Being Detective Phelps

L.A. Noire, like most Rockstar games, is at battle with itself. The Ego and the Id. Gameplay and Story. Controls and usability. And in the end it's always the player that loses. In Red Dead Redemption it was not uncommon to watch a cut scene where a humble protagonist looks to right past wrongs only to then relapse into a manic serial killer once the player gets in control. These unimaginable horrors were then completely overlooked by the high-moral characters in the very next cut scene. Either the story is trivialized to the point of an annoying skip-fest between murder sprees, or gameplay is undermined to the point of a necessary nuisance between cut scenes, depending on the player's perspective.

Noire shifts focus back to to an unbalanced form -- the way games are meant to be. Either the story or the gameplay must be understated for the other to succeed. Noire obviously focuses on story, and that's where the game comes to life. Not perfectly, mind you, but well enough. There is still a disconnect between actions. Phelps, for instance, will go from yelling at someone to being calm and reserved with no natural bridge in between. Continuity errors plague the story as well. Characters often have vastly changing opinions from scene to scene. And there seems to be a big difference between figuring out the crime, and getting the events to play out the right way. Sometimes what is exactly at issue is not clear when it comes time to make a decision. Lie is picked only to discover that the challenge of facts is not what was initially perceived.

But it's the actual gameplay that ruins Noire's credibility. A car speeding down a back alley is brought to an abrupt stop by a jagged edge of a building. A small fence is able to stop the mammoth 1940s vehicle, a vehicle that controls as lightly a scooter would. It's not that the sequences themselves are out of place, though the ten versus one shootouts are certainly at question in that respect, it's that a game that relies so heavily on story is brought out of sequence by the non-sequiturs that come with the impenetrable nature of Rockstar's control mechanism. Like with all their previous entries, the player is always at odds with the game. With all the focus on adding things to do, making the core gameplay seamless is put aside. Yet it's the subtle genius of what they were trying to accomplish that is ultimately the focus of the never ending consumerist-driven hype that the industry relies so heavily upon. The actuality of the project is always lost. The Ego and the Id.