Cookiemonger rented LA Noire for XBox 360 recently, and I’ve been watching her play. We’re both familiar with Yahtzee’s review of the game over at Zero Punctuation, so to say that I was skeptical going into the game would be putting it mildly. I’m not a huge fan of Rockstar Games as it is, which doesn’t help either. To say that the game has let me down would be giving it too much credit.

Let me put that in plain English: I didn’t expect much of the game, so the fact that it didn’t meet my expectations is redundant. LA Noire sideswiped my expectations, as I would expect from a game that seem to be based almost entirely around simulating traffic. I’ve watched CM play through at least three of the cases, and it seems like there’s more driving than sleuthing, even with the option to “skip” driving sequences.

Within the first few cases, I wonder if the protagonist works on any cases that aren’t murders or elaborate cover-ups. I know the game is called LA Noire, with an emphasis on both the “Los Angeles” and “Noire” elements, but these things need a context in the story. The main character jumps from one hard-boiled case to another, and the tension stays high. Even the street crimes are all chases and shoot-outs.

I also wonder about the protagonist’s wife. I’ve been watching kind of sporadically, but I’ve seen no mention of her whatsoever. Maybe she comes into the story later, or maybe she plays no part in the story at all, I don’t know. Maybe it’s supposed to be an indication that there’s no romantic subplots for the protagonist, like those ridiculous girlfriend missions in San Andreas.

But you know what you do in that case, instead of indicating that the character is married but excluding the character’s wife from the story? Don’t have him be married! And then, then what you do is exclude ridiculous romantic subplots. I don’t know if the designers over at Rockstar are familiar with it, it’s called conservation of detail. Like including tons of doors that don’t open, or windows that you can’t see through.

Or perhaps adding tons of items to a crime scene that mean nothing. I understand they’re trying to lend the game a degree of difficulty, but they could do that with actual red herrings in the evidence, rather than littering the scene with doodads for the player to examine. The difficulty could be in using evidence, rather than finding it.

If used in this way, the protagonist can be shown as intelligent as he suggests possible uses for all the evidence, and the player can feel smart for picking apart the important stuff and using it correctly. Then it might be easier to tell if a witness is lying before going into the interrogation, without the bizarre guessing element of truth-doubt-lie.

Yahtzee made a good point in his review — if you doubt them at all, call them a liar. If you don’t have evidence to support your character’s wild accusation that follows, then back out and just doubt them instead. It’s idiotic, but it’s easier to roll with. Anyway, watching the gameplay made me want to watch Chinatown again. (Instead?)