Skip to content

LA Noire Day#1: We Got the Beat

We’re in a period of extreme narrative experimentation in games, and LA Noire is the next big stab at the frontier.  There has been tons of expectation and hype around this game and its potential. I guess when you throw the ball at noire films, you are raising the stakes to something huge. So how is it holding up in its first day? On the one hand, this is an unprecedented step towards maturity for Rockstar. The game is very serious about the narrative it’s telling, and there is a care shown to maintaining a tone that is both sophisticated and true to an old fictional LA. On the other hand, it’s a Rockstar game. The faces are better, but it’s still Rockstar models. All of the mission structure and core mechanics are totally familiar to other Rockstar games, and have all of the same problems they have in the past. The new mechanics of interrogation don’t fare that much better. But the pure quality in the story is more than enough to make the first session fun. Spoilers within.

As mentioned, LA Noire (what a cheesy title, by the way — isn’t LA and Noire in the same title redundant?) is another one of these “must play” interactive narrative things. These things can go anywhere from amazingly right (Shadow of the Colossus) to horrifyingly wrong (Deadly Premonition), and I’m giving this game a shot in face of wildly mixed reviews. Wow, 3 discs! Now I KNOW this game is serious. It’s old film reel effect for the Rockstar logo. The Team Bondi logo is on a old neon billboard. There are also an impressive number of disclaimers at the beginning that I don’t bother to read. A blinking neon sign of LA NOIRE with oldie piano music is the start screen, and I hit the obligatory A to start. We zoom down to a shot of an alley with big shadow of the word NEW in the screen’s center. I can change the word on the shadow to do an action besides start a new game. There’s something called Social Club in the menu, which is a Rockstar membership club of some sort. Not for me. I select new and the game begin. The game starts with a series of short CS scenes around its historic LA. Outside a car store, there’s a voiceover about the car as symbol of vitality. A wife kisses cop as he goes off to work, and the vo talks about suburbs and the home as a castle. I’m told this is a city of opportunists as we cut to some very fake hollywood sets. It’s a city of pioneers as we pan over a movie theatre, and a city of dreamers as we see a queue of actresses waiting for something. It’s a city of undercurrents as we pan a college classroom, and as we arrive at a construction site, the vo sums up that it’s a “20th century city.” We end with a horizon shot of  this “city with no boundaries.” Very nice establishing sequence there. I tip my fedora to you, LA Noire.

We load the first chapter titled “Upon Reflection,” and there’s another vo about the marine corps chain of command and the endemic nature of corruption. The camera is following a cop car on a bridge. There’s a call over the radio into the cop car about a shooting at an industrial site. I  get control as the cops take the assignment, and surprise surprise it’s GTA-style driving and quest navigation. Same button commands, same mini-map. And it’s as mediocre as always.  Map is good and driving controls are basically designed to have me hit pedestrians and crash into my fellow motorists.

I arrive at an alleyway crime scene at 10:12 am. The cops are named Phelps and Dunn.  When they approach the homicide detectives on scene, they are told that a negro male was killed and a tall white guy killed him. The homocide detective orders us to find a gun, but since the victim was a lowlife, he doesn’t expect much. I get control as one of the cops to investigate the scene with my NPC partner. A  vibration and a chime are supposed to indicate what can be interacted with as we look around. The partner is complaining that it’s not his job to pick through people’s trash. In terms of graphics, so far it’s a quite better looking version of the Rockstar standard look in the noire past. The character models and faces are uncanny, but the movement is somehow taking the edge off in a good way, so it is in fact at least slightly unlike any game I’ve seen before. The NPC finds a blood stain, and calls out to me, revealing that I’m Phleps. I hit A to examine it, which zooms in on the item and lets me look it over. There’s nothing else to find here, so I B to exit back out.  As I continue to wander in the alley, I get another vibration and hit A to see the gun on a roof in a window’s reflection. This investigation mechanic isn’t great; the vibration is clear, but the spot to click is a little finicky in that you have to be standing in like the EXACT right spot. I have to figure out how to get to the gun. I find a drain pipe and the game tells me to climb which I do automatically as I approach it. Clearly trying to replicate Assassin’s Creed here in the smooth transition from movement action to movement action. On the roof, I find the gun and examine it. I get the model number and see two rounds were fired.  All of these things are added as clues to my notebook, and the game prompts me to check it. It’s a catalog of everything I’ve found. There’s a CS of Phelps saying to Dunn that they should show some initiative and try to find the owner. Dunn says there’s a nearby gun shop where we can get the gun checked out. I set that as my next location in my notebook, and we start returning to the car. I feel a vibration on way back and boy is that finicky to find the right spot to hit. Of course, it’s a bottle and it’s pointless to examine. Oh well, I get to the car and the gun shop is the new location on the map.

