I felt I needed to do a post about LA Noire. LA Noire and its broken dialogue.
I was intrigued by the game, considering Rockstar’s influence, but I wanted to wait for it to get a little cheaper, or get it second hand.
I’m a singleplayer gamer, so I don’t need to be first among my friends, and most of them aren’t big gamers.
LA Noire features a a very advanced animation engine, MotionScan. Think of it as a very fancy facial capture tech.
The voice actors have done more than deliver their lines, they have had to act their parts out, as the face animation from this is captured and reproduced on screen. Once you see it, it can be quite impressive. You sometimes see quiet anger, interest, and even characters flirting with the player.
The trouble with all this, is some scenes and characters seem overplayed, expressions are often exaggerated, and everything goes a little Uncanny Valley. It isn’t a common occurrence, and doesn’t hamper lesser games with lesser tools. I’m also not the first to call it out on this. However, when the games main game mechanic, where the “point” is to be a detective and catch people lying, and to extract the truth, when that mechanic breaks, the tower crumbles.
LA Noire requires you to investigate clues, question witnesses and interrogate suspects using the traditional methods of watching peoples body language. This works well when it works at all. The part that breaks, that’s pisses you off, is the dialogue trees. When a person makes a statement, you can accept it as Truth, accused the of Lying, or doubt them. These are the three choices, and you only know what your choices are, not what line of questioning you with then take
The first problem is that doubting someone is similar to accusing them of lying, so for the most part, you doubt people until you know they are lying. The Lie path requires evidence, so sometimes that’s clear, and then there’s no real problem. But the doubt path is a mine-ridden road to the gas chamber.
You can never tell what your character, Phelps, is going to say. This time he may call someones bluff, next, he may threaten the persons life.
There is one situation where I’m interviewing a teenage girl whose experienced a loss in the family. I’ve just told her about it. She says something that I suspect isn’t the whole truth. Normal teenage stuff. Not that I think she killed her mom, or knows anything, just that she is holding something back that may be important later. So I doubt her.
Seconds later load my save, because I didn’t mean that I doubted that she cared about her mom, and that she is glad her mother is dead, causing her to break down, with Cole Phelps chomping at the bit to rip the poor girls neck out. I meant, “I don’t think you came straight home from school.”
This is how you break immersion in such a character-driven story, by making me hate Phelps, the good guy.