LA Noire, for all its pomp and circumstance, is really rather good. Even I cannot deny that fact, thought I have tried repeatedly. It is fun, engaging, cinematic and thorough, but it is not perfect.
While the 1940s and 50s are well documented to have been in black and white – the colour-sensitive eyeball only having been invented for the LSD trips in the 60s – what is often overlooked is just how dog eat dog it was. Allow me to illuminate you.
It was a land of dames. Tall, raven-haired statues of beauty, sliding through the streets like pagan goddesses, their legs flashing from the slits at the side of their dresses. As they moved through the throng of unimportant auxiliary characters – men who had no function in the Noir – they would pass row upon row of offices rented by P.Is. I was one such man, having won the office from another man in a game of spider solitaire to the death.
It didn’t do to have too many dames take you on for a case. The more work you were seen to be doing, the less respect you had in the PI community. Eager beavers were not welcome at the functions, that much was for sure. Neither were cops.
Cops like Cole Phelps were rare, LA Noire gets that right enough. Coppers at the time liked to skip over the whole due process thing and jump straight into the bail proceedings. It wasn’t cheap, but it was efficient, you had to give them that. But ones like Cole just got in the way, with their rules and their ethics and their damnable sense of duty. LA Noire’s biggest failing is that Cole makes it out of uniform in the first place.
Let me explain to you how his life would have gone, using a completely fictional and not at all quoted-from-my-upcoming-biography story.
It was a day like any other, except different enough that I could tell it wasn’t. The sun was punching holes in the thick clouds that blanketed the sky, sending thin beams of light raining onto the pavement. The various Doe families were appreciative, it wasn’t often we got the dry sort of rain those days.
To say she walked in would be doing her a great disservice. It was more of a slide than a walk, perhaps even a slink. Her legs seemed to move only for emphasis, slightly out of sync with her progress along the floor towards my desk, but I appreciated the emphasis all the same. She spun and perched on the corner of my desk, firm buttocks astride the one cigar I had loosed from my humidor. A pair of crimson lips appeared from behind a creamy shoulder.
‘I hear you’re the best dick this side of the Big Trickle,’ she purred. ‘Perhaps you could be persuaded to do me a solid.’
My seat creaked as I sat back to take in her entire form. ‘Solid’s are my speciality. Doing, undoing, the whole shebang, I can do it. What do you need?’
She detailed the whole thing to me. A dirty cop was chasing her, looking to pop her for little more than an errant glance down the wrong alley at the wrong time of night. It was the sort of case you made your bread and butter, and that was a problem for me – I prefer more advanced dishes for my nourishment. Bread and butter is the food of wastrels and vagabonds, the sort of man who can’t afford a cream cracker for variety.
I palmed her off onto a nearby patrolman. He’d been in the paper, a veritable hero for saving a cat from a tree. He was a good man, an honest cop, and that was why he missed her pulling the small two-shot pistol from her purse.
Turns out she was a femme fatale in the most literal sense. The story was a trick, a worm to lure the most noble of fish. Nobody had told her that it was poor sportsmanship to put a bullet through a fish’s brain stem.
–An extract from ‘Brick by Glorious Brick: Creating the Silver Throne – The Lives and Times of Mercurio Silver’
Now then, do you see what that story is lacking compared to LA Noire?
All the running.
Do you know how many people ran in the Noir? None. Running was taboo, unseemly. Even criminals agreed that, on this point and this point alone, the unspoken law against running was something not to be shirked. If you needed to move fast you skulked or strode or hotfooted, but you never ran.
LA Noire is mostly running. You run to your car, you run from your car into a building, around the building, after a victim, it never ends. And yet apart from this, is attempts to maintain the Noir. But no amount of gun crime and grizzly murders will save you, Cole, you’ve already broken the cardinal rule.
There is a further story in my book about a man caught running. I will not reprint it here as you have already had a large enough sample for free, but suffice to say his punishment was unpleasant. The Noir does not take kindly to people in a hurry, it is not a place for haste. Things are sombre and considered in the Noir.
But I suppose if you are after a Noir that plays up to what you less travelled sorts expect of the 40s and 50s, then LA Noire will see to that. I shouldn’t hold it against you that, ultimately, you are limited and inexperienced – after all, some have claimed that I was that way once.
They were wrong, but then you lot most often are. I’ve grown accustomed to your shortcomings.
It will do, I suppose. I will abide LA Noire for the moment, though I urge you to seek out my autobiography when you reach the game’s conclusion – you owe it to yourself to imbibe a more thorough broth than that served by the Rockstar under-chefs.
When you are ready, leave a comment below. I will direct you to the many places from which the book can be purchased, if I deem you sufficiently prepared.
Mercurio Silver is a grumpy misanthropic immortal with bold statements and a narcissistic need to force them on others. With his sharp tongue he shares his most recent realisations and thoughts right here on Midlife Gamer every Sunday.