I picked this bad boy up 50% off ($10) as part of a Christmas sale. I imagine this game will go on sale cheaper sooner rather than later. It should also be noted that the studio that developed this game (Team Bondi) fell apart less than a two months before game launch so this means there is little-to-no bug fixing and there will be no future DLC support… despite the 2 minute login screen looking for DLC.
The closure was an odd one full of controversy. The game took seven years to make and had over 200 developers working on it that were not credited in the game credits. These were employees who were forced to work 12 hour days/7 days a week. The studio was also losing tones of money and Rockstar Games fed them enough money to finish the game. When Rockstar took the game for distribution and cut off Team Bondi the studio closed.
So that’s something.
The Brief: Noire Crime Flicks
One of the weird things in movies is how all at once there is a boom of similar movies. In the 90s it was “teen” movies and disaster movies. In the new millennium it is schtick comedies and superhero movies. As you go further and further back you can see more and more odd fads. My favorite odd fad was the influx of musicals and dancing movies (Dirty Dancing/Saturday Night Fever). Out of these eras you usually only hear about a single big movie out of all of them.
Movies in the the noir film genre are around 1940-1950 and pretty much for this period every second movie was a crime drama. You can see a resurgence of crime themes today with the massive number of cop comedy movies and massive number of crime drama television shows.
My father, who grew up during this era fondly remembers the film noire crime dramas and it is from him that I use as a primary source for this.
The film noir crime movies start off innocently enough as part of the ‘old format’ of cinema. When you went to see a movie you were not just going to see a movie, you were going for an experience. For your ticket price of five cents you did not just get one movie, you got a movie and a bunch of television shows.
During World War 2 (of which my father would have been 12 during) he fondly remembers going to the movies every week in hopes of seeing his father at the theater on the screen shown in one of the war updates that showed in the theater.
Following the war update was a 10-15 minute short film. These short films would not be seen anywhere but in the theater for a one time show. There were no repeats and no re-runs. A lot of the allure of going to the theater was finishing the story from the last time.
Probably the most famous one was Flash Gordan which was re-made into a full feature motion picture (which no one liked), a cartoon in the 90s (which was great), a live action TV show in the 2000s (which sucked) and may be re-booted once again.
The other very popular short was criminal cases. The name of the short was usually the name of the case and often had “The” in front of it such as “The Missing Van.” At the end of each short was a cliffhanger.
It came to realization that people were going to movies not to watch the feature films but instead to watch the pre-show. The pre-show today would be the same thing as commercials. The only movie I can think of that people went to to watch a trailer was Wing Commander… for the life of me I can’t remember what amazing movie it was they had a trailer for.
In the late 40s to early 50s every second movie released was a detective black and white movie. They were all thematically the same thing. There is a very simple crime and upon further investigation it ends up not being as simple as one might see it.
It turns out too many of these movies came out. People grew to hate these movies and suddenly you saw a total removal of the “movie experience” and the replacement of “a movie.” The noire crime drama was replaced by the summer beach fad and crime would not return as a major theme until modern times.
But the modern crime drama is all DNA evidence and science and less about real police work.
Ever played Grand Theft Auto 4? Of course you have, everyone has. Ever thought to yourself “man I wish I wasn’t a criminal and instead of maxing a giant criminal empire I could be a good guy.” Well no you probably haven’t thought that. You probably haven’t thought that because that ‘niche’ is already adjusted by the majority of games.
The similarities between this game and Grand Theft Aura 4 are pretty clear and before I go into what makes this game great we’ll look at them.
Driving in this game is the same as Grand Theft Auto. The only major difference is that cars follow traffic laws now so it is a little easier to navigate traffic. In GTA4 when you broke traffic laws you had a bounty put on your head and crime levels escalating. In this game it is a tax on your level experience an overall rating.
The combat system is roughly the same as GTA4. The only major difference is that you can now use cover based combat. Everything moves slower so you’re almost forced to use cover based combat.
There is also a melee combat system. Unlike GTA4 instead of just swinging around a baseball bat you have to block, punch and grapple.
All of this stuff is just sort of the programming platform for the game. The real game is in the criminal investigations. The game uses real voice actors and real acting…Yeah that’s right, real acting. It was a little weird to see Jeff Lewis from The Guild playing a drunker.
