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LA Noire Day#2: Highway Man

In my second day with LA Noire, I dive into the real gameplay of driving around the city doing my cop thing. It’s still pretty good. The game is just brimming with content. All of the side missions are cutscene equipped short stories, and the missions themselves are multilayered and trying to do something interesting. The mechanics stay mediocre. The interrogation mechanic is still too hard to read and thus is always more guess work than you want, the evidence finding is just too finicky, and the driving is the standard GTA frustration. I’m having fun so far, but jury’s out for me on whether this game is genuinely great yet. Spoilers within.

“The Driver’s Seat” is the next chapter, which I restart from the beginning.  The task is to go to 6th and Alameda where there’s a suspicious vehicle and signs of foul play. There’s lots of banter as I walk out of the police station, and it’s pretty good. There’s a crime reported over the radio as we’re driving. I take it to see what that does, and a new icon appears on my map. As I drive to it, Bukowski and Phelps talk. Phelps went to Stanford then ROTC’ed to eventually win a silver star, but he doesn’t want to talk about the war. Bukowski was a cop during the war — he’s sensitive about not fighting but got a bravery citation during a riot. The radio is now playing in the car in classic GTA style, but it doesn’t seem parodic in this game. “Masked gunman” is the side mission I arrive at. There’s a CS of a woman telling us there’s a masked gunman on a roof. Phelps and Bukowski wall hug, and in CS Phelps heads towards the building as the gunman keeps Bukowski pinned. I get control to climb up to the roof and then have to chase the criminal. I chase for a while and then the criminal takes a hostage in CS and threatens me. I get control and wait until his head shows from behind the hostage and shoot him. The hostage runs and we cut to a CS of the body taken away. I’m told this is 1 out of 40 street crimes solved.

Now it’s back to the mission. I get to the freight depot, and they recognize Bukowski at the gate. There’s a workman who saw something talking to a cop. Bukowski tells Phelps in CS he’ll help him if he needs it. I get control and walk to the crime scene. The cop says Nate Wilkey (the workman) called the car in. It’s an abandoned car with blood on the inside, and it belongs to an Adrian Black. In the trunk, I find a receipt for a live pig to F. Morgan. I see a LOT of blood on the inside of the car. Outside the car, I see Adrian’s wallet and glasses on the ground. I then talk to Wilkey. He seems like he’s largely telling the truth. I doubt him once for no reason to see what happens when I get it wrong, and that causes me to fail at that part of the interview. Interesting that you can’t redo those at all. I do get him on the fact that he looked in the wallet, but he’s harmless. I find  bloody pipe and then get an Instaheat brand name on it. I ask Wilkey about the pipe, but he doesn’t know anything about it.  Then Bukowski says we have to inform Black’s wife, and so we leave.

The game tells me that I can have my partner drive, so I try it and that’s like the stage coach in Red Dead: you skip to the location. Cool. I go up to the residence, and there’s a CS of our approach. At the door, Phelps meets Margaret Black in a CS intro. She invites us into her nice suburban home. In CS, Phelps tells her about the abandoned car and then I get control to continue the interview. I ask about Instaheat, and she says they had a new Instaheat water heater installed. I find a Cavanaugh’s Bar matchbook as well as a bill for the heater in the kitchen. I find a phone which I can interact with, and picking it up causes Phelps to call the station to get the bar address. I exit the house and find the water heater disassembled outside. I assemble it, and can then see that this is where the pipe came from. I go back inside and ask Black about the slaughterhouse, and she mentions Frank Morgan, a friend of her husband who she doesn’t trust. I’m done here, so I head back to the car with a new destination set for the bar.

I decide to drive this time, and another street crime pops up. I navigate there and the mission is called “Death from Above.”  There’s a cop held hostage on the roof. He’s a traffic cop who stopped a car that had tons of guns inside and who was then captured. I have to find way up to the roof to save the cop. I start in cover behind a car. I get up  and run toward the building and get shot several times, with blood splatters appearing on the back of Phelps’s jacket. I don’t die though, and I find a ladder up to a first roof, but I forget how to shoot and get killed by the enemy waiting there. I die again a second time the same way, but I think I know how to shoot now. I finally kill the guys on the roof by sniping them from the ground and then I accidentally shoot an officer and fail again. DAMN IT.  I finally pull it off by sniping the guys I can see and then bum rushing my way up the roof to kill the rest. There’s a CS of Phelps calling for an ambulance and coroner and we’re out.

