This Is Probably The Best Analysis Of L.A. Noire You’ll Ever Read

This Is Probably The Best Analysis Of L.A. Noire You’ll Ever Read

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]


  • You really hate LA Noire don’t you? are maybe your expectations were bigger than what the game was originally promising.

    I like shows like Law and Order SVU, CSI, Coldcase and loved the film LA Confidential. I game like this is right up my alley and am having a ball playing it.

    I just accept that the game is like an interactive TV show, with each case being a new episode.

    Considering this is the first game in a sure to be series of games, i think they did a bloody good job.

      • I think my comments were very chilled actually.
        I don’t know what you got from what i wrote. Besides i think Marks a big boy and probably wouldn’t have put my comment up if he was personally offended by it.

        I am just saying that like every game, they cater to different people, different audiences and i haven’t seen such scrutiny of a game for a long time. I guess Rockstar can take all the opinions and attention as a compliment to their loyal fanbase i suppose.

        • I’m a big boy! I think you make a good point. The game has been put under more scrutiny than most. You’re probably right.

    • All those shows are contrived, mind numbing rubbish featuring paint-by-numbers plotlines and protagonists that never put a foot wrong so that no potential viewer is shocked out of the catatonic, marketable state prime time TV puts them in – and also so that none of the main “characters” ever show anything like human characteristics that might make them interesting to watch.

      Shame on you for watching that drivel. It’s your fault our TVs are clogged with it. If the average person asked for a little more, they’d get it. Instead, TV is unwatchable, and it’s thanks to you.

      • Niiice, now if ever a chill pill was needed, here’s your candidate.

        I would like to apologize for single handedly destroying TV by watching what is on it. I hope you’ll forgive me. I didn’t realise i owned a THE MAGIC TV that which all viewing decisions are based on.

        Now if you’ll excuse me i’ve got some cases to solve.

        I suggest that you Pond Squirrel leave your keyboard, go to the bathroom and wash that sand out of your vagina. Your a bit cranky.

        Enjoy your Friday everyone!

  • I’m on my second play through now, and enjoying the game a lot more.
    The first play through was a shared experience with a few mates, so I missed some of the hints that make the whole experience worth while.

    For example, you only get told once that you can pull out your gun in the chase scenes.
    Someone else played that scene, and I missed that hint, so every chase scene from then on was long winded and usually ended badly for the perp.
    After figuring out the warning shot on the second play though, chases are now a lot more tense and enjoyable.

    I also just figured out that you can grab a better gun from your car during any of the shooting scenes. You are told this specifically when you’re a patrol man, but I had no idea that carried on as you progress through your career. Maybe I’m just slow?

    I thought the interrogations would be heaps easier on the second play though.
    Truth and doubt are usually no brainers, but lies still have a bit of a Phoenix Wright vibe – you know it’s a lie, but there’s like 2-3 different pieces of evidence that could prove that. It still feels like a bit of a game of chance.

    But yeah, I dig it.

    A lot of the issues that other have with the game (open world, tacked on fighting/shooting), it just doesn’t bother me that much.
    Could it have been better? Yeah sure! But that doesn’t make it a shit game.

    • Don’t worry, I also forgot about the whole guns in the car thingy.

      And I still have no idea how to whip out the pistol in chase sequences.

      I agree with Bissell – if you treat Phelps as your avatar, you’re doing yourself and the game a disservice.

      • I didn’t know about the “better gun” thing at all and I’m near the end of homicide! I also didn’t know that it was possible to take out a gun during chases. If somebody could explain how I’d be very grateful (on 360).

        I’d also like to know if it’s possible to use non-lethal force (i.e. a punch) on people you sneak up on in gun fights. I always feel bad when I have no choice other than to kill a guy in a one-on-one fight. I’ve looked in the manual and on the web and can’t find a straight answer!

        God I’m clueless.

        • You get told how to do a warning shot when chasing down the Jewish jeweller guy in the Buyer Beware case.

          I just read up on it a bit:
          “To fire a warning shot, you must be in a chase sequence in L.A. Noire, and your character must already have his gun drawn. There’s not a way to make him draw his gun; he’s either drawn it or not. When the suspect is fleeing, hold your left trigger button and a circle will show up on the screen while you are aimed at the suspect.”

          I’m pretty sure it’s the only way to have a non-lethal chase? Might be wrong 🙂

  • I guess at the end of the day we play to have fun.
    A game might be a masterpiece of concepts, technical achievements, visuals and narrative but if its not fun to play then all the rest becomes sort of irrelevant.
    Which is also why Halo for example is so successful. Masterpieces they may not be, but they are damn good fun.

  • Bisell is one of the best writers who dabbles in videogames, IMO. I’ve been waiting for this article to be made available. He appears in Michael Abbott’s Brainy Gamer podcast this past week, talking a little bit of the same stuff. Well worth listening if you can sit still for an hour 😛

    I will read this later today!

  • hmm umm…

    I bought 50 Cent:BitS for $10 in a bargain bin over a year ago. I played two levels of it and it hasn’t been in my console since.

    I’m halfway through the Ad Vice desk in L.A. Noire…

    What does this say?

    An objective point of view would say that enjoyment of a video game really comes down to ones individual taste. “To each their own” sort of thing.

    My subjective point of view says, “this guy doesn’t know what the f*ck he’s talking about. 50 Cent is NOT a better game than LA Noire. Quit talking smack”

    • I gotta add this before someone replies “that wasn’t the point of the article!”

      I read the article at Grantland (goddamn had to fight some tl;dr sh.t tho) and I still don’t gel with what the guy’s saying.

      Without getting into a colossal explanation as to why, I’ll say this:

      That guy would be a mega prick if he played Dungeons & Dragons.

