The Cool Factor
An alternate look at L.A. Noire and Duke Nukem Forever
26th August 2011
We are in an age of gaming that frankly, I despise. There is no such thing as innovation anymore and ninety percent of releases are grey-brown First Person Shooters. This is well documented in the gaming media, but what's also been noted is the originality of Rockstar's latest effort, L.A. Noire. Set in post war Los Angeles (unsurprisingly), L.A. Noire is almost exactly what you'd expect it to be. It captures every aspect of the noir genre and combines it with the gritty sandbox style that has become synonymous with Rockstar games.
The game mechanics work fairly well, with the more ridiculous elements of GTA taken out - you can only shoot in selected sections of game - and added two main gameplay mechanics. The first is sweeping a crime scene for clues, which is fairly good, very similar to that found in Heavy Rain. The second mechanic, the questioning of suspects and witnesses, is much more impressive. The facial animation technology is fantastic and some suspects are better at hiding their lies than others. The story is compelling enough to keep you going, but simple enough to follow easily and not lose interest.
What really turns L.A. Noire into a great game rather than a good game, though, is the cool factor. It's extremely cool.
However, I don't really see the point of the game being a sandbox. It's clearly there just to pad out the game a little more with pointless collectibles and side missions. To be honest, the game has a lot more potential than it actually achieves, but it's still a massive step forward in terms of original thinking.
Moving on to a game considerably worse, I have also recently been playing Duke Nukem Forever. It's a game that I expected to be poor before I even got it, because there's no way a game that's been in development for thirteen years and been restarted countless times could live up to any sort of expectation. However, it disappoints even more than expected. The old Duke Nukem games were brilliant, but Forever is just a joke, and not a very funny one at that. The shooting is average and the platforming is even worse. Some of the game is undeniably entertaining, with little jokes here and there (like seeing a never-ending spinning top whilst Duke is dreaming), but as much as I want to like it, it's just a poor game.
However, what stops it from being an absolutely, truly appalling game is the cool factor. Duke is incredibly cool. His funny one-liners keep the dialogue fresh and interesting, and using your ego as your shield is a good idea, as is expanding it by doing things like bench pressing heavy weights or checking yourself out in the mirror.
I hope games learn from the successes and mistakes of these two games. L.A. Noire sold considerably better than Duke Nukem Forever, and for good reason. At some point, developers will surely see that there is a clear demand for original games rather than yet more shooter clones.