Sunday, December 18, 2011

L.A. Noire - Final Thoughts

Finally finished L.A. Noire, and I have to say that I'm no longer as impressed with it as I was when I started. First of all, the "driving around L.A." parts of the game got to be so tedious that I started skipping them whenever possible. I was doing the chase scenes, but any time when I was just driving from point A to point B, I'd skip it. It's a very pretty re-creation of L.A., but I really don't want to invest hours of my life sitting and waiting for imaginary traffic signals.

Second, the interrogation scenes started to get pretty arbitrary. In the last third of the game, it seemed like there was no logical connection between what the characters were saying and what option I had to choose to "win" the interrogation. It turned into a lot of wild guessing for me, and as a result I was only getting about 1 out of 3 questions right ... with no penalty or negative effect. Sure, maybe I wasn't getting as much XP, but the game still let me advance the story even after fumbling an interrogation, and leveling up my character turned out to be mostly useless anyway.

Which leads to my third problem, which is that there really wasn't much skill involved in finishing the game. Didn't do well in an investigation? No problem, you'll always get at least the important clue you need to proceed. Even if you screw up a really critical interrogation, they'll let you do it again until you get it right. Can't handle an action sequence? After a few tries, the game lets you skip it. About the only part of the game you aren't allowed to screw up is the clue-finding part, which got really annoying at one part of the game, where all the hints were indicating I had to do one thing, whereas the actual clue was somewhere else, and I eventually had to give up and hit the web looking for someone to point me in the right direction.

So, whereas the story was nice, and the scenery was fantastic, there really wasn't a lot of challenge here, since there was never any real penalty for failure. So while I did finish the game, I don't really have the sense of accomplishment I would normally get when I've battled my way through a typical video game.

And I know I keep bringing this up, but I think using a Grand Theft Auto kind of engine as the base for this game was completely the wrong way to go. This isn't a free-roaming, open-world game; you have to do missions in a pretty linear order. Sure, there are a few random "police band radio" missions you can pick up while driving the streets, but there's no real incentive to go around and explore, unless you absolutely think you have to find all the different hidden cars and landmarks. All the work they did to create a virtual 1940's L.A. was basically for no good purpose. There are thousands and thousands of fantastically realistic buildings and streets and such that you will glimpse only briefly as you pass by, or possibly never see at all. They could have easily just created maps for specific mission areas, modeling the entire city for this kind of game was a terrible waste of resources.

My next game is going to be Fallout: Las Vegas, which I expect to enjoy a great deal more. It's another game with a vast and detailed environment, but if it's anything like Fallout 3, it's going to be a challenge the whole way, and it's going to reward exploration of every last radiation-soaked square meter.