Tag Archives: Red Dead Redemption

Does The Rabbit Look Nervous: “L.A. Noire” Reviewed

Does The Rabbit Look Nervous: “L.A. Noire” Reviewed

Guys in fedoras, old fashioned soda ads, bar matchbooks in elegant fonts— this game has got em’! And a mostly accurate map of 1947 Los Angeles. Rockstar also made some new face scanning technology for L.A. Noire. The faces are really lifelike! But they’re still just a little off, like if a trickster forest spirit made an enchanted mask out of river mud so he could steal human babies. As soon as he gets within ten feet you’re like, “You’re not the midwife! Get away from my baby!” Then you throw salted oak roots in his lying forest spirit face.

You’re supposed to use facial clues to figure out if people are lying in L.A. Noire. For example, if a suspect’s eyes are darting around nervously, they’re lying. If they tug at their tie like Rodney Dangerfield, they’re lying. However, if they wear their tie around their head like a headband, they’re drunk. Or civilization has collapsed and they’ve joined the resistance but didn’t have time to go home and change into shorts.

I botched a lot of interrogations because I gave people the benefit of the doubt too often. Also, every suspect had way too much damning evidence against them. It seemed like I found a bloody tire iron everywhere I went. I was starting to wonder if having a bloody tire iron in your house was fashionable in the 40’s. Hey mister where’d you get your blood-soaked tire iron? I got it on sale at Woolworth’s!

L.A. Noire is all about collecting clues at the crime scene and this is where the game really gets bogged down. The controller vibrates when you get close to a clue, and often it’s something mundane and unrelated to the crime. But I still felt compelled to pick up every clue when the controller vibrated. One time there was a bunch of carrots on a kitchen counter and the game indicated that they might be a clue. And I was thinking, really L.A. Noire? These carrots? You want this LAPD detective to walk over to a bunch of carrots and seriously consider them as part of a criminal investigation? Ok, fine— maybe one of the rabbits from Watership Down did it. Does the rabbit look nervous?

Cole Phelps certainly doesn’t mind putting his bare hands all over the corpses of murder victims. Especially the way he cups their chins and tilts their heads around and rifles through their bloody sport coats. And I know he didn’t wash his hands afterwards because I’m the one controlling him. He didn’t even bother to wipe his hands on his pants! Seems like a man who crouches over dead bodies every day and insists on direct contact with their cold, blood-spattered and lifeless skin would want to rinse up now and again.

Rockstar really seemed to want to emphasize the picking up produce and caressing dead bodies aspects of the game because you don’t have a life meter or any kind of weapons display like in Red Dead Redemption or Grand Theft Auto IV. Also, shooting suspects in the back will lose you the case. Or even shooting them in the foot. I lost a few cases where a suspect was fleeing, so I figured what the hell, I’d shoot out their ankle and then get the answers I needed. Nope— you have to run them down and tackle them. My thing is, if I ask someone a few questions about a murder and they start to run away, I’m pretty sure that’s the murderer so why can’t I put a bullet in their leg? Probably because Cole Phelps wouldn’t be able to help himself from crouching over them and running his ungloved hands all over their unconscious bleeding bodies.

So here’s a spoiler about the end of the game. I didn’t like the way you play as Cole Phelps for most of L.A. Noire and then in the game’s final cases you play as Jack Kelso the claims investigator. I understand that Rockstar was trying to purposely chip away at the connection you feel with Cole Phelps. When it’s revealed that he was cheating on his wife during the timeline of the game’s events, it’s just as surprising to the player as anyone else. And when you’re abruptly switched to playing as Kelso, the feeling of control over Phelps slips away and he becomes as unknowable as any other NPC in the game; more like a movie character with his own motivations than a video game avatar.

But because the change in characters is so sudden, it feels more like a bait and switch than an artistic statement. There’s a reason that Super Mario Bros. doesn’t have you play as Mario until World 8 and then make you play as Mario’s old plumbing partner Jeffrey Krasinski. Sure, they have history together but you just put a lot of hours into going on an adventure with Mario and now some new guy gets to knock Bowser in the lava?

Obviously, L.A. Noire is more complex than Super Mario Bros. In L.A. Noire, you throw corrupt Los Angeles government officials into lava. Ultimately, L.A. Noire is beautiful but makes strange choices, like a girl I once dated who yelled at me at a party for not having read T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’. Despite its flaws, I’m happy to pick up and closely examine the odd rutabaga if it means companies like Rockstar will keep putting out thoughtful games targeted at adults. Especially if that rutabaga is served with broiled pork chop. The end!

Where Even the Water is Death (Red Dead Redemption)

Where Even the Water is Death (Red Dead Redemption)

The first person I met in Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer mode shot me dead where I stood. I took two steps toward him like a newborn baby and he pumped me full of lead. I had entered Red Dead Redemption’s Free Roam area, where you can ride a donkey around and interact with strangers on Xbox Live. Unfortunately most strangers on Xbox Live are horrible trolls with high pitched troll voices and little troll nicknames like HALOxxx_KILLSPOT23 or MURD3RCL0WNHEADHSH0T_HANNAHMONTANABESTOFBOTHWORLDS. Even the nice ones are impossible to understand. This one dude asked me to join his posse. I was talking to him on my super cool Xbox controller headset. “This is my first time playing multiplayer,” I said. “How does a posse work?”

