at least hold off a week or so before I get the next one out.
I said in yesterday’s journal that clues and interviews would seem to always lead you to the same end result. Soon after I wrote that, I learned that this isn’t true. During my second homicide case, I thought I was doing rather well. I found a ton of evidence, got a surprisingly high percentage of questions right, and I was all set to interview my suspects.
“JUST TELL ME WHAT I NEED TO KNOW!”
One man was the victim’s wife, who had lied about everything in the world to me so far. I questioned him, and held off charges until I could go talk to the other suspect, a pedophile caught lurking around the school found with the victim’s jewelry.
Now first, let me pause and point out another fundamental flaw with the game. Despite the insane amounts of evidence that actually points to EITHER of these guys doing the crime, I don’t think either one did it, and this is building toward some large plot point later on. But I have to pick one, or rather, I had the game pick it for me.
I said “Lie” when I should have said “Doubt.” The pedo said I couldn’t prove he took a piece of jewelry from her, I said “AHA! We found it on you!” But then he just shook his head and said that he told me he found it, and I had nothing.
One missed question, and I the entire case fell apart. The problem not being that he lied to me and I believed him, rather I just picked the wrong type of lie. The game forced me to convict the other guy, and before I knew what was happening, I received a chewing out from my commander and one star for my trouble, despite finding more evidence and answering more questions correctly than I had in the majority of my previous cases.
Outsmarted by this guy? I think not.
So, I had to then do what I found to be the most annoying part of this game ever. Start over. Had I knew this is what would happen after I couldn’t pin the crime on the pedo, I would have reloaded a save. But now the game made me start the ENTIRE CASE over from scratch. Granted, it took less time now that I knew where every piece of evidence was and all the correct answers, but going through the motions as fast as I humanly could so I could get back to that ONE MISSED QUESTION was so frustrating I almost ragequit. It’s bad enough to have to re-do a checkpoint-free hard mission full of speedboat chases and gunfire in GTA, but I’d take that any day over 45 minutes of unskippable dialog peppered by the occasional button press.
I don’t care what my star rating is, or how many innocent people go to jail, I am never for any reason replaying a case again, and there should absolutely be some sort of loadable checkpoint system in place if the game is going to force you into the “wrong” ending for failing to differentiate between whether you should pick “doubt” or “lie” ONE TIME.
And about that bigger picture I had a feeling about? That’s another issue. L.A. Noire needs you to be smart, without being TOO smart. It needs you to be able to connect clues together to pin things on suspects, but if you start seeing the forest, not the trees, it all feels rather pointless. From the beginning, I thought this string of murders was a serial killer, and not committed by the people I was pinning them on. When I heard a brief clue in my third case, I figured the entire thing out in my head. (spoilers ahoy). With two bits of info, one that all the women had been out drinking and two that a temp bartender I talked to had been working at two of the locations, and I had the whole thing pieced together. The guy was drugging and killing them, and framing others for his crimes.
But unfortunately, me figuring it out, and Cole Phelps figuring it out are two different things. I still had to go through all the motions of the decoy suspects who have just enough evidence to hint they’re guilty, even if I knew the end game already.
“This doesn’t seem relevant.”
I just finished up this last section before actually completing the homicide missions. I’ve now done just that, and I’m happy to report that my appreciation for the game has taken a dramatic upswing. Yes, I was right about the bartender being behind it all, and me arresting a bunch of innocent guys despite my gut feeling something was amiss, but I was wrong about a lot of other things, namely my previous notion that clue finding and interrogation were not inherently fun.
I’ve been going about L.A. Noire the wrong way. I was originally going to write about how lackluster its missions have been compared to the action of Grand Theft Auto, and how there’s nothing to do in free roam mode other than street crime missions that are a joke (but seriously, one of them was literally climbing two ladders), but I’ve now come to realize that L.A .Noire, despite its mechanics and fundamental “open world” philosophy, it has less in common with GTA than it does point and click puzzle adventures of days past.
The fun is rarely found in the chase sequences, which are rarely varied and full of unavoidable set pieces that make them feel like you’re just playing a part in a very scripted movie, but rather it’s in pitting two interview subjects against each other, forcing one to turn on the other. It’s seeing the look in a young man’s eyes when he truly believes he might have accidentally killed someone he cares about while blackout drunk. It’s chasing down cryptic clues from a serial killer scattered all over town. It’s becoming the character you’re playing, rather than just observing him.
The game is growing on me. I wasn’t sold at first, and I do think it has its fair share of issues, especially in the interview process, but it’s also incredibly engaging and more fun than it appeared to be on the surface. Once I stopped treating it like an inferior version of GTA, and more like the unique title it is, I started to enjoy myself a lot more, and I think I’ll continue to do so.
See you in Hollywood.
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