Now here’s the other problem with LA Noire’s interrogation system: bad writing. In addition to not giving the player ample opportunity to learn the interrogation system, the interrogations are plagued with bad writing. I had to think about it a bit, but I figured that’s why it was so hard to tell when suspects were lying.

Motion-capture, body language, and dialogue don’t exist independently of one another. If a suspect says something that sounds suspicious, and then looks at the player with great, big puppy-dog eyes, the player is supposed to read that as a clear sign the suspect is telling the truth. Never mind the logical part of our minds which say that the person is saying something suspicious and then acting innocent.

Consider also, there are apparently no repercussions to accusing a person of murder and then backing out when you have no evidence to support it. (I think Yatzhee said something like this, but we haven’t tested it. I could be misunderstanding him.) This would be the hallmark of a much more abstract system, where the game seems to aim for reality — albeit a reality where success is based on a series of lucky guesses.

The game teeters back and forth between the arbitrarily realistic and the reasonably abstract, and it fails to strike a consistent balance between the two, and the main reason I see for this is that the dialogue is logically inconsistent with the effect it’s intended to convey. This does not have the effect of making the dialogue more realistic — quite the opposite. The characters act like emotionless robots.

As an abstract gameplay mechanic, the interrogation system is a fantastic idea. Consider this possibility: each witness or suspect you interrogate has one or more clues you must extract from them. Clues from the evidence have allowed you to put together the beginning of the story, and you need the statement of a witness, or the confession of a suspect, to fill in the blanks.

What you want to do is get the information out of whomever you’re interrogating. If it’s a witness, you follow their story with “truth” until they reach a logical loophole or snag, at which point you call “doubt” so they can reconsider their words. If it’s a suspect, you counter each “lie” with a piece of evidence until they show signs of duress and then you need only “doubt” them.

Maybe there’s a problem in the narrative pacing, as well. I mean, it’s clear that a lot of work went into the game, but it fails at what it’s trying to do. The cases aren’t solved through deduction. They require equal parts guessing game and moon logic.