Rockstar Games, the company so rich and powerful they feel they can add an “e” to the end of a perfectly good French word like “Noir” just because they feel like it, has done it again. Redefined the action/adventure sandbox game. The game is amazing and one I will remember fondly for a long time but LA Noire is a flawed gem. After a torturous development process, Rockstar polished it up and shipped it out and created what amounts to a faithfully noir police procedural hampered by an ill-executed overarching story. CSI was the direction to go, because the crime is the thing.
LA Noire is basically an adventure game, or a more action packed Heavy Rain. As a cop in the 1940s in a lovingly recreated Los Angeles, your character rises through the ranks solving cases and getting to the bottom of a Serial Killer and a crooked business deal involving the rich and powerful. You start with trafficking – which means sex trafficking and the case concerns rape, voyeurism and more. The game is effective, I was arresting a pervert pornographer when I learned he was an informant for Vice and therefore off limits. I should never be a cop, I wanted to kill the guy right there.
From Trafficking you go to Homocide and the strongest part of the game. The Black Dahlia killer was never found in real life, now’s your chance. This section features multiple dead and nude female corpses. This is full-frontal nudity and the bodies must be searched.
Disturbing stuff and far from usual video game violence. It’s done non-sensationally and this was the MO of the Dahlia, so there’s that. Next comes Arson and then Vice. Arson has some burnt children and Vice features a lot of military medical grade morphene.
The game’s big breakthrough is stellar voice acting and a series of engaging capers, questioning suspects is a game unto itself. It asks you to piece together everything you’ve found and then read the suspect’s face. Get it right and you can nail them, get it wrong and the interview is over.
This breakthrough in video game technology and art doesn’t dangle nudity, crudity, violence, etc., to titillate – it doesn’t do it to horrify. It does it because that’s what homocide is. Horrible. I’ve never gotten so much pleasure from simply capturing a bad guy. Once you see their dirty work – the game makes you into an avenger. An avenger who defends the peace using law and order, rather than the usual Kalsihnikov or broadsword. It’s harsh stuff, but presented so intelligently I could see it being appropos for some 14 year olds. I wouldn’t go much younger than that.