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Monthly Archives: July 2011

 

What’s the Story?

Really? You’re going to make me describe seven films’ worth of backstory? Fine.

When Harry Potter was one, Voldemort tried to kill him. He failed. Now Harry is tracking down the seven pieces of Voldemort’s soul (called horcruxes) and destroying them so that Voldemort can be killed.

 

What’s the Problem

This is a very well-made film (that’s not the problem, in case you’re lost), especially compared to Half-Blood Prince, which was utterly pointless (as in, the point of the book – to tell you how Tom Riddle became Voldemort and where he might be hiding his soul – was cut out in favour of putting Quidditch and more teenage angst back in.

By contrast, HPatDHp2 hits most of the right notes. They cover their utter ignorance of Voldemort’s psyche by giving Harry the ability to sense where the horcruxes are, which is neat and ecological and even has a plot-centric explanation (rather than him being able to do it because shut up the story demanded it).

So, instead of the usual ramblings, I’ll be focussing this critique on one facet and why I liked it better in the book.

The version with the colourful picture on the front, of course.

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What’s the Story?

Many years ago, Cybertron – home planet of the Transformers – was at war. The leader of the Autobots, Sentinel Prime, left Cybertron with the mugguffin de jour and crash-landed on the moon. For forty years, everyone conveniently forgot about the crashed alien spaceship. They just remembered.

 

What’s the Problem?

This Robot Film Isn’t About Robots

As with previous instalments, Michael Bay has centred his film around a human instead of the alien robots we all paid $20 to come see. The first film was about a boy and his first car (also, in the background, an alien war over the All-Spark, which allows Transformers to breed or something); the second was about a kid going to college (and, in the background, the death and resurrection of Optimus Prime using the Matrix of Leadership); the third is about a young man trying to land his first job (and, in the background, a vast teleportation grid that could be used peacefully but we all know won’t be).

"I want to be in an ACTION film." "No. Get back to work."

I know why Bay does it. Especially for the first film, it makes sense to give your audience a point of reference; something familiar that they can relate to before you bring in the giant transforming robots.

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What’s the Story?

Cole Phelps, badge twelve-forty-seven, is an LA cop in 1947. He solves crimes. You, the player, are allowed to watch this via cutscene and, occasionally, contribute.

 

What’s the problem?

The Role of the Player

Okay, basically, just click this link. They can explain it much better than I can, if you can spare the five minutes (make time).

It seems LA Noire doesn’t really respect video games as a medium. Where previous Rockstar titles have been open world – giving the player a wide canvas and letting them run wild – LA Noire restricts their moves at every stage and delivers all of its most important information via cutscenes. That works fine for films and TV, but for interactive media it’s when the player turns off their brain.

In interactive media, important information can be learned by the player during play, which makes them part of the discovery and learning process. Cutscenes make them a bystander, a viewer, rather than a part of the creative act. Just… just click the link above, really. Those guys explain it way better than I can.

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What’s the Story So Far?

This is part 2 of a 3-part critique of Rockstar Games’s LA Noire. Part 1 was about the story. Part 2 is about the gunplay.

 

What’s the Problem?

There’s a lot of shooting in LA Noire. Makes sense: it’s a Rockstar game. They made GTA and Red Dead Redemption: big open-world games with lots of shooting. And the shooting mechanics in Red Dead were very good (a bit weird that one cowboy can carry so very many guns, but apart from that…). 

Every cowboy carries a pistol, a knife, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, a carbine, a lasso, and dynamite, right?

Open-World

As opposed to previous Rockstar titles, you can’t get your gun out whenever you like in LA Noire. You may only use your gun at certain times, which shall be determined by the game and not by you. This is just one more example of Rockstar trying to fool us into thinking this is a sandbox game when really it’s linear; just with a big map.

Pictured: most of Los Angeles. Not that you need it.

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What’s the Story?

L.A. Noire is set in 1947 in (surprisingly) Los Angeles. You play Cole Phelps, former WWII soldier now rookie cop who becomes detective and works the various departments, solving crimes by finding clues, interviewing suspects, and determining the truth to get his answers.

 

What’s the Problem?

Oh so many. I should probably start by saying that this is a good game, but that it squandered the potential to be a great game by still having so many niggling little issues that you have to concentrate as hard on seeing past them as you do on the story. It’s a perfect example of what Wasted Opportunities is for: when that extra little bit would have turned “okay” into “exceptional”.

Since it did so much right, and showed so much potential, there is a lot to say about it. And since it came on three discs (odd. It wasn’t that long), this review has been split into three: Story (this one), Action, and The Rest.

Pictured: the Usual Suspects. Uh, I mean, L.A. Noire.

Movies

The biggest problem with L.A. Noire (as it seems to be with every Rockstar game, and it gets worse with each iteration) is that, from all appearances, Rockstar doesn’t want to make video games. They want to make big, splashy, dramatic movies. Usually those movies are a rehash of old clichés (especially in the GTA franchise of late), and here they’ve set their sights of 1940’s detective films.

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