Sunday, November 20, 2011

L.A. Noire

I'm fairly deep into L.A. Noire for the PS3, and for the most part I'm enjoying it. I like the investigation and interview sections; you really feel like a detective at these times, finding clues, conducting interrogations, getting confessions. It's during these parts of the game that you get into the lives and the stories of the people whose crimes you're investigating.

The shooting and fistfight components are okay, though you do seem to rack up a heavy body count. Three-quarters of the random street crimes you encounter end in you putting a few holes in someone. I haven't had any luck trying to turn a gunfight into a fistfight; even if I creep right up on someone who has a gun out, I don't seem to get the opportunity to sock him one. The game seems to have pre-decided which fights are going to end in a fatality.

The platforming elements seem misplaced. Your character seems to be a regular acrobat, shimmying up walls and leaping across rooftops like a parkour master. Some points in the game take this to extremes, which I really dislike; if I wanted to play a platformer game, I would have bought one.

The part of the game I hate most is the driving parts. Yes, I know, this is a Rockstar game, and they're all about the realistic cities and realistic cars and driving all over the place. And they did make 1940's Los Angeles awfully pretty, and it is sometimes very immersive to be driving around at sunset, passing palm trees and billboards, listening to period music on the radio.

The problem is that they've made the driving bits too realistic. There's traffic on the roads, and traffic lights. If you wait for the traffic lights, it can take an awful long time for you to get from one place to another. This is anti-fun for me. I don't have a Playstation so that I can pretend to be sitting at a standstill in traffic. You can always run the red lights, but this sort of breaks the suspension of disbelief for me, and also winds up with me crashing into a lot of cars and pedestrians.

You can run the siren, which helps to get folks out of your way, but every so often some other vehicle will drift into your path as you're blasting through an intersection. You can turn the driving over to your partner, but then you miss out on the random street crimes, and so you're skipping a lot of the game content.

When there's an actual car chase happening, then the "real driving" experience makes sense. It's part of the challenge then; a high-speed chase through crowded streets, trying to avoid injuring innocents while not letting the bad guy get away. But the rest of the time? It really gets tedious going back and forth, block after block, mission after mission. Not to mention that the camera actively attempts to screw you up by spinning around when you shift from forward to reverse; a slow spin that throws off your sense of direction and keeps you from seeing either straight forward or straight back for a few long critical moments.

I also have issues with a few of the story decisions that the main character makes, which I won't get into for spoiler reasons, but overall, it's an excellent game. I just wish they could have taken away more of the Grand Theft Auto elements and focused more on the noir/detective elements.