Sunday, June 23, 2019

Detective Work - LA Noire - Part 5

At last, we finally complete the Homicide desk in this episode, resolving the lingering plot threads and arriving at the end of this long, tiresome road.

I want to start off by saying that I'm glad I was able to demonstrate the problem I talked about in my last LA Noire post, where we need to pin the murder on one of the two suspects despite the fact that there's clearly another person who committed the crime, with evidence that is circumstantial at best. I was afraid I'd never get the chance to explain it on video.

In addition, it's getting harder to ignore how many technical issues I've having with the PC version of the game. I've played LA Noire on PS3 numerous times, and never before have I had issues like I do now. The investigation music never concluding has been a problem since the start of the playthrough, but the visual glitches seen throughout the final Homicide case were new to me. This is, to be blunt, a bad version of the game, and I'd recommend playing it on any other platform than PC.

One of the people in chat made a great point that the open world aspect of the game doesn't add to the game much, if at all, and they were spot on in that analysis. Even in the last case for Homicide, where you have to deduce which location is being referred to in each new clue, doesn't benefit from having an open world. There are collectibles and side missions, but they don't meaningfully add to the story in the way that something like the Artifacts in Tomb Raider (2015) did.

My final point is regarding the actual conclusion of Homicide and why it's a disappointment. The entire questline is based on the infamous Black Dhalia case, one of the most well-known unsolved murders in American history. In the fiction of LA Noire, this is but one in a series of serial murder cases perpetrated by a single individual.

However, since the true killer in the real life was never caught, the related cases that Cole Phelps investigates also can't be solved "correctly". This final case is framed as the great denouement of the whole desk, where after all of the false convictions, we can at last get it right and bring a menace to justice. And we do...

...except that it's quietly covered up because the killer is related to an (unnamed) politician. There's no catharsis, and no real pay off other than the fact that no more women will fall victim to him. It falls flat, but it has to because the source material is a case that was never solved.

And this is largely why the whole desk falls flat in turn. We spend so much time chasing phantoms and when we finally catch them nothing comes of it. It feels lame, and underwhelming to the extreme.

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