Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Non-Gamer's Review of L.A. Noire

The Man pre-ordered his newest video game, L.A. Noire, so he was able to pick it up the day it came out.  He hurried home, we scarfed dinner, and landed in front of the TV with no time to spare.  He played the game while I watched (typical for us).  And I really do enjoy watching some video games as he plays them.  Just not the ones with lots of fighting and killing and death and destruction.  Lego Batman? Awesome!  I even played that one co-op with him.

Since I'm not a "gamer" and I doubt many of my readers would call themselves "gamers," I am going to refrain from all that technical graphics-and-gameplay jargon.

The game is based on this character, a WWII hero-turned-police-detective.  He is sort of a 1946 version of a crime scene investigator, you know, before DNA and computerized criminal databases.  The game player assumes the detective's job of solving crimes, interviewing suspects, and nabbing criminals.  Easy, right?  No.

You actually have to search for clues, interview suspects, drive to the next location (no jumping or orbing involved), and maintain careful notes in your notebook--which, thankfully, the game auto-updates for you.  When interviewing or interrogating people, you have to use your wits to determine if they're lying, telling the truth, or if you doubt their story.  How you respond could change the outcome of the whole case.  Some people are obviously lying.  Some are sneaky.  Oh, did I mention you even have to chase criminals down on foot sometimes?  Yeah.

The gameplay is fantastic.  The cut scenes, sort of like mini-videos within the game, are almost seamless with the actual gameplay.  I love the dark mood (hence "Noire") and architecture, a beautiful art deco design, realistic cars, and colorful characters.  Using the notebook to decide how to proceed with an interview, interrogation, or setting a new destination seemed intuitive.  The game is well-thought and logically organized.

And the facial scanning technology that makes the game so unique?  GORGEOUS.  It's like the characters are real people!  The way the corners of a mouth or an eye twitch or sag, the way an eyebrow moves, the tensing of the ear muscles, all of it appears in the game.  Beautiful!  My only negative comment is that the eyes are a little weird, almost like the motion capture didn't quite get the eyes right.  Sorta weirds me out sometimes when I'm watching The Man play.

We're not very far into the game yet, but we'll progress more later this week.  I can't wait to run through it a second time and see how different choices make the game turn out in another way.

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