L.A. Noire Reader Review
(Across a small wooden table in a dank, smoky interview room at the LECPD sits Detective Joe Public and the chief suspect for in the Game That Is Not a Game case, Mr L. A. Noire.)
Public: So what do you have to say for yourself Noire?
Noire: What? I think I pulled it off pretty well. Iím on top of the charts, Iím packing some neat new face-capture technology, the critics think Iím swell. I may have even saved Erika Heynatzís career after that Australian Top Model screw-up last year.
Public: (Doubt) Iím pretty sure that was Sarah Murdoch.
Noire: Ah whoever. Are you saying you watch that vapid heap of shit? Anyway the real point is I did everything right. Shouldíve been getting 10/10s across the board. Iíd be looking much better if werenít for that limp-dicked Metacritic.
Public: So this face-capture technology. Do you think itís the only thing worth mentioning about yourself? Is there nothing else?
Noire: Hey screw you! Iíve got a bitchiní story, Iíve got nearly 100 authentic cars, a tonne of L.A. mapped down to the nearest square foot. Thereís shooting missions to break up the searching missions. Sometimes you get a car or foot chase. What the hell more do you want?
Public: (Truth) Iíll give you all that Noire. But donít you think you dumbed it all down a little? Scaling a fence or a fire escape in those foot chases was pretty much a one-button action.
Noire: Hey, if you get bored pushing buttons on a joypad to simulate things you wouldnít normally be doing then youíre in the wrong business pal.
Public: The face-capture was eerily good Ė
Noire: (Butting in) Hell yeah it was! (Resorts to a series of excitable whoops)
Public: (Patiently) But the quality of the bodies doesnít match up and the skin looks like plasticine.
Noire: Jeez thereís no pleasing some people! I spent millions making sure every damn wrinkle on John Nobleís face made it into my scenes. Iím sorry I didnít manage every nose hair too.
Public: (Doubt) So if you couldnít nail the look completely, why bother at all Noire? The uncanny valley just got a little bit deeper thanks to you.
Noire: Ok, ok. Truth be told, making skin look like actual skin in real-time is really hard, especially on the current generation of consoles. All that subsurface light scattering Ė heck I donít know if itís even possible. And simulating good-looking cloth at the same time? Címon man Ė gimmie a break! Do you know how many polys go into John Nobleís face? Half that freakiní Blu-Ray Ė thatís how many!
Public: About those 100 cars. Why do all of them drive like bloated 2-week old corpses in concrete shoes?
Noire: Those cars look fantastic! Youíre just bitter because your Audi has less charisma than Detective Cole Phelps.
Public: (Doubt) Come on Noire, you could have spiced things up a little. They all look and drive the same. Did you ever try a 3-point turn in one of them?
Noire: Aw heck, I know. I didnít realise until just before I shipped, and then it dawned on me: Iím 50 percent a driving game and Iím set in the damn 1940s. Big mistake. Thatís why I snook in that feature where your partner drives for you.
Public: But doesnít that defeat the object somewhat?
Noire: Well by that stage Iíd pretty much forgotten about the whole GTA heritage anyway. I was so in love with the smell of my own story farts and the driving thing had become ancillary.
Public: Speaking of ancillary, why is there nothing to do in the city of L.A. other than be driven to and from your objectives?
Noire: You can collect all the cars. You can even collect golden film reels. What about collecting all those landmarks? Thatís the sort of thing that keeps a game like me away from the trade-in counter.
Public: (Lie) Thatís bullcrap Noire and you know it (produces a photo of a gamer, deceased with joypad still in hand, and a terminally bored expression set on his dead face). I didnít even find one of those damn film reels Noire. I donít even think there are any. And even so, itís hardly giving me a boner wondering where to look next.
Noire: Look Ė Los Angeles is a soul-sapping concrete maze in real life. I was just being true to my source material.
Public: But then you coax me with achievements for wasting my time driving through that ďsoul-sapping concrete mazeĒ. You want me to drive around those nauseatingly straight roads, just to unlock a paragraph of text about a building that probably has an extensive Wikipedia entry already.
Noire: Your OCD will nag and nag at you until you try for some of those collections. Anyway, youíve got the street crimes Ė theyíre interesting.
