Riding into the Dark. L.A. Noire
LA Noire gave us all the fever. The hype machine built around that game was alive and thriving. By its release date hordes of gamers were foaming at the mouth to take a Rockstar journey deep into Hollywood circa 1947. Did it live up to the hype? Did it define a new genre? Did it make you want to pick up inanimate objects around the house and rotate them?
A question I found myself asking while biding my time until the release date was : “would I be this excited if it didn’t have Rockstar’s name on it?” Would this title be similar to Red Dead in that it was inherently GTA with a western backdrop? Or would it be something new, something not quite done before? When Rockstar is mentioned in tandem with a game we can reasonably assume that the game will have an open world, third person view, and oodles of activities peppered through the environment. But Noire’s interrogation feature, spear-headed by the new facial capture technology, seemed to be the games most prominent feature.
Upon playing Noire I think we all found that it was a weird mix of fresh new game play accompanied with tacked on Rockstar Tropes. Here we are dropped in a gorgeously realized Hollywood of the 40’s with no real motivation to explore it. The central story takes Detective Phelps through a predetermined route through the world, which is great, but what is enticing me to set off on my own and explore Hollywood? Well, I will tell you, fifty golden film reels. Mind blown. Oh, and wait, there’s more, secret cars hidden throughout the map which can only be accessed by going back to the place where you originally found them.
There were also certain locations located around LA for Phelps to discover which, I thought, was a good idea. Why not throw a mechanic in that showcases the beautifully designed world? And how did I find a majority of these locations? In the middle of damn car chases. While I was feverishly chasing after “perps” I would barely notice a button prompt flash for a unknown reason. Upon hammering said button the screen would flash for a moment to a view of whatever landmark I am driving by leaving me confused as to whether I need to stop and marvel, or continue on after the homey who just sped off at first the sight of me?
At its core Noire brings a fresh mix of game play to the player. Interrogations, detective work, driving, and fighting comprise the major game play elements woven into a well told story. I believe Rockstar shot it itself in the foot by straddling the line between an open world GTAesque theme and a linear more restricted experience. Why create a fully explorable environment and then give the player little incentive to do so? On the other hand I would have been just as satisfied, if not more so, if they decided to restrict the environments to the missions themselves, reducing the exploration, which otherwise makes the game feel lacking. It’s like making a five star scrumptious meal and plopping it on to a giant ass plate. While the meal is great and filling and is generally boss, it feels like something is missing.
Jacob “Chomedeluxe” Vivian