As I’m driving,  antother street crime comes in and I take it. This one is “Shoo Shoo Bandits.”  It starts with a short CS of this guy explaining how he got robbed by some thugs who ran. I have to chase them up some stairs first to find them, and then down an alley to catch them. They get away the first time because I don’t realize until too late that I have to shoot them and they jump into a car. I fail a second time by only shooting one of them in time, but then get them the third time by shooting right away. That mission complete, I have my partner drive to the bar. I get there and ask the bartender about Frank. I points Frank out in the back of the room. I approach him and ask him about Black. I catch him in a lie about not being at the scene using the receipt as evidence and  get him to tell me he made it look like Black had been attacked. I then doubt him to get the address black is at. I then get the choice of whether to arrest Frank or not. I have no idea why I would choose one or the other, and I choose not to. Shrug. I then go to apartment and go up to Morgan’s room. Black’s there and when we confront him, true to form in this game he runs. I chase him and run him into Bukowski to get him. We cut to a CS where Captain Leary congratulates us for the bust. There’s a mission complete screen with stats: 9/14 clues and 9/10 questions right. I lose money for vehicle and city damage, which I have to say kind of unfair in a Rockstar game given how wonky the driving is. A tip tells me I could have gotten more information from Mrs. Black.

I click to advance and I get a flashback. The marines are in the barracks talking. Kelso gets picked on by a commander running an inspection and refuses to say his gun isn’t clean.  (It was already verified by a previous check in the flashback.) Kelso refuses to clean it again and says he’s going off to join the rifleman and fight the real enemy. I wonder when he’s going to pop up again.  The next mission is “Marriage Made in Heaven.” We start with a CS of a guy hit by a car in a hit and run. We cut to the briefing room where Phelps and Bukowski are given the case, and we drive to the scene of  the crime: Ray’s Cafe. Once there, I have to find some witnesses. On the drive, they talk about Ann Rodreguez and Phelps is talking about making sure she gets off by getting the DA something better. Umm…who is this woman? I don’t think I’ve heard that name before. Maybe the woman in the jewelry store? Anyway, I get to the cafe. There’s a CS as the cops approach and the coroner takes pictures. There’s a shot of each of the potential witnesses and then I get control. I approach the officer who tells me that the victim was Lestor Patterson, dead on impact. Shannon Perry is the witness on the street. I start by searching the body. Patterson had life insurance. The coroner says he died on impact and the hood ornament caused his nasty chest injury.

I then talk to Perry. I get some good info out of her with a doubt: Patterson was arguing with wife. I also get the details on the car including model and half a license plate. I go inside and talk to the bartender Lynch. It’s a straightforward dialogue, but I miss one question at the end, although I have no idea why. I find a gambling table in a back room, but it doesn’t give me a clue. I also find a newspaper, which triggers a cut scene from newspaper headline about a therapist. The therapist’s assistant confronts the doctor about keeping  addicts there sedated. The therapist says illegal drugs could be a benefit to society. Not sure what that scene had to do with anything. I call and get the address of car’s owner Shelton. I have my partner drive us there. When we arrive, he’s loading suitcases into his car, and we have to chase him by car when he throws the suitcases at us and drives off. I fail once purely because of the poor driving in this game. I proceed to fail a second time because our car crashes into the entrance of the mall he runs into. I get him the third time by ramming him. He says he hit the guy, but he ran because he has a lot of accidents; he’s a surveyor and needs his license. He didn’t realize the guy was dead, and he says he saw a man and a woman on the sidewalk do nothing as he drove off.

Now that we have the driver in custody, Phelps wants to go talk to the widow. We go to her house and talk to her. She’s not very broken up about the death, and the owner of the bar (named Sabo) is here as a “friend” comforting her. She’s clearly involved in the murder, but I only get 1/2 questions right in the interview. I miss the last question about the fight she and her husband had in the street because I misjudge the value of the evidence I have about that fight; I think I can confront her with what Perry told me, but she just brushes it off. Interrogation is just not that clear as gameplay, mostly because I don’t know the value of the evidence I have or what evidence I’m expected to use in a given exchange. I call the coroner to see the status of the autopsy (because the game prompts me to) and the coroner wants me to come see him asap. On my ride back, I take the street crime “Hotel Bandits.” I see the robbery of a hotel in CS, and then get control to chase them by car and then on foot to a roof and kill them. Straightforward and not unfun side quest for this game.

I arrive at the morgue, and the coroner says the victim was dead before the car hit him. He was stabbed to death. I have to go back to Ray’s to find the murder weapon. I wander around the entire bar, but I don’t get any vibration. I even use an intuition point, which shows that the clue is near the garbage cans on my minimap, but there’s still no vibration when I stand there. I basically have to just hit A repeatedly as I make my way around the trash unlike I find something. That is completely suck. There is no gameplay there at all. It’s the worst kind of pixel hunting. Anyway, I find the bloody knife and when I bring it into the bar,  Sabo runs. Here we go chase, again. At the end of the chase, I have to shoot Sabo, even though I try to tackle and arrest him several times with no recognition from the game at all. Once Sabo’s wounded and down, Phelps CS tells Bukowski to send a car to round up Mrs. Patterson, and we cut to Leary in CS commending Phelps. The mission outcome this time is  8/9 clues and 6/8 questions. The tip hits me for not getting Mrs Patterson, but didn’t Phelps just have her arrested? I receive more damages due to the stupid driving. When I click on, there’s a flashback to soldiers going out on a boat as Phelps and another officer look on. Phelps talks about his family being in shipping, and how this is going to be an American century. The end of this flashback seems like a good place to call it a night.

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