Thursday, May 16, 2019

Detective Work - LA Noire - Part 2

Our work on the mean streets of 50s LA continues. As Traffic Detective Cole Phelps (Badge Twelve-Fourty-Seven), we're forging a reputation with each new case we crack. The bigger our exploits, the easier it will be to climb through the rankings.

This is Detective Work: LA Noire.

To clarify points made in the video, while Rockstar published this game, it was developed by Team Bondi in Australia. That said, there are a number of design choices we see in LA Noire that a typical of Rockstar games, so I feel it's still worth talking about them.

Chief among them is this game's tendency to value "immersion" over gameplay flow. Part of this is the decision to go open world. Bluntly, the open world added nothing to the experience, and most players will simply choose to let their partner drive from place to place to skip the hassle. The only side activities are the random crimes scattered about the city, and most of them are either gun fights or car chases, and those are some of the worst parts of the game.

In addition, there are minor details, like needing to constantly phone into headquarters for background checks and updates. While it's true that since detectives in that era didn't have cell phones, this would be more realistic, it's not something that I personally enjoy doing. Since every police car has a radio installed as well, it would have been nice if some of these were either taken care of during car rides or implied to have been deal with in the drive between areas of investigation. Rather than halt the forward momentum to have a several minutes long scene of Cole Phelps asking the operator to route him to HQ, then ask for technical services and/or updates, it would be nice if this could be taken care of while the player was mobile.

Lastly, and separate from the above two points, this game takes place in an era where people were much more overtly racist, anti-Semitic, and otherwise discriminatory. I don't mind that the game brings these elements into the story. However, in usual Rockstar fashion, there is barely any comment on it whatsoever. As someone in the chat said, it feels like it only exists so that the developers can look "edgy" and "mature" by using slurs.

It's almost disappointing when I think about it. Rockstar has (had in the case of Team Bondi) a team of extremely skilled and talented people working on their games, and yet they have such little desire to make anything of cultural impact with their work beyond the most surface level satire of current/past events. I wish they would do better, though I know that call falls on deaf ears (and a closed Team Bondi).

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