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L.A. Noire - Kef's Mirror of Darkness

About L.A. Noire

Previous Entry L.A. Noire Jul. 21st, 2012 @ 01:09 am Next Entry
L.A. Noire is one of the stupidest goddamn games I've ever had the displeasure of playing. I got it (including DLC) for less than $10 on Steam and I still feel ripped off. Sure, it's pretty enough, and the facial animation technology is pretty damn good. For instance, the lip synch is always spot on, unlike other games (such as Telltale's) with much less voice acting and yet much spottier lip-synching. This is one of the first games I've seen where the lip synch is 100% convincing. The problem is, when the story is bad, none of that crap matters.

Let's talk game mechanics. Control is fine, most of the time (I have moments where Cole gets a bit stuck and no buttons seem to do anything, but these moments are rare and don't last long). Driving, fistfights, shootouts... I can't complain about 'em. But this is a detective game, and in a good mystery, a detective's primary job is to gather evidence, figure out the clues, find the suspect, and charge him (supposing you don't have to kill him instead). Probably with a bit of interrogation thrown in.

And here we start to have problems. The cases don't really require a lot of player involvement. It's like a magnet pulls you to the solution no matter what you do, and your actions only change how hard the magnet's pulling. You'll get there eventually; you can't really fail (and any scenarios that do fail just give you an opportunity to try again right before you failed). That means there's no pressure, quite unlike what you'd feel if you were in a real murder mystery. There's also not a lot of thinking involved. You can pretty much not pay attention to the case at all and still come out on top. That's not exactly characteristic of a detective story, is it?

So that leaves the plot. And boy oh boy, are there problems here...

First off, they made a mistake in fleshing out the protagonist a little too much. Ideally, a protagonist is just a stand-in for the person actually playing the game. By extension, the protagonist should never do anything the player wouldn't do, and especially shouldn't be unlikeable. In this they failed, which I'll elaborate on later. Another thing is the player shouldn't be prevented from an obvious and dramatically reasonable course of action he does want to pursue. In the very first mission, you discover that fellow detective Floyd Rose is possibly corrupt — but your partner convinces you to call it in before you get yourself, and your partner, in a load of trouble. Screw that! I want to bust Rose! But the opportunity never comes and eventually Rose retires without it ever being made clear if his corruption was exposed.

One of the most likeable characters in the game is Rusty Galloway, your partner at the Homicide desk. He's rough around the edges, especially with regard to alcoholism and misogyny, but he's at least a perfectly understandable character most of the time. But there's one scene where you and he are confronted by a bunch of hobos at a hobo camp (unarmed aside from improvised weapons such as pipes), about to be attacked. Rusty responds by shooting one of them in the face with a shotgun. Yes, they were about to attack, but I think Rusty's response was way out of proportion here. So even Rusty becomes hard to like.

There's a case in the game where you have a choice between convicting a known (and proud) pedophile and another man named Moller for the murder of the latter's wife. The evidence points strongly to Moller, especially when somebody who saw the crime shows up and says Moller's the one who did it. So who are you supposed to charge? The pedo, of course. After all, the pedo will continue to stalk girls while Moller is unlikely (in comparison) to harm anyone else. Yeah, no. Sorry, I don't agree. You do the crime, you do the time, if you ask me.

Strangely, later in the game you find that several murders (including the aforementioned Moller case where a witness had identified the suspect) turn out to have been committed by a criminal mastermind. So you find the mastermind, you kill him (because he was shooting at you), and it turns out... you won't get credit for it, because the killer was the half-brother of a prominent politician. What? What kind of bullshit is that? And it doesn't even bother trying to explain how this mastermind managed to plant evidence against every single suspect, all of whom had very compelling cases against them.

After this you get paired with Roy Earle, one of the biggest assholes in the game. He's nice enough to you, but he's a racist, sexist, selfish motherfucker. Having an asshole for a partner is no fun. That's what real life is for.

Then you find out Cole is having an affair. NO. NO. This is wrong. Again, the player character is supposed to be an extension of the player. I would never cheat on somebody. If I somehow wound up in a marriage and I decided it wasn't working out, I would say so. Remember what I said about how the player character should never be unlikeable? Well, they went and did it.

And finally, towards the end of the game (I haven't gotten that far; I had it spoiled), Cole dies. What. You mean I have to slog through several more hours of dull gameplay just to wind up dead? Fuck that shit.

Somehow I doubt I'm going to continue playing this pieceashit. I'll go play something that has respect for the player.
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