      Look at L.A. Noire like D&D and you might be able to accumulate your own rebuttal to this guy’s article. EG: Role-playing, immersing YOURSELF in the story, limiting your actions to the rules of the world. And not the masking systems in place, I mean the fictional world’s actual rules. Which actually happen to be the real world’s rules!

      Role Playing!

      • My problem with the game is that I *can’t* do the D&D thing… Phelps is not a character that represents the player or the player’s intentions and choices… As a player all I can do is choose, of the things Cole wants to say, which thing Cole will say ‘next’… Choosing ‘doubt’ doesn’t then ask you ‘What do you doubt about this statement?’ it just tells Cole to let fly whatever his character was written to doubt in that instance, regardless of how absurd or completely idiotic it is 😛

        So yeah, to enjoy it you need to ‘abide by the rules of the game’… but it’s a ton more restrictive than anything remotely ‘rpg-ish’ and I was very dissappointed by that.

    • “I played two levels of it and it hasn’t been in my console since.”

      So… did the article inspire you to play it again, or what?

  • The gist of this seems to be that LA Noire is held back by the gameplay mechanics and the expectations that gamers have because it is a video game and not some other medium.

    That’s an interesting problem to have.

    Then again, I haven’t played it yet and don’t plan to for some time.

  • As much as I loved LA Noire, I do understand why some people may not like it (especially considering it is pretty different to the usual games that have the Rockstar name).

    After re-playing a lot of the cases lately, I can’t help but think the game would be ‘better’ to play if it didn’t tell you if you got a question right or wrong directly after. Obviously there is a correct way of answering, but I think the uncertainty of not knowing would be fun.

  • If this wasn’t a Rockstar game, it’d just fade away.

    How many other games deserve this much goodwill and perseverance?

    • That’s the function of a publisher. We would never have heard of many, many games if they weren’t put out there by a well-known and respected publisher.

  • It’s a flawed game. But the good parts are sooo good, that the flaws are that much more frustrating. IMO

  • Didn’t Tom Bissell write ‘Extra Lives’?

    I was considering picking LA Noire up, but the reaction has been very mixed. It obviously has some flaws. Might wait until it’s cheaper.

  • I think most of L.A. Noire’s successes lie in its potential. I played through the entire thing thinking “this is so close to being an amazing game, yet it annoys the crap out of me and overall I wouldn’t recommend it.”

    The whole game feels like your actions are of no consequence. You can skip the driving (and from what I’ve heard, most if not all of the action scenes). You can fail every interview question and still solve the case. Not every item is inspectible, so there is no skill to finding clues, you just wander about until eventually your controller rumbles and the game will decide whether something is a relevant clue or not. So you sit there thinking “Why am I actually playing this? Is there any point to me interacting with this story?”

    All that said, I didn’t find the gameplay boring. In fact I was quite hooked. The reason the game annoys me so much is because it doesn’t deliver the satisfaction I should get from playing a detective game. When I play Phoenix Wright, I have to read the witness statement, compare it to evidence (or other statements) and then decipher any relevant information. You figure it out for yourself. If you can’t figure it out, you don’t proceed. When you find a hole in a testimony or a piece of contradictory evidence, it gives you a great feeling of achievement.

    But in L.A. Noire, most of the time you just convict whomever has the most evidence stacked against them. Maybe I’m just an idiot, but in 90% of cases, even after “solving” it, I had no idea how the sequence of events played out or who was really the killer. Yet I’d get 4 stars for the case. Why do you never ask for a statement from these people? Isn’t that standard procedure rather than asking a few vague questions and getting a few vague answers?

    On that note, they should’ve done away with the words “Truth, Lie and Doubt.” Half the time they don’t make sense or apply to the answers given by the suspect. Often I had trouble discerning whether I was doubting the suspect’s overall guilt, or just doubting their response to my question.

    If I was to make two changes to the game I’d revamp the interview system, and make sure that you actually have to figure out the cases yourself before you can proceed.

    Anyway, /rant.

    • 100% agree with everything you said. There are a lot of golden ideas in the concept of this game, but nowhere in the execution of those ideas does it come anywhere near ‘delivered’.

      If they do a sequel, they really need to go back to the drawing board on lots of aspects. I think one of the biggest problems was their preoccupation with making sure it was ‘accessable’ (read: impossible to fail)…

      Solving a case correctly should be difficult and take a good amount of wits… Not just handed to you on a platter as they shove you out the door because you’re late for your next case 😛

  • I’ve been playing it for a few days and have to review it for my site.

    I fully expected to love the hell out of it. But it’s not clicking. All the police procedural stuff is ace, but as soon as you do anything vaguely game like, shootouts, car chases, fist fights, the game turns dishwater dull.

  • The best way I can describe my dissappointment with L.A. Noire is that what I wanted was to spend hours in 1940s L.A. using my brain to conduct investigations and hopefully, if I was clever enough, solve some crimes. What I *got* was a game where I spent hours pressing buttons with no real consequences so that Cole Phelps could continue on his through his cases that were solved at his pace on his terms with almost no impact from my participation. All I could do was make it go faster or slower.

    Maybe I wanted too much. Doesn’t make me any less dissappointed in the game.

  • As much as LA Noire was overhyped, how people can criticise it while continuing to praise FF games – including the older ones, I’m looking at you FF7 – baffles me completely. Its story was nothing amazing but it still managed to have some genuinely human moments which is more than I can say for any Square title, which repeatedly get praised for their MATURE STORYTELLING and other untrue garbage.

    Maybe that’s just the effect of aiming at a mature audience rather than the 14 year old otaku market?

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