L.A. Noire review
Did you steal that game? No, you say? YOU'RE LYING! WHAT MAKES YOU LIE!?


Developer: Team Bondi
Publisher: Rockstar

The idea of a cinematic experience is far from new - in fact, it would date back to 1983 with the release of the Dragon's Lair arcade machine, where players got to watch a cartoon, and every now and again, they had to yank the joystick in the direction that corresponds with what's on screen, lest they meet a gruesome death. However, it wasn't until the new millennium when a game called Shenmue managed to combine a deep storyline with many styles of gameplay, including what ends up becoming a rather annoying feature in most video games known as the quick time event. It was considered a great game, but a financial failure due to it costing a lot of money to develop... having said that, it did lead the way for games to use quick time events to "break the monotony of cutscenes" (Resident Evil 4, God Of War, Heavenly Sword), as well as integrating long cutscenes into the mix (Metal Gear Solid 2, no, you didn't; Shenmue did).

Where am I going with this, you may be asking? Well, I'm just going on about a game that's similar and yet different from this one, LA Noire. Like Shenmue, LA Noire is a story driven experience. Like Shenmue, the gameplay isn't really the centerpiece of the game, and as a result, it's actually quite a drag to play. Unlike Shenmue, however, it's not even remotely fun and the story blows ass. Shenmue is a mediocre game with a great (albeit slooooooow) story; LA Noire is a crap game that does everything in its power to drag your away from the experience, such as filler-esque gameplay or disjoining the story. Suffice it to say, LA Noire is quite a chore to play and annoying to experience.

The idea of the story is to bunch together as many film noire tropes as possible. It's a cop drama, its only source of humor is through the banter between main protagonist Cole Phelps and his various partners, it's otherwise a dark story (the reason Cole is a policeman is because he wants redemption for all of the wrongs he committed during the second world war), it deals with corruption in the police force, and best of all, it has an ending that is quite a downer. If you're a fan of film noire, you'll at least admire how well these tropes are utilized.

Unfortunately, the way that the story is told blows. It's so disjointed, that it's hard to really keep up. Don't get me wrong, I love when a game's story isn't holding my hand and spilling every little detail... however, some preface wouldn't hurt. A good amount of bits and pieces throughout the story felt like they came out of nowhere and it was impossible to care, but where this really hurts is in the plot twist. In most games, they can really turn the story, or at least some of the characters, in different directions, and in turn, they can give the player a whole lot to look forward to. In a sense, that's true here... as far as the story and characters go, but as far as the player goes, it just came out of nowhere! No development, no preface... it just comes and goes, and we're all left sitting there, wondering what just happened, but not in a good way. Then again, this is all on account of the DLC, which aren't really extra cases, but actually what was left out of the game. Hey, remember when developers released their games with all of the content? Pepperidge Farm remembers...

Gameplay is where LA Noire truly fails. While I did mention that these kinds of games focus more on the story than the gameplay, if the story fails, then the gameplay should be something to fall back on... which isn't the case here. To put it simply, it's boring. All you really do in this game is drive from point to point, collect evidence, question a witness or two, interrogate a few suspects, maybe chase them, shoot them, beat them up - which would sound good, but this is a loooong game (about 20 hours long, in fact), and as a result, there's just not enough going on to justify the length. For instance, the chasing... what could've been a series of quick time events (ala Shenmue and Heavy Rain) is instead just you holding R2 and up on the left analogue stick... oh wow this is so exciting! Driving? Hey dude, can you drive me to Point B because LA doesn't actually have anything to do in it and it's pointless to actually drive? Don't worry, I'll listen to you go on about the case and bits of my time in the war... just don't expect me to sit there and say nothing!

Combat is just far too basic to be entertaining for too long. Hand to hand combat just consists of pressing X, occasionally pressing Square to dodge. Nothing really exciting here. You only ever fight one guy at a time anyway. As for shoot outs, all you'll ever need to do is jump into cover and just wait for enemies to pop their heads out. There's virtually no strategy behind this! The sad part is that people who constantly defend this game go on about shooters are just mindless entertainment - don't bullshit yourself. In most shooters, you have to develop little strategies on the fly to dispatch enemies, while here... oh wow, just duck out of cover and shoot them in the head when they pop up. WOW! SO INTELLECTUALLY STIMULATING! NOT AT ALL LIKE THOSE UNCOUTH SHOOTERS OF TODAY!

