Who put the Ire in the LA Noire?

There’s a conversation we need to have about the value of games and the money we spend on them. I used to hold the philosophy that anything tastes better when it’s free, but now I’m thinking that that’s just an excuse we make to swill it down like all you can drink liquor at a wedding. Oh, it just tastes so god damned fucking good that I can’t stop drinking it, and I won’t! Congradjubiliations!

It’s actually a very foolish philosophy that likely sounded cool when I first came up with it. Maybe it was because as a cheap skater kid with little money and nimble fingers, it was my way of boasting my skills at petty thievery and exploiting handouts. Steal This Book-type swagger. To those also without much money it was meant to inspire hope and awe, and now that I think about it, envy. Jeez, what a little asshole.

Things and attitudes have certainly changed since then, but one thing that hasn’t is that I’m always looking for a good deal, and given the choice of paying $70 for a new game or $7 for the same game used, I’m going to go with the used copy, and any bonus content can go lick the rim of a chocolate donut. It’s not often that you find a game like that at that price, but when I do, I snap it up without regard to how much I’ve already spent this month or what games I’m currently in the middle of. L.A. Noire happened to catch me at this very price in the middle of half a dozen games that I’m playing with half an ass, so I took it home and popped it in.

Now this game came out a year or so ago and was rightly praised for many things. It is the result of thousands of hours of work and required the development of a radical facial motion capture of a caliber not yet seen in video games. It is the product of Rockstar games, who never fail to feature a gigantic engaging map that you can explore with the freedom that was promised to us when “virtual reality” was still a buzzword (incidentally “buzzword” was still a buzzword then). And its gameplay was a break from the typical discover/destroy cycle that fuels so many games, challenging players to become detectives who assemble evidence and interrogate suspects before making a takedown.

Well, I gave it a shot. Whether it was a fair shot with true aim, I’m not sure. In an early stage, I questioned a woman who was witness to a murder on the street. I sat down with her in the jewelry shop as the corpse cooled outside on the sidewalk. She was shaken, but not stirring to the soul. A dopey looking dame, with a dopier looking alibi. I said hello and asked her about what she saw. When she looked the other way, I had to choose “believe her” “doubt her” or “call her a liar,” and I thought to myself, Gee that was a suspicious glance. I obviously can’t believe her, but if I call her a liar, they’ll ask me for proof, so let’s go with doubt.

“Ma’am, I’m afraid that there’s something about what you said that doesn’t quite sit with me…”

“How dare you! You think I did it?!? This interview is over; you get the hell out of here right now!!”

And it wasn’t long before I came to the conclusion that this interrogation engine is really shit. Not the shit, but shit, as in poop. I came to this conclusion for these reasons:

1. You have no idea what you’re going to say when you choose to make a doubtful or accusatory statement. Personally, my doubtful statement would be like, “Really? You were standing in front of the guy when he got shot and you didn’t even get a glimpse of who shot him?” and she would have be like, “Uhh, like no or something?” and then we’d be onto something (or something).

2. You can’t control the level of your own bullshit when “believing” a suspect. Why isn’t there a “humor them” reaction? Because maybe I don’t actually believe them, but I don’t want to piss them off or make them clam up, either. Sometimes you’ll say believe them, and the game is like “SUCKER! You sure fucked that one up. Slap pavement, rookie; we only want a detective that gets results. And aren’t we so fucking clever in our scriptwriting and acting direction that we actually fooled a human player into believing the testimony of someone who if you wrote the game would know is obviously guilty? Game of the year!”

Needless to say, it pissed me off to have to go through the same line of questioning over again, and even when stumbling onto the right combination of yapping and pointing to get a new lead, there was no satisfaction in ‘getting it right.’ I didn’t think that it was a particularly clever way to produce that suspect’s statement. Now I’m no detective, and still testing the boundaries of this game, but it seems to me that it’s a lot of guesswork with shitloads of pitfalls and if you don’t ask exactly the right questions in the right order with the ‘right’ reactions, you’re fucked. That’s lame unless you have tons of time or you just like losing at guessing games.

So off to Gamefaqs we go, and by following their interrogation guide, I start getting results, reactions, confessions, bonus points, and everyone thinks I’m some kind of psychic genius, and the game is suddenly much more fun. I should say the game is suddenly fun, and I’m essentially playing Dragnet the Game. One episode lasts from 30 minutes to an hour, and the climax is usually exciting, calling on my more traditional gaming skills of running, shooting and driving. It was a big kick, and hey: only seven goddamn dollars!

However, I seem to have completely missed the point of the game, which is to explore and investigate. The map of old school Los Angeles is amazing and vast, but I wouldn’t know because I just follow checkpoint to checkpoint and take down perps. I feel bad about that, and have to wonder: if I paid $70 for the game when it came out new, would I be more excited and inspired to do it right? It’s a real question, for sures, but then again, why would I pay $70 for a game I wasn’t all that excited about to begin with? Perhaps it’s from being fooled by companies who I believed shat gold, but ended up just getting a fartful of gold dust in my face when I blindly plunked down money for some piece of shit game that took my good will on credit (I’m looking at you, Dirge of Cerebrus).

In conclusion, I can say that I’ve certainly gotten my $7 worth, although I’m basically mixing a bottle of fine Scotch whiskey with fucking Faygo because most likely I’m ungrateful and can’t be bothered to spend quality time with a game that at its price is just one more distraction from games I’ve made a real time-based, monetary, or emotional investment in. I respect and recognize, and even like your game, Rockstar. But in a world of only three possible ambiguous responses, I’m simply going to have to go with “doubtful,” and whatever in the fuck that means, I’m sure you’ll have no problem putting the actual words in my mouth.

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