Opinion// L.A. Noire vs Heavy Rain - A Lot to Learn

Posted 1 Aug 2011 16:40 by
There's no doubt that L.A. Noire is a game that will leave its mark on the industry. It's going to be hard for gamers to go back to any other story-based game and take it as seriously as this one. It's no fault of any other games, but when you've been looking at the facial animations that it introduced it's hard to note just how much of a step forward it is.

After a long session of investigations and accusations, I put Mass Effect 2 back into my Xbox and it was like stepping back in time. No matter how good the writing is in that game, you can't help but notice how badly the characters deliver the lines in terms of expression.

Seeing wonderfully formulated plot developments spilling from Pac-Man esque mouths no longer carries the same weight after playing L.A. Noire and credit must be given where it is due. But there was something holding it back from being a truly wonderful Story Game. While playing, I couldn't get away from one fact: L.A. Noire is a videogame.

There were some huge hints that gave this fact away. My Playstation was on, I was holding a Dualshock and my Fiancée was looking at me with a disappointed gaze.

However, that wasn’t what was bothering me. What annoyed me about L.A. Noire was the inclusion of videogame elements that it dared not to stray from. It was far too self-aware and it was this barrier that left me with a cold feeling as I continued to play.

A Heavy Rain’s Gonna Fall
Story driven games have always interested me. I was a big fan of the old Point’n’Click adventures that dared to remove basic gameplay functions in order to tell a tale with more precision. Without the focus on questionable control, they had the breathing space to introduce and build characters. It also freed up the ability to guide you through a tale.

Since then developers have strived to push forward the quality of gaming narrative. Some have succeeded, some have been embarrassing. It's only recently that story-driven games have tried to depart from its competition. The most notable of this genre in recent time is Heavy Rain.

Heavy Rain set the bar in terms of this new age of Story Games and although it may not have had the technical ability to pull this off completely, I believe it had more of an impact on its genre than L.A. Noire. It had many plot holes, a twist that didn't hit home with a lot of people and shoddy QTE based gameplay, but it did the one thing that L.A. Noire failed to do. It didn't try to cling on to video Game clichés in order to justify itself.

That is, of course, with the exception of a requirement that they had to meet, laid down by the console holder. Trophies. One of my main gripes with any game of this genre is when it drags you into a tense and exhilarating scene, only to ruin everything by telling you if you have done right or wrong. One trophy that was particularly disappointing was the Good Dad one.

Bad Dad
A sombre setting sees Ethan trying to reacquaint himself with his son, who he has lost through the divorce of his wife. You struggle to engage with your downtrodden son, and show him that you can still be a father with your limited time with him. Your schedule is scrawled on the wall and you're determined to keep to it, but as you run through the To-Do list you wonder to yourself if that's the best thing to do for your relationship.

Does your son really want to be forced to eat healthy snacks? Are you really going to make him do his homework when the precious moments you have with him might be better spent playing basketball outside? It makes you question the actions you were taking, and it did that by keeping away from blatant right or wrong actions.

Once your evening is over, you settle your son's head down and say goodnight. The scene fades to black and a trophy is unlocked. On-screen you'll be told if you've been a good dad - something that should have been left for you to decide. If you had let your son watch telly all night he would later reveal that he got in trouble at school with the teacher for not completing his homework. That's punishment enough. I didn't need the game to tell me at that moment that I’d let him down.

Or maybe I didn't mind that he'd got into a bit of trouble as I'd seen my time with him as more precious. I should be the one who decides if I was a good or bad dad, not an achievement system.
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