LA Noire PS3 Review

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Third person sight-seeing games have been popular lately. LA Noire could be an effort by Rockstar to find a happy medium between themselves and the wallets of casual gamers. The game is significant, not for good reasons, and it is not fun.

Mafia 2, Yakuza 4, and LA Noire reference each other by being recreations of a living world of the past. They are historical fiction blended entertainment with video game controls. This is no cheerful walk in the park. Women and girls should be prepared or completely stay away from this M (Mature) rated refuse. Do not make the mistake thinking that because it isn’t being marketed as a Grand Theft Auto game, that it isn’t violent.

The Next Gen consoles are getting a bit long in the tooth. If it were a six year old human born in 2005 it would be branding its lemon-aide stand and solving distribution issues from its iPad. So what has Rockstar been doing? And are we forgiving of their offering of the same looking faces as what, their three past games? We were not so forgiving when Resident Evil 5 jumped a similar shark.

This is Rockstar’s worst presentation of the treatment of women yet. Have developers given us a true glimpse inside their heads this time as, of all things, a cop? Of course a male avatar cop. The developers may insist that “LA Noire Appeals to Women”. Though the main character is a man in a man’s world. My guess is that opinions about this game will split folks right down the middle.

The game reinforces the stereo type that it is ok to profit from entertainment derived from women in peril, as long as it shows male characters saving her, or solving the case. Rampant abuse of women and the sexism common in the times, which is the late 1940′s, is portrayed with brutal full nudity in the murders, in the colloquial expressions used by the characters, and in the scenes where women are physically abused by husbands and other males. One of the characters remarks, “He is used to getting his way from the war.” as a justification for his physical abuse of his wife.

Objectification is taken to its’ ultimate conclusion by the serial killers and murderers in the game. A pair of ripped panties off of a victim of rape are an item which has to be examined by your character as a clue. Whoever thought that any of that would be “entertaining” for women, is psychotic. Why is it that men cringe when they see another guy getting a nut-shot in a video, but they can’t understand women’s feelings about visceral pain?

The female characters in the game almost unanimously have the same face and hair. Symbolizing that women are faceless automatons and are expendable.They are apparently modeled after Josephine Baker. Even the very distinct nude photo of the singer seems to have been used as a model for one of the victims. The fact that the women all have the same face is creepy, as well as shoddy programing.

The pressure is on, as Adam Sessler gave it a Five out of Five. I seldom disagree with Adam and our scores over the years have always been similar. His score, equal to a perfect ten on my scale is no where near what I would rate this game as you will see. Where was Morgan Webb when they reviewed this game?

Does LA Noire appeal to women after all? It is hard to say, because you are always going to be mistaken if you try to generalize about people. Consistently there are exceptions to every rule. Not all women enjoy puzzle games, mysteries or the Sims. Not all girl gamers like Nintendogs, dress up, and racing games. Although, many women gamers I know enjoyed the previous Grand Theft Auto games enormously. The shooting, looting and crime sprees in GTA were hilarious, even the notoriously lousy treatment of female roles in those games could be overlooked because it was understood that it was all meant to be a joke, and a stress reliever where you went to just blow shit up.

Rockstar Games is no Brian DePalma. LA Noire ends up being a game with extremely sensitive and sexist themes exposed, and disturbing content which trades in shtick rather than profound plots. The nudity is gratuitous, there for shock value. The music blares out as the character encounters the bodies, one more disgustingly ravaged than the next. This game has lost GTA’s best talent which was humor. Without it, this attempt at drama fails miserably.

As usual my character is standing around looking at the textures, trying to go places where the game does not intend you to be. I am doing the weird stuff I usually do to try and see what a game will or won’t let me do. I got a car stuck inside the pavement of an alleyway. My character gets hooked on a log shaped curb and can’t run past it. All of it to an excellent jazz theme.

At first it feels very odd playing as a “good” rather than an “evil” character. In all the other games of this type, you usually play as a male, villain. At first I was expecting the perpetrators to win the fights and escape. But no, my cop punches him out and he is sent off by some uniforms.

The facials don’t seem to match the rest of the game. The environmental colors are the usual GTA type at night. It is very dark, not just in the eponymous title. Daytime colors are bright, vivid and sharp. There is lots of contrast from Lightsprint’s real-time global illumination technology. You get sweltering twilights, and astonishing sunrises. Then there is the rest of the game.

Like when you dye your roots and your partner doesn’t seem to notice, then you know that you’ve done the beauty treatments right. It should look natural. Lighting effects and the minutia of detail with them turns things like the hood of the car red when stopped at a traffic light, or reflects the neon signs as you pass by. The light flickers on the faces in time with the bawdy atmosphere. The lighting effects and several of the graphical engines were produced by different teams and it shows. The grainy ugly looks of the people doesn’t merge consistently with the rest of the game.

What they have improved is the character motion. It is a wonderfully interactive new item handling engine. You pick something up to examine it and you can turn it all around and see it up close. Vibrations from the dual shock controller will prompt you to get a closer look, and perhaps jot down the details in the notebook.

Guided by subtle clues from the music such as chimes, and vibration, it tells you that you should stop and look for clues. That is the beginning of the many issues there is with game-play. Why would the game stop you to look at empty bottles, trash, and cigarette butts and then tell you that not everything is relevant to the case? Since you can only examine the objects that you are prompted to, then the unnecessary items shouldn’t be stopping your progress to look at them. Instead, allowing you to look at and pick up any item would have been better. That way finding clues would be more of a challenge.

