Saturday, 22 October 2011


Team Bondi have now disbanded claiming that producing LA Noire was akin to slave labour. In it's lead-up, LA Noire was one of the most talked about games for quite a while, but did it live up to all expectations?

The reason why this has taken me so long, is because the third and final disc on the 360 didn't work. It gathered dust until I rented the game out and completed it but when I returned to it, any novelty value long dead and gone, it dawned on me how irritating this game can be.

You play (for the most part) Cole, an LA detective and war hero who likes to play things by the book. As the game progresses you work your way through Homicide, Vice, Traffic and Arson in multiple cases where each case acts like an episode of a TV series. There are smaller story arcs and a grander arc which is a confusing mix of army morphine, Cole's mates, a strange doctor and someone setting fire to houses. It has to be said that the most interesting arc was the initial Homicide story where you are trying to find a serial killer who likes his women. However, the way the case ended was weak to say the least. After that, it plateaus somewhat with some highs and lows but never really giving you anything new. I was also constantly bemused by what was happening and why we kept getting flashbacks into Cole's military past (which does become clearer later on). Cole's rule-abiding behaviour is quite boring and when he is 'shamed' it does come out of nowhere and completely out of character, especially when we see what his by-the-books actions have done in the past. It's a complex narrative, and not in a good way - if I don't understand it, I don't care about it and then I lose interest, which speaking to others seems to be the case a lot of the time.

This is sold as a narrative heavy game and the stories themselves are served well, I just can't stand the protagonist and found pretty much every other character more interesting. Even his final redemption at the end of the game was pretty lame. However, there's a lot of hours of gameplay here and I never got truly bored. It's quite linear but there is a sandbox element and at times you get calls to other cases, however sometimes these can take about ten minutes or more of driving to get to depending on where you are in the city. You can also unlock cars, 'landmarks' etc. but seeing as you'd have to drive to get there, and as great as the driving is, it's not Grand Theft Auto, so you're not exactly excited to do it.

Depending on choices you make, how well you do etc. will affect the narrative of the case, however not the entire game. Apart from dying, you're pretty much never going to lose. Essentially, you could get everything wrong and do nothing and although you might get a 1 out of 5 star rating for the case, it won't matter to your progression, it only means that you miss out on some story elements in the case that would be interesting. You're there to play a game after all, not rush through it.

Graphically, LA Noire is exceptional. LA as a city is lush, rich and full of life and the face motion technology they use is exquisite with some outstanding results. You recognise a lot of other Mad Men characters that have decided to join their co-star. The soundtrack is beautiful and this is a well crafted game, everything is put together in such a way that even the non-gamer would be impressed. However, what really lets it down is the gameplay.

The problem is that the actual playing of the game is crucial to the enjoyment of the viewer and LA Noire is repetitive and at best, stupidly easy. The shootouts are too few and far between with some annoying controls and the chase scenes are fun, but usually consist of just holding up on the control pad. What really annoys me are the interrogations. You have a simple system of truth, doubt or lie. However, what they say isn't necessarily a lie. If someone says to you - "Do you know Tom?" "Well it depends on which Tom now doesn't it" is that truth, doubt or lie? They look like they are lying, but it's true, it does depend on what Tom. But then you get it wrong and if you press lie, you have to back it up with proof - which sometimes could be anything. Cole also seems to go berserk every time you press Lie, he suddenly starts shouting and threatening out of nowhere which jars with the game. It's a flawed system and I don't think it was thought out enough at all.

Also the general set-up of each case is you arrive at the scene, the 'looking' music starts, you walk around until your control vibrates, you have a look and keep going until the 'looking' music stops. You talk to whoever you need to, get your partner to drive you to the next scene, chase or shoot someone and so on and so forth. A couple of times you have a couple of suspects, and I was constantly awaiting if I made the right choice - however, I have no idea still and it grates on me. I thought at the end we would see who was actually guilty. Case after case after case is the same layout but a different story with only minor changes.

I feel like LA Noire is all style and no substance. It's smooth and slick but with a story that I thought should be a lot darker (though is still quite dark at times), with a character more complex and especially if this is a film noir rip-off - an anti-hero at least, there should be more varied and advanced gameplay with a better overall storyline. There was so much here that could have made this game exceptional but instead it arrives at mediocre. It's definitely worth playing, a lot of fun and all, but there was so much that could have been improved on that you can't help but feel it was a chance slightly wasted. Good effort, but better luck next time. It's just a shame that Team Bondi's demise probably means the same for LA Noire - let's just hope someone somewhere has been taking notes.

Rating: 7/10

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