This week, I have been going through Rockstar’s L.A. Noire on Steam. It was first released in 2011, and I was gifted it a few years ago. Thanks to Emily King for supplying the questions. Let’s get on with the interrogation.
There are spoilers below.
Why has it taken you so long to boot-up L.A. Noire?
I remember Emily playing L.A. Noire not long after it released, and I remember how frustrated she often got with it. It seemed like a game that I wanted to play, but not on the top of my list. To be completely honest, over the past few years (probably about 3/4 years), I have felt my drive to play games diminish quite a bit. It’s only the past 6 months or so that I’ve really felt the compulsion to play rather than just watch Emily play. I’d also like to thank our friend Tom for buying it and gifting it to me on Steam.
You knew quite a bit about reading body language before starting the game: did this help during questioning?
Not really. I think maybe it was because of the nature of it, I was struggling to concentrate on body language, the story and thinking of all the evidence I’d collected. Keeping all that in mind while also analysing body language is not easy. I also get confused after a person finished speaking to me, as they’d just snap into a different pose (at least facially) meaning I was confused if it was the mechanics of the game, or whether they were actually being shifty.
Also, I’m not usually a fan of the style, or of crime dramas, so I felt a little out of my depth.
Who’s your favourite character so far and why?
Cole Phelps – mostly because he’s mostly a good guy. The boss is okay, but he comes off as smug. The partners at the moment just seem to follow me around, without too much impact on the actual game (as far as I got anyway). I do the work, he seems to tag along.
What do you think of the ways the post-World War II backdrop affects the characterisation of the game’s characters?
To me, because I haven’t got through it all yet (it seems like it’s a fairly lengthy game and I ran out of time), I haven’t really got to the point where his past in World War 2 really caught up with him. There’s a lot of narrative strands in the air with both the WW2 stuff and the psychiatrists stuff that really have yet to come together for me. I’m sure there’s stuff that I’ve missed anyway, so it might be that I’ll have to play it through again just really make sense of everything.
Is Phelps given the space to be a not so traditional male protagonist?
Once again, so far he’s fairly traditional. I have had it spoiled to me that he has an affair, but even so it’s not like that isn’t a part of the noire genre either. He comes off as a guy that wants to make something of himself, which I suppose is actually fairly rare – there’s so many protagonists that struggle against their “heroism” or simply not have their motivations really delved into. But Phelps has ambition, so that is kind of interesting.
How much L.A. Confidential do you see in L.A. Noire and does it make the game more of a homage to that kind of film?
Well, the general attitudes and style is similar, and I like that each of the detectives seem fairly unique (from what little I’ve actually seen of them), so I would say it’s similar in styling. It’s obvious that Noire has been influenced by L.A. Confidential at the least. But to be honest, I’m not really into this time period as many other people I know, so I really wouldn’t be getting all the references.
The game released with quite a few bugs: encountered anything particularly epic during your playthrough?
Actually, it’s been very clean. The only things that have happened to me is when I accidentally disconnected my external hard drive (from which Steam was running) and I once ran my partner up against a tree and he glitched out slightly. But nothing that you don’t see in many other games.
The facial motion capture in L.A. Noire is one of its most lauded aspects, but are we in a very Uncanny Valley?
I think it was when I watched Emily play it a few years back, but the one thing that does bug me is the mouths. Even though they’ve got the tempo and general movements right, you can still see that the teeth are being bent in towards the mouth and such. Though I would notice that having my laptop actually on my lap, and the graphics on full 1080p. I also felt that the textures in general could be better, but it still looks really good. I think it was necessary for the facial motion capture, but I think if they tried to do a sequel now, they’d have better realism.
L.A. Noire relies a lot on cinematic storytelling techniques – does this get in the way of it being a videogame?
It does and it doesn’t. On the whole, there’s a lot of performance, and when you switch to controlling the character it can feel slightly jarring (apart from the odd chase). It’s also amusing when you pretty much crash into the next location and the cut scene has you park up nicely as if nothing had happened. Then switching from conversations to your note book and whatnot can be a little bit broken in terms of flow. On the whole, it’s okay, but I do get the sense that it’s a little “two-shot” like the first Mass Effect game. With some more dynamic camera angles I think it would work better, but still not a deal breaker.
Do the more videogame moments (shooting, driving, navigating the world) hold-up in comparison to other more sandbox games?
Generally, I’m fairly happy with the other bits (mostly). The driving is okay (though playing on keyboard it feels a little too digital – so a tap on the keyboard will always turn me the same amount of left, in comparison to analogue sticks, where it has many degrees of left), shooting feels good. If there’s anything I would say it would be navigating on foot feels a little slugish. Not to mention the whole inspection of items bits – that feels awkward. But on the whole, completely playable.
What have been some of your favourite moments in the game so far?
It’s hard to say to be honest. Though I can say I do find it bad knowing I could’ve scored higher if I’d chosen lie rather than doubt on a few things. Also, I do sometimes wonder if it suffers from Phoenix Wright syndrome, where you’re meant to present evidence and even though it seems correct, the item I pick is apparently the wrong thing to present.
But anyway, as for favourite parts, I’d probably say puzzle-solving and driving. I don’t think I’ve got enough of the hang of the questioning yet – with confrontation not being in my nature, and I’m always worried I’ve done things out of order and have missed something.
Will you finish playing it?
I think I will, though there’s a few other games I’m likely to jump onto first. It may come back around and be a Second Chance piece.