|Newspaper >> The bourgeois >> Game Review|
Lots of interest has been generated by LA Noire. Even the Guardian honoured it with one of their terrible reviews which always seem to be written by someone whose sole experience of computer games is playing Farmville, and based on reading the back of the box with a few ‘techy’ bits pasted in from somewhere like Edge magazine or Gamebiz or whatever. The interest that L.A. Noire generates however, is not the crass hype attributed to flashy games like the ones pumped out with the cooperation of the US military, where you get to single handedly assassinate Castro/liberate Fallujah/unlock ‘women’s rights in Afghanistan’ achievements. Oh no. L.A. Noire is one of these games that caters for people in their 40’s, who become a little bit embarrassed about screaming ‘fire in the hole!’ at the telly and start murmuring that perhaps computer games could be considered culturally important, perhaps, a modern art form, you know, a bit like comic books and graffiti, like that new Batman film, wasn’t it dark and about 9/11 mmm?'
Well, anyway. Charlie Brooker describes L.A. Noire as a ‘James Ellroy-inspired crime drama’. To be more accurate, L. A. Noire is an unashamed rip off of L. A. Confidential, to the extent that I don’t know why they didn’t call it L. A. Bonfidential like the Monty Python sketch where Hitler moves into a boarding house in Minehead and tries to run for election as Adolf Bitler and the National Bocialist Party. The main difference seems to be that the head of the homicide department is Irish all the way through the game, unlike in L.A. Confidential where, to my infinite glee, he seemed to be American until halfway through the film when he SUDDENLY said, ‘I wouldn’t be dat Ed Exley now. Nat fer all de whisky in Oirland’ -like, out of the fucking blue? Apart from that, the main dude is some straight edge guy battling for honest results and good po-lice in the face of institutional corruption. Ho hum. There’s a reasonable Jack Vicenzi comparison as the hot shot in the vice squad. Stensland is your corrupt alkie partner when you do the homicide missions. By the way, if I’ve got the names in L.A. Confidential wrong, I don’t care because it’s not that good, and James Ellroy’s a bellend who reckons all women secretly desire to be saved by strong manly republican gun toting left hook wielding red faced diabetic pricks. Like Russell Crowe. Other cultural references include some tragic chanteuse dressed in blue who sings in a club. Hmmm. Maybe if people want computer games to be taken seriously, they should try and be a bit more original than simply crowbarring the 100 greatest cult movies into their derivative plotlines.
So, this is my first ever game review, and I hear that something called ‘gameplay’ is important. L. A. Bonfidential captures the thrill and suspense of a detective at a crime scene by getting you to walk round pressing the A button over and over and over and over again until you pick up a ‘clue’. Clues are either mind numbing plot advancement devices (pick up matches from the Havana club…’gee, I guess we’d better check out the Havana club’) or screamingly obvious things you can use to trip people up in interrogations. ‘I was in all last night officer.’ ‘Aha, but what about your WET COAT…’ Going to locations unlocked by finding ‘clues’ result either in asking someone some questions or chasing someone and then asking them some questions or having a terrible fist fight and then asking some questions or shooting them and it doesn’t matter anyway, you can ask someone else some questions. The thing they’ve been bigging up like mad is the amazing face motion capture thing, which looks ok, but the way it’s used is to make everyone who’s lying to you flick their eyes shiftily to the side, and if it actually really really was real life and you were confronted by someone like that, you’d be more likely to think they were having some kind of a seizure rather than being a damn lying hop head.
Apart from that, the style is obviously fairly cool, it has some nice music ripped straight out of Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. 1940’s L.A. looks decent enough, but another lacking gameplay thing is you have no real cause to explore the environment because the side quests are even more boring than the main game, which is kind of an impossible concept, like the square root of a negative number or something. The literary content as it were is a bit mixed. For starters, it’s undermined by the terrible gameplay, which makes solving the Black Dahlia murders up there with a slow day on ‘Quincy’. It turns out, surprise surprise, that the murderer is some Buffalo Bill clone that the dudes at Rockstar Bondi must have come across when they were doing their cult film research. You work out who the creepy serial killer is in the first 20 minutes, but you still have to go through the motions of charging a load of no marks to fulfil the ‘we have to rack up the arrests me boy/ you’re off the case McBain/you’re off YOUR case chief’ storyline dynamic.
One surprising and positive thing is that someone in Bondi Rockstar seems to be a goddamn commie. In the tedious flashbacks to WWII, one of the US troops says ‘fucking Japs, bombing Pearl Harbour!’ to which Ed Exley replies ‘Well, we cut off their oil supply. What would you expect if someone did that to us?’ Eh? Who’s been writing this? Noam Chomsky? There are also veiled references to the war on drugs, and a decent nod to contemporary politics. Which is a shame, because it seems like an opportunity for a better game has been missed. i.e. Noam Chomsky: The Game. You play mild mannered linguistics professor, and you get to cross examine witnesses on key areas of foreign and domestic policy. Choose whether they are telling the truth, express doubt or accuse them of a direct lie. ‘Don’t jive with me punk, they gave you the Nobel Peace Prize for what? Drone attacks on civilian targets? Don’t fuck with me!’ ‘Can it, your buddy stitched you up good, he already cut a deal for a two state settlement on the 1967 borders, so you better sing.’ Actually, this has already been pretty much realised-check this out, it’s better than L. A. Noire, and you don’t have to pay 40 quid for it.
Goblin Game verdict: As little as possible
Pro: Russell Crowe isn’t in it
Con: ned out of £40