“Ha, ha” he said, “they’ll do that.”

“Who’ll do what?” I asked. “You got to…you got to….go there.” he replied. What? “Are you talking to me?” I asked. Silence. His horse stood in front of me. I rode in circles around him. Me: “What is our posse about to do?” Him: “It’s hard the first time.” No shit, Yoda. I should have put a knife in his ribs.

Later, I was playing a co-op mission with strangers. In the lobby, waiting on the mission to start, everyone was punching each other. A blond man chased me and punched me until I fell in the dust. Then a woman punched me. Everyone was punching me. The man jumped and down. The woman ran in circles. This was my team.

When the mission began, everyone whistled for their horse. I accidentally got on the blond man’s horse. The blond man shot it in the head so I couldn’t ride it and I fell on the ground. They rode off and left me behind and I had to run and run to catch up. When I got to where the fighting was, most of my team was dead and one guy refused to leave a cannon he found, shooting it in roughly the same spot over and over and over. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! “I’m a cowboy!” I imagined him thinking to himself, “I like the cannon cause it boom and big kid pants.”

I saw on my radar one of the other players had become Most Wanted. I tracked him to the saloon in Armadillo. He was hiding out on the second floor. I walked into the first floor of the saloon. He shot me in the head and I died. I reappeared near the saloon. I came up the stairs on the other side. I peeked over the window to aim at him. He put another bullet in my head. I reappeared again and tried the outer balcony. I crouched next to the entrance and poked my head around. BAM! I was dead yet another time. I left him alone. Let some other fool go after him. But my pride, oh my pride stung.

I hunted another fugitive the next day, chasing him over the plains. He must have seen my dot on the radar racing toward him and known it was coming. “You don’t know what’s coming, son. Oh, you’re gonna get got!” I said to him in my mind and also out loud. I pulled out my Volcanic Pistol. I arrived at his dot on the radar. He was nowhere to be seen. I activated dead eye and shot a man off his carriage. An innocent man, it turned out. My quarry was hiding behind a rock. I got got! I didn’t know what was coming, son!

I was riding a raft with my friend Sam, holding off wave after wave of enemies. I stepped off the raft into the river. I drowned. OH I’M DEAD I yelled into my stylish Xbox headset. I couldn’t help but think of how this must be what hell is like, a hot dusty place where the mad and the evil and the foolish fight endlessly but never truly perish, reappearing moments after death. A place where even the water is death.

I appeared in a Mexican town having traveled there instantaneously via wagon wheel. I materialized next to an old Mexican woman who was not another player, just a character in the game. I brandished my rifle at her. She held up her hands. I holstered my gun and whistled for my horse. I rode away. Another player had become Most Wanted.

Red Dead Redemption

I was playing Red Dead Redemption and I was sneaking up on a gang of bandits in a crouched position. I moved very quietly up a hill to get the drop on them from above. I drew my gun to fire on the bandits when my horse stuck his head in from the side of the screen. Hey, I’m your horse! Whatcha doin? Horse stuff? Sneaking up on some hay or grain?

I was looking to kill a corrupt lawman. It was raining. I had finally tracked him to a riverbed. My horse was in the lake. I whistled for him to come. The horse stayed in the lake. It is better in the lake, my horse seemed to say.

I reached the town of Blackwater. I had completed all the missions necessary to wear the U.S. Army outfit. I just needed to buy a scrap of fabric from the Blackwater tailor. My horse was blocking the door to the tailor’s shop. Whatcha buying? Horse clothes, maybe? I could use a hat. I’m your horse!

I was riding my horse over the plains and the rocks and the dust and the sunlight looked like the art on a tin plate my great-grandmother used to keep in her kitchen cupboard. Minus the revenge seeking cowboy, I guess. She used laminated photographs of desert scenes as placemats for dinner plates. I wonder if my great-grandmother would have rather lived in Arizona or Mexico.

I saw a donkey in Mexico and immediately jumped on it and rode it around. But it was too fat and slow so I left it by a Mexican brothel. If I was a donkey, I’d want to spend my days dozing in the shade of a Mexican whorehouse. If someone didn’t pay I’d bite their pocket until money fell on the ground and the prostitutes would bring me papayas and hang flowers around my head.

I was playing poker in Blackwater in my elegant suit and I tried to cheat but was caught by Bunk Trimble and challenged to a duel. I didn’t have the heart to kill him so I shot him in the arm. I slept in a room above the saloon and came back down the next morning for a more honest round of cards and Bunk was still there and it was like nothing had ever happened. I thought it would be cool if he was the great-great grandfather of William “Bunk” Moreland from The Wire, but then maybe characters from video games aren’t allowed to be grandfathers of characters from television shows.

Spoiler Alert

I had read on the internet that Marston died at the end of the game, but I was hoping it was some idiot on an idiot website who was trolling or didn’t know what he was talking about. But when John Marston left the barn I knew it was over.

Later when his son Jack Marston was riding his horse and wearing his guns, I had him put on the U.S. Army outfit but then realized he would never wear the uniform of the men who killed his father. So I had him ride to his family farm, lay down in his childhood bed and turned off the game.