You know, I was thinking some more about the LA Noire interrogation system, and what Yahtzee had to say about how to puzzle through interrogations, and I came to an interesting realization. The system itself is a pretty good idea, and would otherwise make sense, but there are at least two big problems plaguing its implementation — consistent exposure to the system, and the writing.

From an objective standpoint, the system itself is a fantastic abstraction of a complex process. Getting information from a witness or suspect is a thrilling point in a mystery, and should rightly be treated as such. But where outside the missions does the player get a chance to practice? Using the system requires understanding the system.

My main argument against LA Noire’s use of its interrogation system would be that the player is never properly taught how to perform the interrogation. Every case is different, and there are few to no opportunities to practice using the system, so the only times you see it are “life and death.” That’s no way to learn something.

The game also doesn’t do a very good job of separating witnesses from suspects, and the behavior of each. Generally speaking, witnesses should tell the truth most of the time, while occasionally throwing something in that might be doubtful. Consistent witnesses through early cases would condition the player to expect this.

Suspects, on the other hand, should speak in mostly lies and half-truths, giving the player the opportunity to use the evidence discovered at the scene against them. Once again, a series of straightforward cases in the beginning of the game would give the opportunity for the player to get used to this. Complications are unnecessary.

Once the player has three or four cases under their belt, it’s fair to throw them a curve ball. Present a witness who’s actually a suspect, and throw in a suspect who regrets their actions and practically confesses to the player at the slightest provocation. Maybe introduce someone who feels guilty and confesses to something they didn’t do.

Those complications should be layered on top of other fairly straightforward cases. Once the player has about eight to ten cases completed, with a combination of straightforward detective-work combined with predictable witnesses and suspects, things can get more complex, but not before that. LA Noire throws the player in the deep end and teaches them the swimming controls while they’re drowning.