First Impressions: L.A. Noire

It’s been a rather surreal experience beginning L.A. Noire.  As an emergency dispatcher, the voice on the other end of the radio, I can’t help thinking how I’d respond if one of my officers was like Detective Cole.  He’s what we call in my office a “Secret Squirrel,” an officer who always manages to find trouble, always sticking his nose in someone’s run, & always making things worse.  He actually reminds me a lot of one of the officers I work with at night who was very gung-ho when he started.  Everyone in the office started calling him “Dammit Rocco” because that’s what we said whenever he came up on the radio with some new catastrophe.  He’s even tried to pull some detective bs, wanting me to call the local hospitals about someone walking in injured around a specific time that he estimated based on the amount of coagulation in the blood splatter on the seat of an abandoned vehicle.  (On the off-chance you are reading this Rocco, I’m sorry, but I’m not telling you anything someone hasn’t already).

Anyway… My point is that Cole is a legal nightmare for any police department.  Every street crime I’ve intervened in has ended with a call to the coroner.

L.A. Noire is a bit of a departure from Rockstar’s regular games.  While the studio is no stranger to open-world games, most of their sandboxes revolve around causing chaos.  But in L.A. Noire, since you’re playing as a police officer, it feels like you have to be on your best behavior.  Or maybe that’s just me.  it doesn’t exactly feel right to run over civilians in a police car when you’re actually an officer (as opposed to just stealing the car like in Saints Row).  I don’t know if the game penalizes you for acting a fool in the overworld, but that hasn’t really stopped me from driving like a fool, running red lights & driving in the wrong lane.

Instead of causing trouble, you’re the one responsible for solving the trouble.  Not only does this involve driving around in your squad car, waiting for reports of criminals to detain (ie. kill), but investigating crime scenes & interrogating suspects & witnesses.

While on the one hand investigating feels intuitive (scanning a dead body for things to interact with), it also feels weird at times.  In general it’s been fairly obvious where to search for things, like in trash cans, but other times you have to wander across the crime scene, waiting for the controller to vibrate to indicate something to interact with.  But I give the game credit for throwing in red herrings.  Not everything at the scene is relevant, & Cole will usually say as much when you look at it.  It adds to the feeling of actually being a detective.

I haven’t played enough to have a solid opinion of the interrogation mechanics yet.  Basically, when characters start to look really nervous & they say things that contradict evidence you’ve found, you say they’re lying.  If you don’t have evidence against them, you can doubt them & maybe they’ll spill.  Or they can be honest.  To that end, the facial animations in the game are remarkably detailed.  Although they’re not perfect, so you get this uncanny valley feeling where their faces don’t appear to move enough, particularly around the mouth.  I suppose it’s because they spent so much more effort animating around the eyes.  It’s kinda funny because when they’re lying, it’s painfully obvious.  I know it’s because it’s an actor “acting” nervous, but it’s still funny to see.  I’ve never seen anyone look that nervous in real life.  I thought the woman’s eyes were going to roll out of her head.  However, I find myself having the same trouble as what I faced in Murdered: Soul Suspect: I come to the right conclusions, but via a different route than what the game wants.

I’m curious to see how long this game actually is.  I finished the first set of cases in a single sitting.  And while these are just the introductory cases, teaching you the mechanics, I have to question how much their actually is to do in this open-world game.  Most of the padding for these type of games comes from messing around.  But I’m not sure there’s much messing around to be had in L.A. Noire.



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