By Jared Newman | Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 10:31 am
I just watched the first L.A. Noire trailer to explain how the game actually works. Consider me intrigued.
In addition to the duck-and-cover gunplay that has played a part in every recent Rockstar game (Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption), LA Noire promises to emphasize interrogation and critical thinking to solve crimes. Your “powers of reason and intelligence can make or break each case,” the trailer’s narrator says.
Fascinating, in theory. But if players are really expected to reason their way through a significant chunks of the game, I’m left wondering what happens when your powers of logic fail.
L.A. Noire won’t be the first game to juxtapose conversation against combat. Bioware’s RPGs — Mass Effect and Dragon Age among them — require the player to build alliances through dialog, but the outcomes of each conversation don’t have a direct impact on your success or failure. They merely shade your character in moral grays, changing the way other characters interact with you.
LA Noire’s trailer suggests that a wrong decision might actually impede your progress through the game. I can’t think of any other recent mainstream games where that’s the case.
Here’s the potential problem: Success and failure are easy to enforce in traditional shooters. If you die in a gunfight, you figure out what went wrong and try again. Usually, there’s enough open-endedness and variety in the enemy AI to keep your second or third try from being overly repetitive.
Conversations, at least in video games, work differently. They’re scripted, with pre-recorded dialog, so there would be very little variety if you had to replay an interrogation.
I don’t know how Rockstar plans to deal with this. Will players have to redo conversations if they get it wrong? Will the game punish players through some other means? Or will the entire outcome of the game depend on your overall performance in the game’s many investigations? Rockstar hasn’t said.
If Rockstar is putting as much emphasis on conversation and reasoning as its latest trailer suggests, it could be a risky break from the gunplay that usually sets the conditions for success or failure in video games. Like I said, I’m intrigued.