Bully Theft Redemption Noire First Impressions

I have some serious heavy-duty gripes about LA Noire but it does a bunch of things right.

My favorite feature of all is that you can hold down Y (or Triangle) near your car to get your partner to instantly drive you to the next location instead of lumbering around town like a drunk teenager wrecking into every stop light in a ten block radius. If any dialogue was to happen during the drive, it happens before the fade-to-black. It fixes the primary problem of many open world games: that getting from point A to point B is really not all that fun. And when point-A-to-point-B is the majority of the time spent in the game, that discourages players from completing the bits that you spent millions of dollars on: the missions and set-pieces. Less than eight percent of players finished Red Dead Redemption. In movies or TV when your protagonist needs to go somewhere, we don’t see him or her get into a car, navigate the freeways, signal legally and pull into a valid parking spot. Because it is boring and unnecessary. We spend all of this time investing in raising the emotional stakes of our characters and then let that tension slack so that we can navigate a “real world”. A game that I found incredibly interesting and innovative, Far Cry 2, I never finished because I was tired of driving through jungles and savannas getting randomly assaulted.

The primary frustration I have with the game is the linearity of conversation. (This may seem ironic to some, since I just advocated what some may call linearizing travel, but I would argue that it is already linear since there are no meaningful changes that happen between point A and B – it is false freedom.) While melodramatic and a bit silly, the Ace Attorney games provided pretty interesting mechanics for searching crime scenes and interacting with witnesses/suspects. Often the dialogue would take the shape of a hub. You can take a line of questioning and if things go sour, you can loop back to where you started and take another line of questioning. Sometimes this would lead to repeating dialogue, but there was a sense from a metagame perspective that if you could suss out orders and prerequisites, that you could complete the designed interaction.

LA Noire takes a wholly linear approach to questioning. You get one shot at each prompt to answer Truth-Doubt-Lie. Only one of the pieces of evidence works for each lie even though evidence may lead to similar trains of thought. And when you “doubt”, you can not later go back and accuse the witness of lying. It makes little sense. You get one opportunity and that’s that. If you have suspicions, you better use the right evidence or forever hold your peace. Is it meant to be replayed? Is that the point?

 

Dialogue Shape: Ace Attorney vs. LA Noire

I’m also fully convinced that whatever genre Rockstar tries in the future, they will still use the same minimap.

 

5 Comments

  1. What happens if you’re just totally wrong and blow the accusation? Do you have to reload?

  2. I agree with your gripes & observations. Since this is a much more directed experience than Rockstar’s usual open-world games and contains minimal side-objectives, the free-roaming is almost superfluous. That said, whenever I arrive to a new location, I usually find myself hopping in and out of nearby cars to add them to my tally. Interestingly, when reloading a failed action scene, the specific cars change, so I go through those motions again before activating the chase or gunfight.

    That you get one-shot-only for the interrogations, I find really aggravating for the same reasons you have: that since one piece of moderately relevant evidence is not “THE perfect one” you fail that particular line of questioning. That said, I don’t find it game-breaking. Similarly to Heavy Rain, “the show goes on” despite poor performance during the interrogation tasks. As a perfectionist gamer, we suffer, but the story not only continues but subsequent “scenes” are either added or removed from the path to the finish based on our performance. I know there will be some sorts of people who’ll want to take the longest path in order to experience the most content, rather than being the ace detective cleanly and quickly wrapping up the case.

  3. I don’t know if you noticed, but you can accuse someone of lying and still back out from the evidence list to the first node to switch to “Truth” or “Doubt.”

  4. I don’t know how much say I have, as I am not a part of the industry; rather, I am just a gamer. But, you mentioned free roaming as a “false freedom”. In some games, I would say that is entirely the case. I have not had the pleasure of playing L.A. Noire as of yet, so I cannot comment on it; however, I do not think that free-roaming must only be a “point A to point B” senario. Thing is, I like traveling. For Red Dead Redemption, I liked just riding somewhere, hoping something unique would happen. And, at least a first, it did. But, when there are only about 7 or 8 different random events, traveling starts to loose it’s fun. And that’s where I think many free-roaming games go wrong: they botch the element of surprise. While I love a good story, I’ve often felt that the random events were taked on, rather than actually developed. One of my favorite moments, for example, in Red Dead was, after having played for 25 plus hours, running into a little camp in Mexico with a couple guys and a bunch of TNT. I didn’t realize right away what it was–and then it exploded, killing me. It was great. This is the kind of thing that would keep free-roaming from seeming like simple travel and more like something interesting and even dangerous, beyond simply being ambushed.

  5. You can have emergence without a sparse open-world model.

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