Play harder

L. A. Noire

police 03GTA IV killed my trust in Rockstar Games, but I gave them another chance with the L. A. Noire. I didn’t regret it. Although I’m still suspicious about the fifth installment of GTA, in the case of Noire very few bad word comes into my mind.

It is because Rockstar made a big step and raised its TPS-adventure-driving receipt to a new height; started to mix mediums. Even the title tells a lot: L. A. as Los Angeles, and Noire as that certain film noir from the 40s which means dark crime dramas with moral questions in them.

Thus, based on the title it is given that the game world is Los Angeles in the 40s, supposedly, and there is a strong connection with film noir. Let’s add the gameplay well known from the GTA series and a little extra; besides shooting and car chasing you have to find tracks and lead interrogations. This latter two game element perks the almost boring Rockstar-style up in such a measure that forgave the repetitive characteristic easily.

fist fightBecause there is some repetition here too – tell me a game in which there isn’t some. You are a detective, so do the bebop and find some evident, investigate the crime scene, drive here and there, interrogate some people, shoot them and chase their cars. These are the constant elements of the game, only the order changes, and this wouldn’t be enough to make the game more than a monoplane flick. However, with the above mentioned mix of mediums Noire became a game that should be called rather an interactive series of movies than only a game.

Computer game is mixed with movie, and not a little. With the triple frame you get more than twenty stories that is told with the instruments a in the environment of film noir; you can even switch the screen to monochrome, if you feel the atmosphere more authentic this way. In the meantime you can find yourself watching cutscenes again and again, and movie intertwines with game and vica versa.

But this doesn’t necessary mean a linear story-leading. The brightness of Noire presents itself partly here; although there always is someone being caged at the end, on the road there are a lot of things depending on you. It’s not all the same how many evidences you find and how many truths you draw out of the suspects and the relatives of the victims. What’s more, sometimes you must choose the real babylonian from more than one very possible perpetrators.

evidence 01While he examines corpses and crime scenes one after the other, interrogates innocents and sinners, of course the main hero does not remain intact. Going from case to case sometimes he meets the typical character of film noir, the femme fatale. Of course, she is a mildly cold jazz singer, and unwillingly ruins the family life of the man, namely Cole Phelps. Of course again, the formulae isn’t so simple; there are some corruption, “higher circles”, and other elements of an explosive mix. Near the end it literally blows up; seems almost like a nuclear bomb on the fringe of the city (it’s still Los Angeles).

But this is only another complex case, another step toward the fall on the road to be a hero. The soldier from the Japanese front line, the promising policeman and starchildish detective, Phelps notoriously kicks the hornets’ nest, and sooner or later he loses everything he had, except his very hard spine. However, he is not just any boy from any hood, he fights back and with some help he succeeds in shitting on the ringleaders. I don’t tell a word about the endgame, but I stood up with a bitter taste in my mouth, and the gloomy atmosphere remained with me for days.

180 turnAnd this atmosphere takes it all. The artificially merry music from the end of the 40s in the shadow of the atom bomb, the old cars, the perfectly elaborated characters (Rockstar was always good in this), the real (!!!) radio broadcasts from 1947, the city being at a stand halfway between modern and antediluvian, so everything perfectly supports the action-thriller crime story. I was surprised when I heard a hit from Fallout: New Vegas… but why not, if the era is the same, only the point of view differs.

Another strong side of the game is the incredibly diverse setting. For the collectors there are a lot of policeman shields, 13 newspapers, numerous notable locations, and all in all, 95 car types to drive. And this is not everything; recently, game makers typically do not take the time and energy to create diverse characters. Well, in the case of Noire it is not true at all. You rarely find similar faces, and it is no wonder, because Team Bondi employed 400 actors and actresses, with some faces from TV series (e.g.: Skipp Sudduth) among them.

Police 01And they needed so many actors because another brilliant element of the game is the diversity in facial expressions. Brendan McNamara, the founder of Team Bondi seems a bit megalomaniac, because he thought the existing face scanning technologies not enough for him, so he and his team developed MotionScan. By this new technology they are able to make 15 minutes of live face animation per day – to give some reference; this 15 minutes usually needs a week’s work.

I respect Team Bondi for this, really, but who cares? Anyway, armed with the natural born trollness of the epicurean player I solidly state that most people judge the final result, and what I wrote here counts only as a little curiosity. However, that given final result is perfect, it’s practically in the category of “you’ve never ever seen anything like this”. Fuck, there are grimaces and frowns and everything a face can make on the most unwanted ways, and in other games I didn’t have the opportunity to get used to it. Sometimes I really felt like I was not playing with a game full of cutscenes but watching an interactive movie.

on the phoneFrom this much glorification the game would seem like being perfect. Well, it is brilliant, genuine and novel, but far from being perfect. The bug making you stuck shows up regularly, but it is not a big problem, because you just bring forth your notebook and the bug is gone. Also, it’s not the lack of balance between the radically simple and the inhumanly hard tasks; life is like that, sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard. Even the GTA-shape HUD used for a long while is not irritating enough.

My problem is that in spite of all the invested money, time and creativity the elaboration of the role of one of the most typical noir characters is missing. You can get the beginning of the femme fatale‘s storyline, and you can watch the consequences in detail, but everything else between these was left out. This kind of error in dramatization is unadmittable in such a proficient project. Luckily, everything else is so good that I overlook this one.

Garcius—

LANoire_boxPublisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Team Bondi, Rockstar Leads
Homepage: http://www.rockstargames.com/lanoire/
Style: crime, noir, action

What I liked:
Los Angeles

noir atmosphere
faces
stories
investigation

What I didn’t like:
missing story element

5_5

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