Well, it went off the rails a bit. Or, more pertinently, it didn’t. Barely a second of LA Noire was spent in idle pursuit of a personal goal, every moment was funnelling the player to the dénouement. Which is fine, that’s how narrative works in film, and LA Noire did nothing more enthusiastically than cleave to its chosen genre. The problem is… what, then? That games don’t work like that? Yeah, they do. Game designers work hard to get you from A to B, sometimes without noticing but most usually with big fucking neon arrows. Sometimes literally.
So why did I have a problem with Noire pushing me where it wanted to go? I suppose mainly because it cheated. I don’t mind being force-fed narrative in a game which tells me – this is how it goes, you’re this guy, you’re going to have to do this, this and this, we’ll fancy it up with some cutscenes, boom, seeya. But in a game which says – hey, here are some real-looking people, try teasing the information you need out of them, examine these clues, see if you can put them together and go solve the case! – I expect to be able to do that. You know. Crack the case, on my own. Instead, Team Bondi’s rat-run had me pressing each switch in turn, a sequence as set and inflexible as a hardcore rhythm-action game. And woe betide you if you missed even a tiny piece of the puzzle! Fail to pick up and fully examine a clue? Well, you’re not going to have the evidence to back up your accusation of a suspect, you’ve failed the interview, it’s all going WRONG. Get an interview question wrong? Oh dear, no lead for you to follow, oh well, charge this one, you really fucked up this case, two stars, back of the class. No second chances, not here. Shit, even in the old days Mario had three lives. This isn’t a game, it’s a TV show where you’re writing the script based on a hazy knowledge of the characters. And it’s going out live.
There are workarounds, of course. Screw up an interview and all it takes is a quit back to the menu and a restart to give yourself a second chance, but that’s not what Rockstar want for you. They want you to feel the pain of being wrong. Well, excuse me if that isn’t why I play videogames. I don’t want to go on the same emotional journey as Phelps (mainly because he’s a fucking dick). I want to perceive the right way and the wrong way through my actions, not through the script, and I want to be able to take the right way without resorting to what amounts to cheating.
BUT ENOUGH OF THAT, HOW ARE THE GRAPHICS?
They’re great. Five stars.