1. I have never played a game like this.
2. Rockstar was not involved in this product from the start, and it shows.
3. It’s my current front runner for game of the year.
4. Red Dead Redemption was more fun.
Lets start with the first one. Never before has a game approached detective work like this. Even Arkham Asylum, where you play as the worlds greatest detective, Batman (suck it Sherlock Holmes!), your detective work is relegated to looking at things through goggles. Also punching. Punching is now detective work.
But I digress. I will stop digressing after the break.
Now, here’s the deal. Part of lie detecting involves observing variations from the norm. This means that in order to tell that someone is lying, you need to determine that he doesn’t ALWAYS sweat like a whore in church and twitch like a junkie on a ten day drought. Granted, that’s a pretty extreme example. Suffice to say, if someone is avoiding all eye contact, twitching constantly and getting really red, they’re lying their asses off, and doing a piss poor job of it. But it gets harder when you’re dealing with people that aren’t REALLY shitty at lying. Is the guy in front of me avoiding eye contact because he’s bored, or because he’s lying? I don’t know. Maybe if I had a chance to ask him his name first, and gauge his reaction then, I could get a feel for the norm. Rockstar doesn’t let you do this. Not intentionally, anyway. Occasionally, you will get someone who tells the truth on their first answer, allowing you to gauge them. But usually, it’s a crap shoot. This turns a battle of wits into a guessing game. There is still a lot of skill involved, but for me, it was about half luck.
The other problem with the interviews is the Truth-Doubt-Lie system. When the suspect or witness makes a claim, you get to pick if they’re truthful, you doubt them, or you think they’re lying and have proof in your “Clues” section of your notebook. The big problem is with “Lie”. It uses adventure game logic, in that not only do you have to solve a problem, but you have to solve it in the exact manner that the designer wanted you to. Thinking of something that they did not does not help you here. There is a right answer and a bunch of wrong answers, but it’s done in the context of something with a lot of gray area. For instance, say the person across from you says they weren’t on a boat. You know that they were, because you have the passenger manifest. You pick “Lie”, expecting to call them with that. Cole says “Not only do I know you were on the boat, but I know what shoes you were wearing” or some such nonsense. Now you, the player, are dicked, because you DON’T know what shoes he was wearing. You just wanted to call him on the lie about being on the boat, but now that’s not the point of contestation. The discussion has been shifted to shoes, and you are woefully unprepared. This didn’t happen too often, but it happened just enough to be frustrating. Also, there’s a system called “Intuition”, which are points you can get by leveling up that you can spend in three ways.
1. Display all clues: Your minimap shows the location of every clue you haven’t already found at your location. It is the only one used outside of interrogation.
2. Ask The Community: It displays the percentage of Rockstar Social Club users that picked each option for interrogation.
3. Remove an answer: Takes away either Truth, Doubt or Lie, leaving one right and one wrong answer. Also narrows down the evidence for a lie.
By all accounts these should be universal godsends. It even tells you what percentage of Social Club users got the right answer after using a point, a number consistently above 85%. But there is one case in particular, The Fallen Idol, that everyone seems to be failing. I used intuition points out the ass in that case, and there were several points when it told me that, after using an intuition point, only 8-12% of users got the right answer. That tells me that, not only is it not helpful in this case, it’s downright misleading. Granted, when I encountered this, the game had been out for about six hours, so the number of people polled for that probably numbered in the hundreds. But still, it’s a snowball effect. If everyone is picking wrong, and you use “Ask The Community”, 92% of answers will be wrong, and you’ll pick that, just assuming it’s cool. Not a great system.
Open world gaming is a thriving and exciting genre that people either love or hate. Most people seem to love it. L.A. Noire initially looked like an open world game. I’ll set the record straight right now. L.A. NOIRE IS NOT AN OPEN WORLD GAME.
Not in the traditional sense, anyway.
It would probably be better to say that it’s not a “sandbox” game. Yes, there’s an open world. And it’s goddamn HUGE. But there’s not a whole lot to do in it. See, in previous Rockstar games, you were a bad boy, an antihero, or just a straight up sociopathic criminal. There were ways to justify shooting up a building full of people, or running them down with cars. In L.A. Noire, you’re a good cop. One of the few on the LAPD. Because of this, they can’t have you going around painting the town with blood between investigations. Therefore, you can’t attack random people or even pull out your gun unless the game does it for you. When you drive, you get penalized for damaging things, and people miraculously jump out of your way. Cole Phelps has an amazingly low body count considering the publishers of this game. While it makes sense in context, it can make the experience somewhat boring. You can collect some cool cars, but they aren’t usable in anything but driving around. You can’t use them in chases, which are the only thing cars are fun for. And I use fun EXTREMELY loosely, because the car chases are a bitch, which brings me to my next gripe about the world. Inconsistent destructibility. I had a chase where I’m plowing through backyards, crashing through wooden fences and tearing them apart. Ten seconds later, I cross the street and encounter a nearly identical fence which stops me dead in my tracks. I go smashing through chain link gates and a fence, but in other places the chain link fences are indestructible. Things like that really screw up a chase.
I bet you’re wondering by now why this is my game of the year, considering all the problems I had with it. To be perfectly honest, the game sucked me in despite all those flaws. There were things I didn’t like about it, but it enthralled and immersed me to an extent that I didn’t think was possible. The characters were fantastic. The story was fantastic. The investigation and interrogation, regardless of the problems, still pulled me in and made me feel like a detective. I felt genuinely smart when I figured something out, and I cared a great deal about the characters. When I was betrayed or duped, I felt hurt and angry. When something terrible happened, I felt panicked. I wanted to go back and undo something I had done, thinking maybe I had made a mistake. The world sucked me in and made me care. It was the most unique thing I have played this year. It took massive risks and they paid off, and they deserve credit for that. L.A. Noire was the first game ever shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, and I can see why. It was a beautiful work of art. It was the kind of game Heavy Rain made me want to play, and I am thrilled to death that Rockstar was able to deliver the experience as well as they did.
Final score: 4.5/5