The drive over is the Rockstar standard. I nearly kill a pedestrian I don’t see, and I tap another car on the drive because they are stopping FOREVER at a light. You know, I figured out what at least part of the problem is. A third-person perspective behind the car doesn’t give you access to the same views that you get in the car, so you can’t see all the things around you in this game and thus you hit them. Anyway, I get to the gun store and get a short CS of the person inside. The game tells me that gold bars are openable doors, and so I walk into the gold-marked door of the gun store to enter. Phelps CS shows the gun to the owner, and he says that he sold it. He shows us the order book and I get a close-up view of it. It’s a little hard to read the ledger but I find the details of the murder weapon belonging to an Errol Schroeder. I leave the gun store as the owner says he’s always happy to help LAPD. I set my destination as Schroeder’s apartment and go.

The drive is uneventful, but waiting at lights kind of sucks. I kind of miss GTA-style traffic law flagrancy.  We get to the apartment, and walk across the street to the building. I look at the mailbox in the lobby to find Schroeder’s unit. There’s a CS of the officers at the door. Schroeder lets them in and  says that the victim Scooter worked for him and that the gun is in his drawer. When it’s not, we CS go to arrest him and he hits Dunn. I get control to fist fight him. Fist fights are LT to switch to fighting mode, and then A to hit, X to block/dodge, and Y to grapple. It’s functional but not that fun. Given that it’s a standard block/counterstrike mechanic, I take him down easily. We cut to Schroeder handcuffed and a new objective to search the apartment. In the drawer, on a vibration, I find a book of numbers including a listing for someone named Floyd Rose. Dunn says to leave the book to avoid making waves, and instead get the commendation for the bust alone. In CS,  they walk out with Schroeder.

We cut to a sepia toned scene of a train arriving and a group of three soldiers looking for a bus. They are chewed out by a random sergeant until they reveal that they are here for OCS. The sergeant attacks them as people who don’t really want to fight and then sends them to another bus. We cut out of the CS to start “Armed and Dangerous.” There’s a vo about how you have to pick sides and can’t just do good. We zoom in on Phelps and Dunn getting word of an armed and dangerous crime scene that they head to. I  get control to drive there, and as we arrive, there’s a CS of us entering and being shot at. It’s RB to enter combat, and the RT to shoot a couple guys on street. The shooting is manual aim and is decently fun. I run up to door and do it again, although I take a hit and it takes me a couple of shots to kill the guys inside. Dunn says that carrying a shotgun means you’re dead or getting a citation. And Phelps says he couldn’t have a better partner. We cut to a flashback CS in barracks as the three guys from before are talking. Phelps is a bit arrogant and looking for fame. He’s confronted by one of the other candidates, Kelso, as too ambitious and not here for the right purpose.

We load to a new chapter called “Warrants Outstanding.” The voiceover discusses Phelps and Kelso as guys could have been friends if they just weren’t the people they are. (Got to love that noire logic.) We’re back in the cop car and see a parole jumper in CS. I get control to chase him and it’s a pretty nice parkour-y scene through a street and then ending in a fist fight. Block, hit, block, hit and win, and then a CS of the parolee getting thrown into a van. We cut to a flashback of a marine officer talking about what leadership is.  Phelps is called on stage to read the ranks and Kelso is the lowest at everything. Kelso snarks and gets called into the office by the ranking officer.

