Tuesday, May 31, 2011

LA Noire: Something Old is New

The first video game I ever played was Pong.  It wasn't at a Con in the vintage game room, but on my living room floor on a shag carpet.  It's amazing to think that a little ball bouncing back and forth across my TV screen could keep me busy for hours, but don't underestimate the wonder of Pong.  The better you played, the faster the ball bounced, and if you were really good and smacked it at just the right angle, it zipped off the screen too high or low for your opponent to possibly hit it back.  Video games have gotten slightly more complex since Pong.  Now they're whole worlds come to life on your screen.  More often than not, though, you're running through that world with barely any time to appreciate your surroundings.  LA Noire is a welcome break from that frenetic pace and a return to a style of gaming that I haven't enjoyed in years.

This is not a shoot-em-up game.  This is not a car chase game.  This is not an action-packed, sitting on the edge of your seat holding your breath to see if you make it game.  LA Noire is all about the story and atmosphere.  You are a cop in 1940's LA and you're trying to solve crimes in the face of corruption and moral decay.  Sure, you have a gun and you are going to be shooting people, but the number of kills you get is not the point.  You're a cop.  You aren't trying to kill everyone.  In fact, you lose points for hurting people or damaging property in the course of your investigations.  Your greatest weapons are your notebook, your pencil, and your mind.

Gameplay reminds me of old-school games where the point was to search every corner and collect all the clues rather than blow up everything that moved. The more clues you found, the richer and more satisfying the story experience.  The big news here is the addition of MotionScan technology to capture character expressions which makes your ability to read their faces and determine the truthfulness of their statements a central part of the game. Just like in the real world, people can be darn good liars.

There has been some criticism about the pace of LA Noire, that it's too slow or repetitive with not enough action.  If you're looking for action purely in the sense of running from one place to the next, dodging bullets, driving fast and lobbing grenades, then this game is sorely lacking.  But if you're looking to get a game that's more action for your brain, with clues to piece together, lies to unravel and crimes to be solved, then this will keep you entertained and looking forward to the next case.

Have you played LA Noire?  Did it leave you cold or wanting more? 

4 comments:

  1. I have to choose between Portal 2 and LA Noire....
    I really enjoyed playing Alan Wake, is LA Noire comparable? Do you have to keep track of the story, or is it easy enough for casual play from time to time?

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  2. That is a tough choice! Half of Portal 2 is a multi-player co-op. It's also shorter than LA Noire, but they're both really good. I've never played Alan Wake so I'm no good to you there, but as far as the story in LA Noire, it definitely works for casual play. Each case is individual, so you can solve a case then come back to a fresh one later. There are story arcs that connect all the cases, but I don't think they're complex enough that if you walked away from it for awhile and then came back that you'd be lost.

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  3. Okay, I see, I need to buy both ;)

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