Finally, the sandbox itself is soo terrible! Like I said, you basically go from Point A to Point B... so what's the point? The occasional street crimes - which might've been cool if they actually earned you anything... which they don't. The idea of these crimes is to stop criminals, either by chasing them and/or shooting them. They don't really feel like side missions; just bite sized versions of the main missions. Hell, you don't get anything - except EXP, but levelling up only earns you intuition points to use to make cases easier...

Even worse, if you fail any chase and fight sequence three times, you have an option to skip them. It's basically Team Bondi's way of saying "yeah, the only good things about our game are the graphics and story - we can't construct even half decent gameplay". No wonder it's all so lackluster... they clearly didn't give a shit! SHOULD'VE JUST MADE A *bleep*ING MOVIE INSTEAD!

Not only is the gameplay utter crap, but you don't even feel like a detective... you feel more like a vehicle to move a linear story along. Sure, you get to go to crime scenes to collect evidence, but that's only if Cole thinks it's relevant to the case. Honestly, if you know what objects aren't relevant to the case, then you ought to know everything else and this game shouldn't have happened in the first place. Plus, the actual interaction with the objects consists of Cole making some sort of observation, like we're too stupid to figure out what it is we're looking at...

Then there's the much lauded interview system where you listen to the suspect talk, and then you have to determine whether or not they're telling the truth. If you accuse them of lying, you have to use the evidence you've gathered in that case to prove that they're lying, whereas if you simply doubt that they're telling the truth, you're basically accusing them of lying without proof.

This could've been really good, but all that you do is ask a question, and then just choose... although it is rather amusing when Cole accuses them of lying. I just love how he goes from calmly asking to yelling his head off at them... but other than that, the only truly hard part is what evidence to associate the accusation with. Oftentimes, you'll either have two or more pieces of evidence that fits the bill, or Cole goes off on a bit of a tangent, which ends up *bleep*ing you over when it feels like it could've been open ended, instead choosing to be linear where only one answer is acceptable. I guess it raises the challenge level a bit, but honestly, that's about it, because it's very easy to detect whether they're lying or not... in fact, it's so easy, that you can't even fail. Even if you wrongly accuse the person, the story goes on as if you got every answer correct...

The biggest problem with LA Noire is just the potential it has to be a fantastic detective game. It feels like it's half finished. In the real world, there's a lot more to it than just finding a few suspects and some evidence, and I'm damn sure the interviews have a lot of twists and turns. Why not make the interviews a lot more complex, with more decisions to make and even more evidence to have to use? Why not try to give the partners more use than just shooting the tyres and making smartass remarks? Perhaps make the street crimes actually worth doing by having the criminals help you kick some ass? Have other policemen kick some ass with you? Put some more into the combat sections so that A) they'd be fun and B) my last suggestion would really work out well? Those are but a few suggestions I have to improve this game, because I really REALLY REALLY think that this game has a lot of potential. Sadly, the end result was... well, you know, pitiful.

But let's look on the bright side – at least the game looks pretty. The animations really stand out, especially the facial ones. The lip syncing is practically spot on, while the rest of the bodies are able to move fluidly. The scenery... again, it looks pretty, although it seems like it was meant to be released as a launch title for the PS3. The textures just feel a little lackluster, while it has a few instances of stuttered framerate.

One thing that cannot be denied is how spot on the sound design is. The soundtrack managed to make each cutscene shine and at least attempted to make each gameplay segment more epic. The voice acting managed to salvage the story, as it was fantastic, all delivered with such conviction that it felt like real life. There actually isn't a lot to say, though, that hasn't already been said thousands of times – everyone knows that LA Noire has fantastic sound design.

LA Noire is easily the most disappointing game of the year – no, LA Noire is easily the most disappointing game of this generation! There was just soo much you could do with this concept, and instead, it's so basic, that it makes the game feel like an extremely long, boring and tedious chore. If you want a sandbox game that actually feels like a game while telling a fantastic story, play Red Dead Redemption. THAT is how you do a story driven game. NOT THIS! Goddamn, I can't even look at this game anymore, it's that disappointing and horrible...


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