As I play through L.A. Noire, I can’t help but feel like I’m stuck on a rail. A rail with lots of car crashes.
While the city itself is wide open—and absolutely gorgeous—there’s nothing to do in it but go to your next case destination. And sit in every car in the city, like a quick-tempered Goldilocks. There are occasional street crimes, but none of the randomness you’d hope for in a game that came out this year.
But it’s more than that, too. Even when on the trail of one of the main cases, it feels incredibly shallow. You get to the crime scene, and almost always the coroner is there to tell you how the victim died. I’d love to have the chance to figure it out for myself, and maybe get some extra or miss out on a cut scene or something if I can pick up on the right clues. I’d also like to have a bit more agency to select which clues I think are relevant, for that matter.
And then there’s the whole process of interrogating suspects and witnesses. While it is really cool, I think it could’ve used a bit more iterating as well. Once the individual has responded to the Detective’s question, the player can select one of three options, and that’s that. It makes getting through interrogations frustrating and abrupt. Detective Phelps often responds inappropriately to what’s gone on before. If he wants to play bad-cop he should work up to it instead of suddenly exploding in anger. Like a quick-tempered Goldilocks.
Branching dialogue would’ve done a lot to make the interactions with the different characters a lot more interesting. I’m pretty sure that in real interrogations, just because you invoke the wrong piece of evidence to prove something doesn’t mean you can no longer prove it. Maybe I just don’t understand the law, I suppose.
All of this isn’t to say I don’t like the game. I quite like it. But a lot of my enjoyment comes from the atmosphere. On the one hand, it’s easy to see why this takes up three Xbox360 discs. Every room you walk into is so richly detailed; it’s an absolute joy for any fans of that era of America to explore.
On the other hand, Red Dead Redemption feels like a much deeper game at every level; combat, characters, exploration, mini-games and side quests are all entertaining and feel a part of the world. My biggest hope is that Team Bondi can take some more ideas from Red Dead next time around and give us a truly engaging Noir story.