One Damn Chance

I had a cheering realisation about L. A. Noire today: I’m only going to play it once. There are a number of reasons for that, but the strongest one is that I don’t actually enjoy it much as a game. The crazy-ass shooting sequences, the painful interrogation sequences, the picking up of beer bottles and ashtrays. I won’t miss ’em.

And yet, perversely perhaps, this realisation is allowing me to enjoy the game a whole lot more. The ambiguity (one might push that along to “poor design”) in the questioning lends itself to failing pretty often but, as we know, the game lets you continue nonetheless. That means cases can end in bad ways – a witness is murdered and it becomes clear you could have stopped it, say. In another game this would mean “so do it again”, but not in L. A. Noire. On you go, warts and all.

You can replay cases (or the entire game) of course. You could do that, but the sheer tedium surrounding solving cases (driving, listening to boring witness reports, dragging yourself around crime scenes) suggests that you most likely won’t. Effectively, the tedium locks L. A. Noire (for most of us, I imagine) into a “one play” scenario – and that allows the possibility of failure (or mediocre performance) in the game to have its full bite. It’s an oddly promising approach, and one that’s rather like reality itself. Yes, you could try to “reset” your life and redo the things you’ve already done, but generally you don’t, you move forwards.

Despite being a game and having the usual game-like options for going back on yourself, L. A. Noire feel much more like a game about plunging on despite the consequences.

2 July 2011
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