Public: (Doubt) You mean the ones that spawn on the opposite side of L.A. to where the player is, meaning another tedious 10-minute slog across a busy city in those hateful metal behemoths, just to complete a 30-second shoot-out, only to then have to drive back to the main objective?
Noire: Ö Yeah. UhÖ those ones. But thereís 40 of them! Thatís content, right?
Public: Thatís padding Noire. Thereís a huge difference.
Noire: Well, like I say: gotta keep myself out of GameStationís pre-owned drawer somehow.
Public: What can you say about the inability for the player to save their in-game progress whenever and wherever they chose? Thatís a pretty fundamental function in most games these days.
Noire: IÖ donít know what youíre talking about.
Public: (Lie) Youíre a liar Noire and I can prove it (produces screenshot of the in-game Statistics page). I was only a handful of miles away from getting the Miles On The Clock achievement, and now because of your stupid save game mechanic Iím back down to a measly 132 miles.
Noire: Aha! I knew it, you OCD son-of-a-bitch. Well maybe you should have done another story mission then.
Public: I did Noire. It was a pain in the ass Ė I got chased by a bulldozer. It still didnít save.
Noire: All right, all right! Sorry. I got balls-deep in my personal sense of achievement. I figured people would start playing me, and then not stop until 20 hours later when they were at the end.
Public: Thatís you all over Noire. You arrogantly assume that everybody is so blinded by your shining brilliance, they forget about your honky game mechanics. Youíve forgotten your roots Noire. Youíre practically an interactive movie.
Noire: But you gotta admit, it would be a good movie.
Public: (Ignoring, with some reluctance) Case in point: the shooting is terrible. Itís like the main character is glued to walls and his shoulders have rusted tight.
Noire: Thatís why Iíve got that auto-aim thing. Just pop out of cover, donít nudge the stick, and youíll be automatically pointing at the closest bad guy.
Public: (Doubt) Youíre not helping your case for the claims against you Noire. Thatís pretty much ďPress R2 to kill bad guyĒ. Thereís no game in that.
Noire: Shooting is not really my thing any more. Like I say, I ditched the GTA ideas. Iím all about the clue hunting and the gripping narrative now.
Public: About those clues Noire. You paint a pretty scene, all full of incidental detail. Youíre the zenith of environmental detail. But why are half of the clues irrelevant cigarette stubs and hair brushes?
Noire: Theyíre red herrings! Jeez, havenít you ever played a point-and-click? Not everything is useful. It throws you off the scent. Makes you think and deduce.
Public: (Doubt) So why does the main character automatically tell you the object is irrelevant as soon as he picks one up? Thereís no possibility for deduction there Noire. Itís just another wasted button press.
Noire: I needed to add something else in there. If everything you picked up was entirely relevant to the case then youíd complain that the whole clue hunt was sign-posted. Youíre the one complaining that Iím not enough of a game, and then you go complaining about my game bits. Screw you, Public!
Public: Itís a half-assed attempt at best Noire. One of several in your case.
Noire: All this talk of cluesÖ Youíre not even mentioning my star attraction Ė the interrogations! Youíve gotta admit, theyíre pretty tense!
Public: Thatís a given Noire. You did well on that front. ButÖ
Noire: (Butting in again) Aw Címon! Thereís nothing wrong with my interrogations!
Public: (Doubt) Too much guesswork Noire. You fill up the notepad with a long list of similar evidence, and then give no indication as to which piece is correct for each accusation. I failed too many questions because I picked the wrong clue as proof, even though it seemed completely relevant. That didnít make me feel like a detective. It made me feel like I was sitting my multiple-choice Driving Theory again.
Noire: ButÖ what about the faces? Theyíre so expressive. Like in the movies!
Public: Thatís my point Noire. Iím convicting you for the crime of being a Game But Not a Game. Your story may well be entertaining, and I applaud the progress youíve made for gaming narratives. But you are so obsessed with the story that youíve forgotten about the fun. Even the strides youíve taken to advance the technology behind your facial and environmental detail Ė these are just mechanisms to hold up your dreams of being a movie. I can only hope others learn from your mistakes. Thereís room in the world for a story like yours in a game thatís fun to play, but you just didnít try hard enough to be a game. Book him boys!