People actually LOOK like the actors who play them. Team Bandi used facial recording techniques to get the actor gestures in performing the lines.
This allows for the main system of the game. You will look around a crime scene for clues. There are musical hints telling you if you are in proximity to clues or not. After finding all the clues you have to interrogate witnesses to find extra information. While in the examination there are facial and tone based clues to tell you whether a person is telling the truth, isn’t telling you everything (Doubt) or Lying.
Every right choice will help you in solving the case and also give you experience. If you get too many wrong you will be brought down a totally different path and wrongfully accuse someone.
There are also side missions that will randomly appear. These are optional but they will increase your experience… which in turn will give you more chances of ‘cheating’ cases.
The result of any incident will always bring you to a chase, a fight, a gunfight, or a car chase. These are all linear encounters in which multiple tries will inevitably lead to the right result.
There are also some polish problems with traffic. Instead of driving around cars will travel a short distance and then just vanish.
- Unique Gameplay
- Amazing Cinematography
- Tight Controls
The most potent part of this game is the fact that there is nothing else out there like it. There are tones of criminal games out there and all of them could take a few tips from how this game does it.+ When you look at a crime scene you are putting together a picture of what happened and the main character will make comments to help you. When you get to the witness you use the objects you find to try and get a statement out of a witness.
Every other crime game out there makes you rub objects together or has odd DNA based evidence. That’s really boring. Having people in a crime is great.
The real actors in the game paid off. All of the interview scenes look amazing. Even when the actor is trying to look suspicious you can tell it is acted well. The settings are all amazing and every time you pass by a famous Los Angeles building you are given an opportunity to look at it close up. If you are a mystery fan you are going to love the story style and how you are often tricked by good actors.
I think one of the greatest weaknesses of GTA series was controls. GTA played off as like a really weak shooter or a really weak racing game. LA Noire makes shooting accurate, driving less inconveniencing and conversations interactive.
- Cover Based Combat
- Bad Pacing
- No Further DLC
I can’t tell you how much I detest cover based combat. It is the most boring thing in any game. I know it’s supposed to be the new thing that they called “strategic combat.” But honestly it is just boring. You spend all of your time hiding behind a car and shooting. I know this is realistic… but honestly who cares about realism in games? I want the bullet to go where I target… that’s about it.
On the other hand I’m sure there is some jackass reviewer out there who would say “where is the cover based combat in a police game.”
A great game in the 90s was a pure game. There was no need for a story it was just pure action. As the ‘art of storytelling’ unfolded in games you saw games that did it well and games that did it poorly. Final Fantasy 10 and Metal Gear Solid are great examples of games that did it poorly.
Story pacing in a game is important. You want to keep your audience hooked in a story but you also want the audience to have something to do. It is interactive media at its best.
This game has bad pacing. You spend too much time watching and not enough time doing. Most of the time when you are ‘doing’ it is just driving around the city.
A lot of times when you buy a game you want there to be support for it. DLC doesn’t just mean paid DLC it also means support for the game. You can get technical support from Rockstar Games but I will guarantee you that falling through the world six months after launch is something they will never fix.
To date the only DLC for the game is the Day 1 DLC released with the game. It is unfortunate because this Day 1 DLC came with nine cases which kind of just went to show how great DLC could be for this game. We also know that this day 1 DLC was originally apart of the game and was sliced off to make extra cash. The studio that made this game vanished.
At $19.99 the game is a great deal. But it is so cheap because you have to spend another $10 (putting it at $29.99). It is my honest opinion even at the Team Bandi is dead liquidation price it is still a good deal. But if this game ever goes on sale again definitely consider picking it up.
The sad truth about this game is that it acts as a reminder of simpler times. It was a time when screen writers actually required talent in crafting a story.
Today we have Crime Scene Investigation (CSI), Law and Order (SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT YO), Criminal Minds, and 90000 other crime investigation shows. All of these involve simple protagonists who solve all murders in a lab. It takes absolutely no skill as an author to write a crime show today because the plot will have nothing at all to do with the conclusion.
In a modern crime show the enemy can randomly show up at the end having never been introduced at all… and that’s mostly what happened. In film noire all of the characters are thoroughly introduced and are designed in such a way that you (as an audience) are looking at faces and trying to figure out
It is a shame that nothing on TV or in the theater is good anymore and it is a crying shame that LA Noire has to remind us of that.