Rockstar seem to be taking a few risks these days – and it’s probably for the best after their lackluster treatment of the last GTA game.  Red Dead Redemption gave Rockstar back their mojo.  They once again re-invented the gaming experience creating a living, breathing open world that you wanted to explore, even after the story was finished.  It gave you a story that not only drew you in, but lead up to an explosive and totally unexpected twist.

On the back of this, they release LA Noire.  It’s a game that I was excited about, even more so after getting a hands off demo earlier this year.  I knew it was going to be different being on the right side of the law.  I knew it wasn’t going to be an action packed crime ridden path of death and destruction.

But I was expecting a little more.

As a crime solving police drama, LA Noire hits some high notes, but also drops a few.  As an overall engaging game, it kinda falls somewhat flat.

Exploring a crime scene, finding clues and making all the right connections is actually quite fun, as is the undeniably hard task of interviewing suspects, and figuring out the truth from the lies.  Even using the evidence right can be hard sometimes.

But it gets repetitive, just like real police work.

And it’s extremely limiting.

When you interview a suspect, you only get three options; that they are telling the truth, a lie or you doubt their honesty.  Whilst this works ok for the truth or lie scenario, when it comes to doubt it plays out a little weird, making me wish that rather than these three basic options, we’d have three worded reply options, each linked to the basic concept of truth, lie and doubt.  Not only would this have given the choices a little more dynamism, but it would have lead to better immersive game-play, and could have even made the game a little more trickier – not that it needs to be!

To combat the repetitive nature of the game, during any mission, when you’re driving from or too a location in a police car, you’ll randomly get a call on the radio for help.  You can choose to respond or ignore the call.

I always choose to respond.

This would always lead me in the wrong physical direction but would add a little spice to the game.

Just a little.

But this too got a little repetitive.

Everything in LA Noire is scripted.  There seems to be only one outcome for every situation.  Sometimes a call out would be a complex bank robbery, sometimes you would just chase a guy onto a roof and watch him commit suicide.  Sometimes you’d be thankful you’d responded to the call, others you’d be mad as hell that you’d wasted you time and driven half way across the city for a two second diversion.

The callouts just didn’t feel as dynamic as the random encounters in Red Dead.

And the city doesn’t feel alive.

Outside of the limited number of call outs and some sight seeing, the faithfully reproduced city of LA has noting to offer.

LA Noire is just about the story-line.  It’s a sandbox game that’s forgotten what a sandbox is.

But having said that I can’t seem to put it down.  After I’ve solved a case, I want to go straight on to the next one.  It’s like crack cocaine.  It’s a drug that seduces you and makes you believe that it’s good for you.

But then you get a bad reaction and the whole facade comes crashing down on you.

This happened during the Studio Secretary Murder.  I had completed what seemed to be most of the legwork, just having to call by the tenpin place on my way to someone’s apartment.  The problem was that the person that the lady at the tenpin place said was there wasn’t.  No worries I figured, that’s just how it goes.  On to the apartment, chase the suspect down and send him to the police station.  Only when I get to the police station there is no one in either interview room.  I figure I’ll have to go back to the tenpin place, but on arriving I can’t get in – the place is locked up.  Oh well, back to the police station, but my partner refuses to get back in the car.

I’ve got two options.  Re-start the mission or throw the controller at the TV.

I chose the later option.

I’m taking a break from LA Noire.  I’m pissed off with it.  I know I shouldn’t be, but i’d invested so much into the game and I feel like it’s turned around and told me to f-off.

I’ll be back to finish the game – I’m not going to let it beat me – but the lack of any real life outside the narrow confines of the story-line and the ability for the game to slap me in the face has taken the shine off LA Noire for me.

It’s still a ground breaking game that should be experienced by anyone who wants to see where video games are headed, and maybe I’m being a bit harsh with my criticisms, maybe I had far to higher hopes for the game, but it has left me disappointed and wishing for what it could have been.

I’m not sure what Rockstar is working on next, but if they can blend the best parts of GTA, RDR and LA Noire, creating a world where you have to decide if you’re going to be a good cop or bad cop, then I’ll be ready to dive back into their cool-aid.

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