Sunday, August 11, 2019

Detective Work - LA Noire - Part 9

And so it has finally come to this: Cole Phelps, on the pursuit of a conspiracy involving Arson, Murder, and good ol'-fashioned Hollywood grift to the tune of billions, has been completely shut out by the LAPD itself, corrupt as it is.

If he wishes to finally get to the truth, and expose this plot for what it is, he needs to cast aside old grudges and seek out the help of his old rival, Jack Kelso. Aside from DLC cases, Jack will take his rightful place as primary protagonist for most of the game from here on out.

I mentioned Heather Alexandria's posts about LA Noire from Kotaku. You can find a links to all of these posts, including the specific one I referenced, here for your viewing pleasure, thought be warned that there are spoilers in it.

One of my viewers asked what the importance of the rest of the story was, since Jack can be thought of as the actual noir protagonist, and this is where the story wraps up. At the time, the reason I gave is that they wanted to have you go through the cases and have the experience of solving them as a post-World War 2 cop in LA.

Upon reflection, it occurred to me that there's actually a good reason why we go through the desks in the way that we do. Each of them servers a pretty critical purpose.
  • The Patrol and Traffic desks serve as the player's introduction to the game mechanics and the world respectively. They gives us a glimpse into the average day in the life of a cop on the force in Las Angeles.
  • Homicide starts to show us that the veneer we've grown used to in the Traffic desk. By replacing the mildly sexist but otherwise milquetoast and competent Bekowsky with the lazy drunk Rusty Galloway, we're shown that LAPD detectives aren't always good people. This extends into the desk's finale, where the true killer's identity is covered up to avoid political scandal.
  • And this demonstration of how easy it is to influence police is highlighted and brought to the forefront during the Vice desk. Not only is Cole's new partner, Roy Earle, open racist, sexist, and corrupt, and brags about it as if everyone should aspire to be as much of a scumbag as he is. We're also shown how organized crime bribes the cops to look away from all but the most serious of criminal offenses, all parties doing whatever they can to hide their dark underbelly. This concludes with Cole Phelps act of weakness being used to cover up a conspiracy that echoes all the way to the top of Hollywood's wealthy upper class.
And that leads us to where we are now. Since we, as the player, go through all of that, we know exactly what pushes Cole Phelps to reach out to Jack. He knows his hands are tied, and that he needs someone who is willing and capable of doing whatever it takes to expose the people behind the series of fires sweeping the city. All of these other desks provide the groundwork for this change of hands, so that we can focus on the real meat of the story here in the finale, without concerning ourselves with excess exposition.

With this mind, I think I can safely say that I've turned a corner with LA Noire. Technically issues with the PC version aside, and despite my criticisms of the Homicide and Vice desks (which I mostly stand behind), it's an interesting game that came out at a time when Adventure games weren't in vogue, and used those mechanics to tell a tale of corruption and intrigue that has a lot going for it.

Dare it say it might, in fact, be a good video game!?

I think I might.

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