L.A. Noire was $6 on Steam a while ago, and it turns out I will buy just about any game I’ve heard anything decent about if it’s less than $10. Which is becoming a problem during the summer sale.
It’s a frustrating game because I like some things about it a lot. The theme is right up my alley. The performance capture and reproduction is incredible. The mouth movements sync with the audio perfectly, and the actors are totally recognizable. Half the cast of Mad Men, one of your first cases is Hank’s lawyer guy from Royal Pains, Tom (I think? the surgeon/loser neighbor) from Cougar Town is some random alcoholic, Kurt Fuller (Psych coroner guy), Carla Gallo, the guy who played Jay Leno in The Late Shift, Greg Grunberg, and plenty of other That Guys, who are cool to see. Some of the cases, if I wasn’t bothered by other stuff, would be fairly interesting.
But the game basically boils down to three things: searching for clues, deciding whether to respond to a witness statement with truth/doubt/lie, and driving. There’s a little bit of fighting and shooting, but the vast majority of the game is those three things. And they all suck.
Searching for clues basically means walking around slowly waiting to hear some piano notes to indicate you’re next to a clue. And then you click to inspect it, but discover you’ve walked slightly past it, so you turn around, hear the piano notes again, and if you’re lucky this time you didn’t walk past it again. Sometimes, the thing looks like a clue, so you can tell it’s something you should investigate, but most of the time you’re looking at a bunch of clutter all over the place, so you can’t use any thought or skill or anything, just walk around waiting for the piano sound. And about half of the things you look at aren’t clues at all. Sometimes you pick them up and your character says “well this is no help,” but sometimes you pick it up and stare at it for a while and nothing happens so you discard it. It’s all pointless time wasting.
Witness interviews are based around deciding to select truth, doubt, or lie when they respond to a question. Truth means you think they’re telling the truth, and selecting this correctly will cause them to give you some more information. Lie means you have some (sometimes really shaky) evidence that will disprove what they just told you. Doubt, I have no fucking idea what this means. Sometimes it means they are telling the truth but not all of it (which is annoying since when you correctly pick truth, they also haven’t been telling you everything). Sometimes it means they are actually lying. It’s weird. It mostly means you will respond aggressively, so I think that’s the main decision to make. But it’s never clear to me at all, so I basically end up taking a bunch of 50/50 guesses. Maybe this is how I discover I’m autistic because I can’t pick up cues from facial expressions or something.
And driving… I have improved since the beginning but I still crash. A lot. I think this is one of the (many) things that didn’t transition well to the PC. You use the keyboard to steer, so there’s no way to make a subtle adjustment, you just press a key to jerk the wheel to one side.
There’s a weird thing where you acquire locations to visit, and one of them will result in solving the case completely. And if you haven’t been everywhere else, you’ll be told in your evaluation thing that you dropped the ball by not going to the other place. But there’s no way to know which place will be the one that ends the case, and it’s not always the last one on your list. So that’s just ridiculous. Either let me visit these places after solving the case, tell me what order to go in, or don’t give me shit for failing to be psychic.
The PC conversion is kind of lousy in general. For some reason, the main menu is laggy as all hell. Just moving the mouse around is a chore. In windowed mode, I can’t move the window. As soon as I click anywhere on the title bar thing, it captures the mouse into gameplay. Eventually with some help from google, I was able to figure out how to get it to launch on the monitor I wanted i on, at least.
Story-wise, it bugged me that my character was an uptight, by-the-book cop and a family man, but I would let my partner drink on the job, watch a fellow cop hit a woman and not intervene, and all sorts of other stuff that I (as an uptight, by-the-book person) would object to.
Also, and this is not entirely the game’s fault, I got sidetracked by my quadrennial addiction to Football Manager during the world cup, and once that was over*, I returned to L.A. Noire having forgotten a lot of the controls. And they sometimes pop up instructions on what does what, but having forgotten I need to hold the right mouse button to engage in a fight, I just stood there doing nothing and getting punched for like a minute wondering why I couldn’t do anything. You’d think the game would be smart enough, after like 10 seconds of getting pummeled, to put up a reminder “hold right mouse button to put your fists up.”
So anyway, I’m probably going to bail on it. I definitely got $6 worth of entertainment out of it, but I would not recommend paying full price for it. Now I just need to figure out which of these others to start. I’m leaning towards Dark Souls, since it’s supposed to be really hard and I might ragequit, and then I’d get that out of the way quickly.
* – I still get really angry at Football Manager when I completely dominate possession, outshoot my opponent 3:1, and I lose 1-0 because their goalkeeper is playing out of his mind.