Heavy Rain was a clunky member of the movie-esque games. Getting the character to go where you wanted him to wasn’t fluid or easy. He stumbled in and out of dialogs and cut-scenes. LA Noire is guided better by the hands of experience.

The game can be said to be engrossing while not involving you in the mechanics and controller the way most games do. In some ways they have alleviated the learning curve entirely. You don’t have to drive if you don’t want to. Or even park. As long as you get the car within a block of the goal it will respond with an animation that takes the character to the doorstep, where you regain control. All of the automation in the game may appeal to non-gamers, but this time around the hardcore are left out.

Driving which used to be fun in their games is not fun here. The driving has the same old loose feel to it. I drove the cop car down into a an alley tight enough to rip the paint off the car, then had to leave it stuck there when two fire hydrants at the end of the alleyway refused to break. I hoped for a cut scene that would bring back the car. And it did.

This was the first time I had to stop at traffic lights, and drive the speed limit in a game. So this isn’t a driving game either. You get points for driving the many different models but it frowns on jacking them. So how does the game expect you to get the cars? When I jacked a cute pink number with ivory leather tops, after coming out from inside a house for an investigation, the same old car returned.

There is no randomly shooting rocket launchers at cars. There is no mad cap driving. No plowing through sidewalk sales or pummeling pedestrians. In other words, no fun.

The best use of all that fancy environmental lighting at  daytime, twilight, and evening is the scenery. Even the old triple decker houses that are common in any city look outstanding.Textures are magnificent, hardwood floors are beautifully rendered both polished and worn, there are authentic tiles and floorings in the buildings, even the rugs are historically accurate. The details in the game are done exceptionally well.

The most ridiculous thing which I have seen written about this game is that “Women will like this game because women are better at telling if people are lying than men.” if that were true all the divorce lawyers in America could retire, just ask Maria Shriver. Unfortunately at the heart of the game play is the interrogation system. Every other system in the game is glossed over. There is no character creation, the driving is perfunctory, the shooting is so seldom as not to warrant a segment of the review on weapons. What they apparently spent the most time on is the ill conceived interrogations. You are supposed to glean points for the character by choosing Truth, Doubt or Lie. If you choose Doubt or Lie during the questioning of a suspect, even if it is apparent that they are lying, when you say so, they will refuse to talk to you. The only viable options are to choose Truth, or use the Intuition points. Both the interrogation and intuition systems are innovative, but don’t perform well enough to make it interesting. I fell asleep on the couch while waiting for one of the long exposition scenes to conclude.

Best thing in this game? The map. It looks like the one from the original GTA on PS One or China Town Wars on DS, until you expand it. Then it opens up to an amazingly tight and accurate map.

The only strength of this title is in Rockstar’s well matured city creation. They did extensive work with library archives of black and white aerial photo collections. Those very high resolution old black and whites provided a visual backdrop that they recreated in exacting detail. They also went through old newspapers and expanded on similar crimes for players to solve. The main character who you play as is modeled after a detective from that era. They even used the infamous Black Dahlia murder as a resource.

It seems too ambitious to actualize the details of the world and life after the ‘war that changed everything’. Within that brilliance lies the major flaw about this game. If you don’t have a connection to old LA or or Hollywood, then the subject matter may be tiresome. The plots and puzzles are nothing new or particularly interesting. Having played numerous Nancy Drew games on PC which are point and click adventures, as well as old Sherlock Holmes games going back as far as the Sega Genesis, the crimes and their solutions aren’t much more difficult than a board game of Clue.

What is remarkable is the successful rendition of the times  and the era. That aspect takes gaming a set up to a higher plane. Like the holodeck on the Starship Enterprise, which can reproduce cities with holographic projections, Rockstar has paved the way for a very advanced type of virtual reality entertainment yet to come. Much in the same way that the first Grand Theft Auto in it’s eight bit nascence stretched the technology available at the time. They took the remnants of a lost civilization and brought it to life again. They made the past real, like a time machine. That is it’s spectacular accomplishment that deserves the rewards it has been getting.

It may be a triumph for the alleged bad boys of the video game industry to play good and do it to a point of excellence. However, documentaries aren’t known as the most enjoyable form of entertainment. This accomplishment will impress a different type of gamer than the GTA games do. It may appeal to some of those fans as well. If fast paced action is what you are looking for then you will need to put your caffeine aside for this one. Maybe try one of those controversial brownies instead.
This time those who enjoy casual games were invited into the play. The game will also appeal to a wide demographic of fans including Hollywood nostalgics, noire enthusiasts, movie nerds, and arm chair gumshoes. Those topics encompass many people, the trick will be getting this genre bender to the right gamers.

To avoid the over heating problems, I didn’t update the PS3 firmware. I didn’t update the game or download anything. If it was going to overheat it would have when I fell asleep on it.

LA Noire was hyped because it is the latest from Rockstar. There are many aspects of note in the game. The bottom line is it is dull, boring, and plodding. The main character is a douchey detective who has no style or swagger. He is so vanilla as to be impossible to connect with. The abuse of female characters is staggeringly sexist.

Because the major game play mechanic does not function well, it takes this game’s score back. Driving and shooting were sub-par. No female avatar, and the portrayal of women in the game all deduct from the value. The rape panties alone should have the National Organization of  Women, and Hilary Clinton in a twist. But they have bigger fish to fry than the developers of a witless game. I give LA Noire a 2 out of  10.

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