I spent a few hours with Rockstar’s newest open-world epic yesterday, and unlike a majority of the gaming universe I’m not that blown away by it. By no means should this post serve as a full review, but I had to get my initial impressions of the game out there before too many sites officially crown it 2011’s GOTY. Let me first state that I totally appreciate what Rockstar as a developer has done in the gaming industry. GTA, love it or hate it, ushered in the whole open-world genre which has now spawned more clones than Kamino. They then revolutionized that formula with 2010’s GOTY Red Dead Redemption. L.A. Noire is their next attempt to change what the open-world genre is all about, and visually it does, but I can’t say the same about the gameplay.
Without a doubt L.A. Noire has some of the best looking facial animations to date. Rockstar’s decision to digitally scan every actors performance definitely pays off. For the first time in a game the characters have near life like facial reactions that haven’t been seen before. Personally, I still prefer Heavy Rain’s animation style over Noire, but the latter has more real feeling characters. I truly believe that L.A. Noire is getting most of the hype it is because of this technology and not due to the actual gameplay, which according to the type of gamer you are may, or may not matter. Sure the character visuals are amazing, but that doesn’t mean the game is as well.
L.A. Noire Does Have Amazing Facial Scans
Unlike Heavy Rain (going to use this comparison quite a bit since both games focus more on story and clues versus action) I have yet to really feel myself getting sucked into L.A. Noire’s story, which is a major offense for a game of this nature. Within 30 minutes of playing the game I found myself becoming extremely bored and distracted from what was taking place in the game’s story. I still don’t really know what’s going on outside of watching the protagonist advance up the ranks of the LAPD. I’m a few hours in, and there really hasn’t been an introduction to the overall plot of this game. Maybe I need to spend more time with it, but most traditional games usually spell out the overall reason as to why I’m playing the game in the first place within the first hour or so. LAN has failed to do this for me, so most of the gameplay feels monotonous and dull.
Due to the fact that this game doesn’t really seem to have an arcing plot, I’m finding most of the tasks to be beyond boring. Randomly searching around a dark alley (this game has almost confirmed that I need a new TV, because it’s very dark in some parts and hard to see) hoping to feel my controller vibrate just isn’t that exciting. In fact, I had much more fun just entering timed controller commands in Heavy Rain than doing this investigative work. Noire, like all Rockstar games, utilizes way too many driving sequences. I hate driving around in games like this, and for the life of me can’t understand why this feature is a staple of games like this. Sure it’s fun to run over some pedestrians once in awhile, but constantly having to cart my partner’s a*s and mine around town is beyond frustrating.
Lot of Time Spent in the Dark Looking For Clues
To make things worse L.A. Noire doesn’t offer any type of GPS on the map to easily find your next destination. You have to constantly hit the ‘X’ button to ask your partner for directions, so the act of driving becomes a guessing game as to where you’re headed. I would at least like to have some sort of fast travel option (supposedly your partner can drive, but I have yet to discover how to do so), or a defined path to follow so finding my next destination isn’t like going on a family vacation where your Dad refuses to ask for directions. This unnecessary headache has only further driven my imagination out of the game making Noire a destination I could give two sh*ts about.
The bulk of L.A. Noire’s gameplay (when you’re not sitting in a f*cking car) consists of investigating crime scenes, questioning witnesses, and long unrealistic chase scenes that usually take place on foot. There’s also some combat that can involve guns and your hands, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. In fact, I can’t help but to compare this game to Mafia II. They’re set in the same time period, the combat is identical, and outside of some graphical improvements the worlds seem the same. Just don’t expect any exhilarating gun battles because the controls are less than perfect for a 3rd person shooter. Again, there’s nothing about the gameplay that engages me as a gamer. I just don’t care about what is going on in this tale about 1950’s crime solving.
Yay! More Driving…
I’ll admit some of my issues with this game are due to the fact that I’m not a huge fan of open-worlders in the first place, and I really just need to quit buying into the hype and purchasing these games just because the media tells me to. I’m sure fans of the open-world genre are having a wonderful time with L.A. Noire, but outside of the amazing facial animations nothing really sets this game apart from other Rockstar titles. The formula consists of some story, way too much driving, and wonky fighting mechanics. I’ll continue to play it, because like I mentioned before I know this game will get it’s virtual c*ck sucked off by mainstream gaming media, so I want to fully experience what these industry folk are raving about. I just haven’t had that experience yet, and honestly unless something major happens in the next few hours I doubt that I ever will.
If you’re a fan of Rockstar and their open-world titles, then by all means check L.A. Noire out. If you’re thinking about getting it just because the media said it’s the next coming of Christ in videogame story telling, then don’t bother. I’d be willing to bet that other gamers out there who think with their own minds might feel the same way I do about Noire. It is a great looking title, but sometimes amazing technological achievements don’t always equal an amazing game. I’m fully prepared to take it on the chin from L.A. Noire fanboys who are probably thinking that I’m not a sophisticated enough gamer to fully enjoy a title such as this one.
That is far from the case as is evident in my love for one of the most unique gaming experiences to ever hit a console in Heavy Rain. That game took rather mundane gameplay to a whole new level with its amazing ability to tell an intriguing story. So far L.A. has failed to do that for me, which has been disappointing. I’m always up for trying new things with my favorite passion, but to earn my praise these innovations need to be compelling, and not just eye candy. I’ll give L.A. Noire more of my time, and eventually I’ll review it fully, but at this point I’d rather continue solving Portal puzzles than actual crimes. To get a look of this game in action check out the video below. You’ve been given the L.A. Noire low-down from an unbiased gamer…
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