The next chapter is “Buyer Beware.” The voiceover talks about the case that breaks you out and how this could be Phelps. We see a CS of Phelps walking down the street and hearing gunshots. He rounds a corner and comes upon a body. He CS talks to the bystanders for a moment.  More cops show up and tell Phelps he’s primary (since he got there first) so he should investigate the body before the dick homicide guys show up. I get control and hit A to investigate the body. There are set spots I can look at (e.g. turn head, turn hands) and my investigation finds a notice in his pocket for pearls. I look around the crime scene, find a gun in the trash bin and examine it. I then talk to a woman in the store. I take part some of my complements on the models in this game — she is CREE-PY.  She says the victim is her boss. I cut to the notebook and am instructed to click the eyewitness account button and then a line of argument to start with. This is an interrogation game. I know that she’s lying (she doesn’t mention her pearl buying), and I have three choices – truth, doubt, or lie. The game tells me to click lie and then I have to pick the piece of evidence that shows the lie, in this case the pearls.  She then reveals that Mr. Kalou and Mr. Gage (the victim) fought in front of her. I go back to the notebook to start a new line of questioning.  Hartfield’s jewelry is where Kalou is from. I doubt her next statement (which is lie with no proof), and she reveals Kalou hated Gage for being anti-Semite. I call that as true, and she then clarifies how many shots she heard. I finish the interview and get some intuition points that I guess I can use in interviews later. I set hartfield’s as my location and head there. I just run since it seems to be close. I talk to a guy at counter who then runs. I chase him and game tells me to aim my gun and shoot. I do, aiming at his leg, and then I lose because the subject is injured. What? Wasn’t I just told by the game to shoot? WTF? Oh well. I restart the chase, and this time catch him when he stops in street in front of a car accident. I could have hit A to tackle him during the race, but I never got close enough.

In CS , I get back to station. There’s CS there of Phelps talking to some Irish cop. The cop offers Phelps the chance to interview the subject. He tells Phelps that they need a motive, opportunity, evidence and confession, and he says that Phelps can be a little violent if he needs to. I conduct the interview and screw up once because I try to call him in a lie, but the game thinks I’m referring to a different lie than I intended and I don’t have the evidence. Nonetheless, I get him. The Irish guy in CS tells Phelps that he should get suits pressed because he’s not going to be a beat officer for long. We cut to a reward screen that checks off my skills (as demonstrated in the previous missions) and tells me I passed the fitness report and got a promotion. From there, we load the next chapter, “The Driver’s Seat.” We begin with another pan of station. Phelps is here in a suit. He’s assigned to traffic but he has a desk. His new partner is Brukowski. Phelps is introduced to Earl, the chief detective with the funny suit. They CS enter a briefing room. The captain orders Phelps to take a bow for his good police work and his war history. There’s nice banter is this scene. Between this and Red Dead, Rockstar’s writing chops have way improved. I have to go to a pe freight station to check something out, but it’s been a long session so I call it a night.

Posted in Hardcore.

Tagged with .

4 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Heath says

    I’m enjoying LA Noire a lot. It reminds me of the puzzle solving method used in the old Sierra games like Gabriel Knight and Police Quest (also Leisure Suit Larry, Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion). I’ve missed this style of game and am glad it is being reintroduced a bit here.

  2. admin says

    I will certainly hand it to Bondi for creating a genuine game about police. It is kind of my wish that the Heavy Rain detective scenes were a game to themselves. I’m still early though; let’s see if I really wanted what I wished for.

  3. Astra says

    It’s interesting that you chose to stop at the traffic light along with other cars. Within a few seconds of controlling the car, I figured out the siren and pressed my accel hard. Yes, I’m impatent. The driving feels slightly better and tighter than the older GTA. There is another point about driving and pedestrian that I’ll let you figure out that is different from RDR and other GTA games.

  4. Alyssa says

    As far as the title being redundant, it really isn’t. Alot of traditional noir films were set in grittier cities like New York or Chicago. Places known for more mob related crimes and gloomy weather. Kind of hard to make a film seem dark if theres a bunch of palm trees and sunshine in the background.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.