You got your Adventure Game in my Police Procedural

L.A. Noire was the “active game” in my PS3 for a very long time. Usually this means one of two things: 1) the game is amazing and I can’t get enough of it, or 2) the game is tedious and playing it is a chore. L.A. Noire is, unfortunately, the latter.

The premise of L.A. Noire is interesting enough. Players take control of Cole Phelps, I returning World War II veteran as he readjusts to civilian life as a police officer. His strong dedication to the job and attention to detail allow him to quickly move up the ranks to detective. Here, however, he finds that his idealism is insufficient for the world around him. That premise, and its payoffs, are the strongest and best parts of the game. I’d even go so far as to say that the game has one of the best endings that I’ve seen in recent memory.

Unfortunately, the gameplay lacks much. It wavers from being a third-person cover-based shooter in its action sequences, to a hunt-the-thingy adventure game, and back to a guess-what-the-facial-expression-means game. Each of these different modes tends to feel somewhat disconnected from the others. Moreover, the most important mode–guess the facial expression–commits the sin of “screw up and you lose”. It isn’t a complete loss, one can always replay the mission, but one has to replay the entire mission. Worse yet, it isn’t always clear how bad any particular error is. Sometimes, a wrong choice in guess the facial expression results in no downside save a lowered score. Sometimes, a wrong choice completely prevents you from finding the true culprit.

This sort of frustrating, inconsistent, and time-wasting gameplay shouldn’t be seen in a modern game. I might expect it in a Sierra Adventure Game from the mid-90s, but I don’t expect to see it in a AAA title from less than a year ago.

 

L.A. Noire: 0

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