I can’t quite grasp how to explain this – but L.A. Noire is easily the most frustrating video game that I have continued to play. On some level I think I play in a bizarre attempt to find its redeeming feature – a reason to love it. My plan was to finish the game, then write something that covers my experience – but after reading Tom Bissell’s extensive piece about L.A. Noire, which addresses practically every concern and issue I have with the game, I don’t think I need to. Thanks for that Tom!
It would be wrong to quote any part of his assessment out of context, but I’ll do it anyway! If only to convince people that the piece is worth reading.
Equally hilarious are L.A. Noire’s fist fights, the gameplay element most impressively devoid of interest. After the game’s seventh or eighth fist-fight, I broke my no-more-video-games-but-L.A. Noire pledge and popped into my Xbox 360 a game about which I had been curious for some time, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, which some regard as a great twinkling light of video-game preposterousness. If anything, this undersells the game’s feral charm. 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is a third-person shooter in which the player controls the Vitamin Water mogul himself. The plot is as follows: A Middle Eastern concert promoter, unable to pay 50 Cent an agreed-upon $10 million, convinces 50 Cent to accept a diamond-covered skull as adequate recompense. Unfortunately, 50 Cent’s diamond-covered skull is stolen from him, which inaugurates a nation-wide rampage. The object of the game is to kill everything and earn money (killing people, luckily, earns you money), which makes 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand a rare game whose authored narrative is not at all disconnected from its player-generated narrative. Aside from the astonishing fact that 50 Cent agreed to the particulars of his portrayal within the game, the most interesting thing about 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is how fun it is to play. Its batshit-crazy story revels, hilariously, in everything the medium does not do well. I played the game through in two days, after which I wondered if the single most damning thing about video games is the fact that one could argue, legitimately, that 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand is a better game than L.A. Noire.
It sounds critical of the game, but it’s not. In fact in a lot of ways I don’t think Bissell goes far enough – in the end he concludes that L.A. Noire’s “failures are not that important when weighed against its successes”, which I only partly agree with. But it’s great to read a well written, in-depth exploration of a video game that attempts to transform video games, but ultimately ends up butting heads with the limitations of the medium.
Well worth reading.
Press X for Beer Bottle: On L.A. Noire [Grantland]