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L.A. Noire PAX Preview

Nothing like a little shilling on a Monday but today we posted an informative preview of L.A. Noire over at the Mothership.

It’s a good read so give it a look. I think Justin raises a few important questions in this piece but I’m still eager to give this game a go. Here’s the point I am referring to:

While it makes sense not to have superfluous quests during a case – you do have a murder to solve – the open world segments do have one potentially upsetting flaw. Despite playing the role of a law-abiding and morally just police officer, you still have the ability to destroy property and mow down pedestrians without causing a scene.

That could rip you out of this game’s world if it’s not handled properly. Still, most of this sounds really slick, so we’ll have to wait and see.

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Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

5 thoughts to “L.A. Noire PAX Preview”

  1. Wow. “Despite playing the role of a law-abiding and morally just police officer, you still have the ability to destroy property and mow down pedestrians without causing a scene.”

    That almost makes me want to cancel my preorder.

    This was EXACTLY one of the same problems in Red Dead Redemption. It was a fucking joke that you can slaughter everybody and everything in the game but it was about “redemption” and John gives that laughable speech to his wife at the end- “Times have changed, we’ve changed, I’ve changed, you’ve changed, change has changed”…John has turned away from being a bad guy so he can slaughter people with machine guns, kill horses and prostitutes, and pay a couple of dollars to get out of trouble.

    It’s dishonest, and it’s a failure of narrative. Sure, you can choose not to do that stuff, but it’s one of the places where open world games completely fail to tell a cogent story. I was hoping that this game would have more focus, but it looks like that old Rockstar “let’s be CONTROVERSIAL” attitude is still there, and it’s just as juvenile as ever.

    What’s the point of even having a story or written dialogue if you’re just going to leave it to the player to run amuck? Be honest about that. Make a game where all you do is cruise around and fuck shit up. Saints Row games have a story, but ultimately they’re at least honest that you’re playing it to be an amoral agent of chaos and destruction. They don’t lie about their narratives.

    I dunno…I’m losing faith quickly, the more I read. Team Bondi or not, the Rockstar ethos is still all over this, and I despise that.

  2. I don’t think, given the ambitions of the game, that LA Noire had to be an open world experience. In some ways, the subject matter is itself anathema to the open world philosophy. Detective novels, movies, etc. are usually tightly plotted and intently focused on character. Also what can a detective plausibly do that’s of interest in a real world game? Issue parking citations? This stands in opposition to being a gangster, whose most mundane activities are still pretty exotic.

    The sprawling epics of the Western and the Gangster film, are as much love letters to their milieus as they are to the characters and story. So in that sense Grand Theft and Red Dead were perfect candidates for the Open World genre. But Noire has proven itself to be a genre more concerned with individual motivations than setting, which is often incidental. I mean Brick made a film Noire in a high school.

    My guess is LA Noire will work fine if you choose to play it as a focused experience. And if that’s the case, then the open world aspect of it is really just a bone thrown to the GTA hooligan crowd.

  3. This is a good point, particularly since one of the themes of noir is that characters are dealing with larger forces that inhibit or restrict choice. It’s not exactly destiny- more of a fate sort of situation.

    I can’t imagine a Mike Hammer story where he decides to shoot the street up and wreck a bunch of cars…just to see what would happen.

    This really needed to be a very focused, 8-10 hour game. Or even less. I’m thinking of the old Westwood Blade Runner game, which had lots of branching paths and variable endings based on how you questioned everyone and what you did in the game. So there was really a different resolution/solution every time.

    But nope, it’s Rockstar. FUCK SOME SHIT UP YALL

  4. Personaly, I felt the same about Mafia 2. The game is designed to follow a tight story. It’s not an “open world” game. It just happens to have a city to drive through on your way from A to B.

    However, that didn’t stop plenty of people complaining about it. All they saw was a sandbox, so they decided it HAD to be a sandbox open world game or it was broken.

  5. There’s a question here about choice. To what extent do you limit it? LA Noire should probably be closer to Heavy Rain in this respect; that is more controlled in service of the narrative. That being said, Rockstar is invested in the idea of the open world game. For Rockstar, that means: The player should determine whether they want to screw around or not. Let them do what they want with the system. We made a story for them to enjoy if they want it, but otherwise do what you please.

    They don’t want to make a truly interactive narrative game. Look at what they make. That’s not how they’re making games. Bethesda took the open world crown. For better or worse, Fallout is king of that mountain for now. If you want to play LA Noire the way it was designed to be played, I’m sure it will provide a compelling experience. It’s the same with Red Dead Redemption. If you play nice with it, it provides a compelling experience. But don’t expect it to bend to you, they aren’t doing that yet.

    It would be simple to say, “They don’t understand. They’re stupid. Games are interactive, and therefore the game should reflect my actions.” It’s naive to assume the designers don’t know this. They’re working on some of the biggest games being made. They KNOW this. But when you begin to look at what’s being undertaken, the problems with providing the alternative start to become clear.

    As just one example, let’s look at Fallout’s morality. For the most part, you can be a saint, and then decide to murder a bunch of innocents. Chances are, if you’ve got enough good Karma that won’t even dent it. The game won’t bat an eye. That’s broken. It’s contrary to the idea of the world that they present, a world in which your decisions are suppose to have meaning and consequence. Rockstar has essentially said, “Fuck it.” Rather than make a world which only pretends to be flexible in designated ways, such that you’ll be disappointed in other ways: they will present a world which has tight control over the narrative of that space while providing a playground that lets players indulge in other kinds of play without breaking the story. If you don’t role-play, that isn’t broken! The story is coherent with the plot as you’re presented it. Rockstar doesn’t care what you do with Mr. Marsden. That is a conscious decision. Treating it any differently is a discredit to the intelligence of the people who make the creative decisions on these games.

    I had an interesting discussion with my friend Nick Fortungo about Heavy Rain. In a class he teaches on narrative and dynamic systems at Parsons, there was a discussion of the flaws in the game’s conclusions (don’t worry, no spoilers), and the people who didn’t role-play the characters didn’t mind the holes in the plot! They had no expectations in the decisions made, and therefore the ending seemed novel.

    There’s a very good reason Peter Molyneax hasn’t actually made the conceptual game he’s been talking about for so very long.

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