Where Vice Meets Art

[Nate] Makes Crime a Career — and Ladies a Hobby!

That’s thrice now. As the bourbon (Bulleit [‘bullet’]) works its way down I have less and less tolerance for failure.

It’s in their eyes. Their secrets, the answer to these mysteries. And if the auteurs (I tell myself) were just a tiny bit better. If the folks at Team Bondi had even the remotest inkling of how human beings worked…

Have these game devs ever lied? Or been lied to? It’s not so cut and dry, I would say, between sips (“Sips”). There are no grand gesticulations, no frantic blinking or wild gestures. There’s subtlety. There’s a tamer sort of malice — not evil, just a self-righteous, self-centeredness.

So when LA Noire and her developers get it — and right now, they’re getting it (or I am) — it’s frustrating.

You’re lying, I know it.

Characters that don’t act as they should, because they’re acting as they would.

Fuck you, you’re not lying? I could hear it in your warble, see it in your fidget. But I’m wrong. And maybe, just maybe, I’d send an innocent man to the gas chamber. I’ve already done that once (maybe — twice, at most). Not this time though: back to dashboard, let’s make another drink and try this little interview again.

The LA Noire experience can boil down to a case study on facial animation (a glance at Metacritic suggests that’s the popular opinion). Or a case study on game design — Patrick prefers the juvenile, poorly designed, Phoenix ‘Shitty Pixel Hunt’  Wright series, which is lawl.

Or you can swig your vitamins (bless you, post-War America) and sink into one of the best narrative-athons since the (admittedly enjoyable) QTE-clusterfuck that was Heavy Rain.

I learned to shave by watching TV commercials as a kid. The first bits of peach fuzz starting getting unmanageable once I hit college, so I dutifully picked up the Mach 3 razor and Edge shaving gel, parked myself in front of a bathroom mirror and mimed that advertising I’d studied for so long as well as I could.

Imitation.  It works, more or less. And while I’ve (probably) never seen any of the film noir classics the developers used for inspiration, it works here too. Their adoration bleeds into the sets, the wardrobe, the characters and the world they’ve molded out of old records and maps.

It’s sad, almost, that the Rockstar moniker is attached to this project. Because the house that Grand Theft Auto built brings so much… baggage. There are so many lessons offered up by years of Rockstar experience that’re ignored, for better or (usually) for worse.

The Los Angeles of LA Noire is dead. Don’t get me wrong, that city is a soulless Gomorrah as it stands. But while the digital facsimile is suitably sprawling, with criss-crossing roadways and busy intersections, it’s lifeless. Ambulatory extras dive expertly out of the way of your careening automobile. Landmarks and crimes exist solely to dole out experience points.  A varied selection of radio stations, by now, is mandatory. How unfortunate that I have to fight the police radio, and the traffic, just to get the whiff of Americana leaking through the car stereo (was it stereo back then?). The entire experience is episodic to a fault, without the slightest insight (thus far) into the protagonist’s life. The slow hints of an overarching plot are waiting in the wings, occasionally poking a drug-addled tendril out onto the  stage — “Was that my cue? No? Mmkay, cool. You’ll call me, right?”

I’m complaining.

Here’s what’s great: Asking your partner for guidance, or directions.  Scouring locales for phones (they’re always conveniently located). Cars veering politely to the right when your siren is roaring. That melodic *thud* when you manage to tackle a perp, or talk them down, instead of just shooting everyone in the face.

I’ll be honest: I’m not even entirely sure what I’m looking for anymore. I ramble about engrossing narratives, but is that even possible? Would we (I) recognize it?

Doubtful. But leggy dames in distress await.

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