The 'Shroom:Issue LVII/Special Review II
Ladies, gentlemen, trolls, sockpuppets, banned and unbanned users, veterans, sysops, 'crats, stewards, and 'Shroom readers old and new:
For those of you who don't know me (most of you probably don't), I'm Beanbean, Mariowiki user of four years. You may also know me as Autolikescake on various social networks i.e. Tumblr etc., one of the gals who is a combined VALVe/mspa fan. Surprisingly, there are a lot of those. I used to write for the "Trivia" section of this fine periodical, but that was over two years ago when I was a wee pre-teen, and I haven't been active on here since. However, the Core Staff of the 'Shroom has decided to allow me to write a special section for their Holiday Issue! When I found that I had a new message on the forum, I was surprised. I've only had 30 private messages sent to me in the four years my forum account's existed. Anyway, I've decided to take up their offer and write my heart out.
I hope the weather is fine for you folks in both hemispheres. It doesn't snow here in good ol' California. At least, not where I am. In fact, during winter, it either rains, or scorches. Mostly the latter. But enough about weather, let's talk about the thing all of us were drawn here for! Video games. Don't deny it, you've played one at least once in your life. If you haven't I'm not sure how you got here, unless you're a fan of Super Mario Bros. Super Show or any of the assorted other-media works licensed by Nintendo. Rather than reviewing a Nintendo game, which I haven't done in years, as I haven't played many recently, I'm going to review a little game called… called… wow. It appears I don't have a game to review! WELL THAT'S IT, FOLKS, THANKS AND GOODNIGHT-
Wait. I've got it. Amnesia: The Dark Descent? No, too scary. That, and I haven't beaten it, precisely because it is too scary. This leaves me no choice, but to jump into a random Delorean I found on the street a few days ago, and travel back in time at 88 miles per hour to 1947! Why are we traveling there, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. There's a little something I'd like to review, and it's called L.A. Noire. This game is developed by Team Bondi, and published by Rockstar Games, the same folks who brought you the highly-popular Grand Theft Auto series. Which I have never played. Honest.
L.A. Noire was released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 on May 17, 2011 in North America, May 19 in Australia, May 20 in Europe, and July 7 in Japan. A "complete" edition which includes the DLC cases was released for Microsoft Windows on November 8, 2011 in North America and November 11 in Europe and Australia. In this classic cinematographic-style game, we follow Cole Phelps (literally, because it's a third-person shooter/action-adventure), a detective two years out of the second world war, and one-year vet of the LAPD. During the war, he became a hero after receiving a silver Star and being promoted to First Lieutenant in his Marine Corps unit for reasons he believes are unworthy.
Detective Phelps works his way up through the ranks, beginning as a patrolman and moving through with his tactful case solving to Traffic, Homicide, Vice, and Arson. The game often uses foreshadowing to its advantage, most signage in the background referring to later cases. Except Cola King. He's just there because he's amazing. Watch for the characters in the intro as well as the signs. Those are especially important.
Cars play a big role in this game, as they are "a symbol of freedom and vitality," something Herschel Biggs would say. In fact, there are more than 90 cars that you can drive in the game, and even hidden vehicles around the free-to-explore map. However, having cars does not mean hit-and-runs. In fact, you are charged property and vehicle damage during each case, should you slam into the back of a '39 Ford, or ram into a bench while chasing a bad guy, you get charged a couple hundred bucks and are deducted points. As for the map and overall areas of L.A, the game developers used over 110,000 aerial photographs of Los Angeles to fit the time period's landmarks, streets, and housing areas to the bone.
The voice actors for the game put in over 20 hours of voice work for each scenario, case, and outcome. You see, L.A. Noire uses what is similar to a "choose your own adventure" style of gaming. As detective, you interrogate witnesses and suspects, deducting what is fact from fiction with evidence and testimonies. The better you put your evidence to work, the more you discover about those involved in the story, and the higher you score at the end of each case. Therefore, multiple sound files for each outcome are evident, shaking up the gameplay and making it different every time you play.
