LA Noire First Impressions

Despite being only about an hour and a half into LA Noire, boy has the game got me thinkin’ about a million things already. So here’s my gift to you guys: a bunch of disjointed, but hopefully interesting, thoughts!

I am impressed at the difficulty of interrogation and clue finding.

I was initially worried that lines of inquiry would be too obvious–whether by interrogation or by finding clues–but this hasn’t been the case at all. Things aren’t always what they appear. In fact, I’m messing up interrogations or missing clues more often than I anticipated. That’s not a fault; I actually appreciate being able to be wrong and to mess up and having to deal with the consequences of thinking through the case shoddily.

I am not, however, impressed with the facial animations.

It has nothing to do with their quality (though having such intricacy and depth attached to expressions seems misplaced relative to the quality of the rest of the model), but rather how forced it all is. People overact, are way too obvious; even the worst liars I’ve ever met are not as terrible as some of the people in this game. I’m not sure if that’s because this quality demands that we judge the acting, or if that’s because Team Bondi didn’t want to make reading people too difficult (or both!). The thing is…reading in real life people IS difficult, and thus what LA Noire offers thus far is somewhat of a misrepresentation. Requiring us to engage in more inference when reading people–looking at the possible motivation, the evidence and using some good ‘ol intuition–would have been more rewarding despite the possible difficulty hike, though.

The narrative seems too segmented

Is there really no other way to tell me Cole Phelp’s backstory than to interject a cinematic like every 5 minutes? I mean, it’s all engaging and well written but you already have the modular structure of the cases–each one literally segmented by having a title before playing it–that interjecting “the past” on top of that feels a little jarring. Like watching an episode inside an episode of a show, and inside THAT episode is a showcase of segments of an earlier episode that was never aired.

The action feels out of place

The action–chases, anything involving the car or shooting–seem like too much of a stark contrast to the slow, methodical structure investigation. It’s almost like those segments are only there to appease players who would find the investigation monotonous and boring, and I say this not because I can’t appreciate the action conceptually (you’re a cop and, the hard-boiled ideology has a propensity for violence) but because of how simplistic the action seems in execution.

It’s like they went “Oh, I guess we need to have guns and chases in here…let’s just throw ’em in, even though it’s not going to be particularly fleshed out”. Fights are button mashing. Chases are linear. There’s no difficulty in any of the shooting segments. To make a comparison, it’s like playing the platforming sections of Enslaved. To put it succinctly, or as Tim Rogers might put it: there’s no stickyness or friction to the action tidbits. And when you’re dealing with combat, stickyness is the most important part!

Musing here, for a bit: another alternative would have been to just have less action. I’ve already chased like 5 people an hour into the game; have shot about the same number. Typically shooting a handful of people isn’t a cause for concern but in this particular game, that’s feels like a VERY significant body count. I think I could be more forgiving on the action being simplistic if there was less of it. We’ll see how much action the game throws at me as I go along, though.

Right now I’m playing by downright skipping some ‘action’ parts…I don’t drive anywhere since I make my partner do it and, if it keeps throwing as many chases/shootouts at me, I’ll be skipping those, too. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by skipping those parts, nor do I feel like they add anything to the game. Yes, that sounds kinda odd to say. What a peculiar game! I love it.

I’m enjoying it more than any other Rockstar game I’ve played

I’m enjoying it a ton more than RDR or any attempts I’ve made to play GTA. It’s…a very heavy game; I realize that may not make a lot of sense but I can’t think of a better word to describe the feel of this game. There’s just…a lot to chew on, a lot of engaging material. Very dense. Very engrossing. I haven’t played much but it’s still very present in my mind.

Like fine dining..

I feel like it’ll take me a long time to get through the game precisely because of that density–not a bad thing, I don’t feel like. I’m very much engaged but I don’t feel that addictive compulsion typical of other ‘good’ games. Usually, that’s a mark of a failing as far as games go but here…I suppose it’s like eating a fine meal. You don’t just gorge on it, that’s not proper. You relish it instead, take your time, enjoy the succulence and flavor.

PS: I realize most of what I’ve said here sounds negative, but…so far? This is the best game I’ve played in a very long time.

One Comment

  1. Dave

    I think the ‘overacting’ is particularly common early on, but later you have characters that throw you off by being nervous and looking shifty even when telling the truth, or characters who are very good liars and don’t have the same shifty-eye tells that the early suspects do, forcing you to really think about the evidence you’ve collected.

    I’m finding the action sequences reasonably entertaining – they are used a lot in the ‘tutorial’ cases, but are much less common in typical cases and make a nice change of pace, particularly when you’re not expecting them. I don’t really find any of the action sequences take away from the game except when you have to tail a suspect (very tedious in a vehicle and awkward on foot).

    Most of the action is kept to the ‘street crime’ side-missions which are optional, thankfully.