08 August 2011

L.A. Noire

Video games are wasted on me. I spent far too much of my youth avoiding them to have any real skills with buttons and joysticks. I "walk" like a drunken sailor and "drive" like a crackhead. I usually shoot one of the good guys or pump 12 shots into the wall next to the bad guy while he sneers at my incompetence. I got vertigo when I was lost in a Bioshock maze and had to quit the game. I always have the instruction sheet on my lap so I can remember how to play, I never turn off the help screens, and I keep it set in "beginner" mode. "Getting to the next level" means handing the controls to someone else. Suffice to say that 99% of the time my PS3 is used as a blu-ray player. Oh, I take batting practice in MLB 2K9. That's not too tough.

But I had to have L.A. Noire. I had to. A game that looks and feels like a Raymond Chandler story on steroids is my kind of thing. I love the so-called film noir period in Hollywood--nothing gets me more excited than men in grey suits and fedoras chasing unattainable women and hopeless dreams. L.A. Noire works the cops-and-corruption side of the street, a distinct subset of the noir milieu. I usually prefer the stories of sympathetic chumps like Robert Mitchum and Burt Lancaster led astray by fabulous femme fatales. (Who among us wouldn't follow Jane Greer or Lizabeth Scott to their doom?) But Los Angeles in 1947 is great place to be, and Cole Phelps' journey into the heart of the city's power structure is a compelling one.

I can't speak intelligently about "game play." It would be like asking me how an F1 race car handles--did I prefer the McLaren or the Ferrari on the first chicane at Monaco? But I can tell you that L.A. Noire is gorgeous. The film-making, if you can call it that, is first-rate. The soundtrack is perfect, combining the likes of Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington with original scores. I'm blown away by the depth and richness of the scenery and characterizations. It almost doesn't matter that I can't play the thing worth a shit--it's just plain cool. There's even a tie-in e-book from an outfit appropriately named Mulholland Books. This seems to be the new trend--I understand one of my all-time favorite authors (John Shirley) has a Bioshock tie-in novel. Guess I'll have to dust that one off and try again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mark -- delighted to catch up to your Ten Pound Press meanderings, and I especially enjoyed L.A. Noir, as that is a favorite place for me to hang out. Glad to have you back at Ten Pound; always a treat. N.