L.A. Noire: Making Bogart cool again?
Before playing L.A. Noire for the Xbox 360 I had only heard of Film Noire. After completing the game (a healthy 20-some hours), I still only have a vague sense of what the genre really entails. As long it’s darkly-lit and involves some sort of prostitute? Maybe. But if the idea the developer’s at Team Bondi had was to get me downloading detective movies from the 40’s until I am well over my cap; they have triumphed in a big way. Humphrey Bogart is, indirectly, the reason this game was made and this 3-disc marvel has inspired me to really watch his movies. He now enjoys a pedestal above a lot of guys I once thought were cool. Will this game replenish the public’s admiration for America’s leading man? I doubt it. But it sure made an impression on me.
Check out how it was created
Starting with what is obviously this games most glaring quality: The MotionScan. The Sydney-based company Depth Analysis developed the technology and created the sometimes disturbingly realistic character faces in this game. Similar to the motion capture used in movies like King Kong and Lord of the Rings, it translates the exact facial features and mannerisms of the actors onto the character. It’s absolutely phenomenal how intricate it is to determine whether a would-be savage murderer you’re interrogating is giving your ass the old sting of deception or not. Especially comparing this quality to the extent we’ve seen in games up until now.
Maybe my favorite part of this game was the ridiculously faithful recreation of 1947’s Los Angeles. There is some filler to be had, with the odd double of a hardware store, but this game’s environments are absolute porno to the architectural history buff. What? I’m the only one?
Believe me when I tell you these guys weren’t fucking around when it came to this aspect of the game. Team Bondi used over 100,000 aerial pictures of downtown L.A. to replica every street curb, every store hood. The streets are also chock-full of famous landmarks and its a fun side quest just to check them all out. There is even a “show room” in the extras section for you to check out all of the cars you’ve driven or “unlocked”.
With the controls and core gameplay being second nature to GTA-seasoned vets, if you are one, you will find yourself in familiar territory when you aren’t searching for clues. The clue-finding will feel a little stale to some after the first few hours, but not to me. I loved all the cleverly placed, unimportant objects that had me picking them up, inspecting them and straight wasting my time on them. The mallets, or lipsticked-stained cigarette butts. It’s all part of the experience and that is certainly what L.A. Noire is all about. You have to let yourself get into it.
But this one ain’t without it’s faults, amigos. It always comes to this. Because lets face it; that will always be the case. Unless I review Ocarina of Time or something in the future.
I thought the story was really good, the pacing worked well and the plot kept me interested as it thickened. BUT. Firstly and mostly I would’ve liked to be punished more for making mistakes, be it missed clues or improperly strategized interrogation. This aspect of the game seems completely on rails a lot of the time. You feel like the story wouldn’t change much if you didn’t do things the way a proper detective would unless the story is scripted for you to fail. It normally wouldn’t bother me but this game seemed to be marketed to promise this dynamic.
I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it but I also would have liked to have had the opportunity to be a little more Niko Bellic and a little less Mary Poppins. I fully commend this game for ultimately being a game for adults. I think it’s one of it’s best qualities. I just think a little variety in personality wouldn’t have hurt. I don’t want to stomp a hooker’s head in or stab a granny carrying shopping bags but it would’ve been interesting to maybe have a little “bad cop” sprinkled in with some scenarios. I can see younger gamers ripping their hair out with the lack of violence and fast-paced energy. Frequently chasing down fleeing assailants, if not a little tedious and repetitive, is the extent of the action here.
There are few other nitpicky things but the important part is that there were virtually no bugs that I came across and it was a truly interesting and refreshing ride. A nice venture from the shooting, hacking, slashing, exploding trends of the now. Even for it’s very few misses L.A. Noire has succeeded in becoming one of the most engaging and surprisingly fun titles I’ve ever played. Turning me into a full fledged fan of Film Noir.