Impressions: L.A. Noire

I’ve spent about as much time as I care to with L.A. Noire.  There’s been a lot of excitement for the game with it’s use of motion scanning technology and for the fact that it’s being published by Rockstar following last year’s Red Dead Redemption.  To be honest, I wasn’t really interested in Red Dead, but after hearing so many good things I decided to give it a shot and I was quite pleased with it.  I understand that L.A. Noire isn’t supposed to be Red Dead in the 1940s, but what I have seen so far has been boring and tedious.  I’m willing to believe that the game becomes more interesting later on, but I’m not on board with grinding through the ranks to get there.  Cole Phelps is a boring character.  I’m glad that he wants to be a good cop, but it’s hard to share his enthusiasm when the game plays like a mediocre adventure title that forces you to repeatedly sit through unskippable chat scenes.  Sure, there are hints of Cole’s past slowly coming back to haunt him, but there’s nothing to motivate you to continue to explore Cole’s character relative to what you’re immediately doing.

Here’s how my idealized version of L.A. Noire would have worked: just take Deadly Premonition’s game structure and give it the plot of The Untouchables.

The dramatized version of Eliot Ness portrays a man who’s determined to do good, but quickly finds himself being made to look like a fool by Al Capone and corrupt cops.  Cole Phelps is similarly motivated to do good, and that’s all the further the comparison can be drawn (unless I haven’t played far enough into L.A. Noire to discover more.)  There’s nothing that makes Phelps or Los Angeles stand out in a way that draws you into the game.  As far as Deadly Premonition goes, maybe L.A. Noire doesn’t need to be quite as weird, but I found it’s small town “open world” much more engaging than all of  Noire’s Los Angeles.  It was a living, breathing place (as goofy as it was) and I was able to explore it at my own pace.  There are a number of other tips that I think L.A. Noire could have used.

But in DP, we wanted York to go along with the player when the player changes his mind.

“That’s exactly what I was thinking!”

And when the player hears that kind of friendly response, it causes the player to feel more comfortable, more in control and hence a refreshing sense of freedom.

Swery65 on Lovable Game Design

Too often, I feel like I’m being shoehorned into playing the game the way it wants to be played rather than the game actively convincing me I should be playing it that way.  Perhaps I’m missing something or I need to stick with it for a while longer.  But the latter excuse is one that, as time goes on, I become less likely to entertain.  There are more video games out there than most of us have time to play and it’s sad that it’s the latest ones that dominate our interest.


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