Not only is the voice acting well-done, but the animation as well. Team Bondi used what is called "Motion Scan," a technology developed by Depth Analysis. In this innovative device, 32 HD cameras surround an actor, capturing every angle possible in order to establish the most realistic facial movements possible without falling into the uncanny valley. (For more information about the software, go here.)
Bondi also used Mocap software in order to establish eyelines and body movement for the character models. The game focuses on being able to use deductive reasoning by telling if a person is lying to you or not, through not only what they say, but their mannerisms, tics, and eye movements. After all, that's how we figure out if one's lying in real life, yes?
The one thing I especially love about the whole game is how it comes together, tying up almost all the loose ends. Almost is the key word, as some ends are not meant to be met. You'll see what I mean when you play, or watch someone play. Newspapers in the game are minor plot devices that give a bit of background story to some of the cases, which will be most important once you reach the Vice desk. At the end of the first few cases, flashbacks to Cole's life in the Marines appear, justifying his actions and why he seems so humble despite being the LAPD's favorite son. And by favorite son, I mean favorite son. Honestly, the chief treats him like he's the cutest little school boy on the block. Though, the chief has a great Scottish accent, so that's nifty. Of course, that does make other colleagues in the LAPD jealous of him.
Each character has his or her own unique backstory, even the most minor ones. The partners have great senses of humor, particularly Rusty Galloway. His real name is actually Finnbar, but everyone calls him Rusty, so you should as well. Or else he'll kick your ass. As Cole, you're a married man with a loving wife and kids, but seem to catch an eye of a certain German jazz singer. But that's for when you get to Vice. After all, the city of L.A. is full of glamor, jealousy, vices, drugs, and sex. Just like today! Well, maybe not as much glamor as innovation. There's a thought.
However, there are some downsides. Yes, this great game has its flaws, as most if not all do. Sometimes, while chasing a suspect, you have the opportunity to fire a warning shot, by moving your crosshairs over them until a little outer circle forms and pulses, signifying your ability to fire a shot. This opportunity doesn't come often, and therefore, chase scenes on foot take much longer, and at times the controls to tackle don't respond if the suspect is running fast enough or changes their path. If you pull out your gun, which doesn't always work, and fire a bullet at them without waiting for the circle to form, then you fail the case and have to start from the last checkpoint (usually the beginning of the chase scene). At times, the chase scenes get tiring, especially if there's more than one in each case or consecutive cases with them, rather than changing it up a bit. After a while, it begins to feel formulaic.
Despite these little factors and flaws, L.A. Noire is a wonderful game which I highly recommend for those who like solving with deductive reasoning. I must warn you however, it's not for the faint of heart. There are women who are murdered and often naked/covered in their bodily fluids (namely blood). Therefore, if you're easily grossed out by blood and naked, brutally murdered bodies, then L.A. Noire is probably not something in your vein of gaming. Also, there is a lot, and I mean a lot of swearing in this game, especially when you talk to your partners. It is, after all, 1947, and there is much racial tension going around in the city of angels, especially after the war that nearly destroyed the world. Ergot, many racial slurs and stereotypes are spoken about when interrogating persons of interest. Not only that, but when working on Vice cases, there's loads of drugs that are found and talked about. It's rated M for a reason.
The price range for this game varies, but on Steam as I write this, it costs $49.99. During the holidays the price will most likely go down, and fluctuate a bit before going back up to $49.99. So, if you can, check out daily deals if you have a Steam account. If not, it's free to create one, but to add friends you must have at least one game. Check it out, there's lots of free games on there that are great for making friends.
Team Bondi has certainly done a great job with this neo noir mystery game, in the process creating new and innovating ways of developing games. Perhaps other companies will take a leaf out of their book, but we'll have to see. For now, we'll just have to wander around L.A. looking for callboxes to ask operators to check addresses for us. This is Beanbean, saying have a happy holiday season, and thanks for reading.