I’m the type of person who tries to stay away from things that get a lot of hype. If I’m told repeatedly how awesome something is I get worried that it won’t deliver on its promises. I’ve been disappointed by “great” things before. I’ve stood in line at midnight only to go home a sad little fangirl, I’ve dropped $60 on a game only to want to trade it in, I’ve sat through 2 hour long movies and wondered what the weather was like outside because it just had to be better than the crap I had just spent money on. So I’ve decided to do a segment about a particular game, anime, or some form of media that gets a lot of hype and answer the question, “Is it worth the hype?”
This week’s topic:
Xbox 360 and PS3
The year is 1947 and Los Angeles is a city full of glitz, glamour, and corruption. Players take control of Cole Phelps, a WWII war vet who is now a rookie cop out to “right the wrongs” of the city and of his own actions during the war. As you play through the game, Phelps goes up in rank and takes on tougher cases that will put his good nature to the test. Can you clean up a corrupt city that’s constantly falling into the darkness?
There have been a number of impressive trailers for the game that show off the interrogation sequences, the amazing acting, and just the feel of an intense crime drama. Driving around, I’ve seen posters at bus stops, which seems to be happening more and more with video games these days. Early reviews have done nothing but praise it, and even after the game’s release it hasn’t gotten anything lower than an 8. But the biggest thing of all with this game was it’s showing at the Tribeca Film Festival, the very first video game to make it there.
Is it worth the hype?
Yes, yes, and yes.
There’s a lot of games that are said to “be like watching a movie,” but this game takes that description and increases it ten fold. Watching the characters interact is a treat. They’re expressive, emotional, and they do a good job with pulling you into each and every case you have to solve. The voice acting is just terrific, too. This is a great game to show off why voice actors really need to be given credit; to be able to make an animated character seem so alive is incredible. There are times where you have to knock on someone’s door and tell them that their special someone is dead. This is one of many ways the game really shines because you have to watch those eyes water, that brow crease in sadness, and hear that trembling voice as they ask you if you’re really sure that so and so is dead. This game is good at making you feel the weight of being a detective.
Something else I applaud the game for is the dialogue. It doesn’t pull back any punches and it’s not just the swearing and death threats but the racial slurs that are fresh from 1947. Now of course, I’m not racist, but I have to appreciate a game that really, really puts us in that time period. After WWII I can only imagine the racial insensitivity towards Japan, and we get that along with a few “negro” punches to describe African Americans and so on. Hey, it’s 1947, and that’s what things were like back then — at least from what I learned in History class.
Speaking of 1947, Los Angeles looks spectacular in this game. When I’m driving around, listening to a hip, swingin’ beat while talking to my partner I just want to put on a suit jacket, swanky hat, and live in that world. The clothes, the cars, the buildings, the clubs, it’s a fascinating world to be a part of. I can’t imagine the amount of research and time that went into getting this as accurate as possible, but kudos to the ones behind it.
The gameplay has a little bit of everything. If you played Heavy Rain and thought, “Man I wish there was more investigating to do,” then this game is essentially your holy entity. There’s numerous cases to solve, and each case has you looking for clues, picking them up, turning them in every direction you can think of until you find something. Once you gather clues you have to pursue the leads you have, interrogate people, and work to close the case. This may sound pretty repetitive, but it changes with each case. The crimes become more sinister as you go up in the ranks, some of them really pushing that M rating to the limit. There are more clues to pick up and even with the helpful music chimes when you’re walking around a room it can be difficult to find absolutely everything. And then there’s the interrogation. To be fair, the first couple of people you’ll question are sort of easy to read, but as the game continues it gets harder to tell who’s being honest and who is lying their arse off. But if you call someone on a lie you better have the right evidence to back it up or your case can get screwed up.
As far as action sequences they are most definitely there. Granted, the game focuses more on looking for clues and finding the truth, but there is definitely action to be had. You’ll be involved in shoot-outs, car chases, tailing suspects without being seen, and the always fun moments where a suspect is dumb enough to run away from you. Also, as you’re driving around the city, you’ll sometimes hear a call come through and you can decide if you want to go and solve a street case — I recommend you do, there’s achievements and trophies to be had. Driving is a lot like playing Grand Theft Auto… only you can’t raise hell in the streets. Can you drive around wildly? Yes, especially with your sirens blaring. But if you run into anything your partner will chew you out, and if you come close to hitting a pedestrian you’ll be reminded that you’re purpose is to protect and serve. If you don’t feel like driving you can make your partner drive you to your destination, but if you do this it cuts right to the next scene so you’ll miss out on any street crimes you could be taking. Also, your partner is sort of like a GPS — you can ask for directions, which is very nice in such a big city.
All right, despite my strong feelings of this game being perfect here’s my personal disclaimer: it’s not for everyone and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re not in the mood for a game that focuses more on the story, the characters, and solving the crimes with clues versus running and gunning, then don’t pick this up. Does this mean that the game isn’t fast paced? Absolutely not. It’s just a different form of “action,” in my opinion. No, you can’t run into a suspect and just gun him down, you have to gather clues, question people, and even when you know that the jerk-off in front of you killed the victim you’ll most likely have to take him in instead of straight up killing him.
But not everything goes as planned.
You can try and intimidate some folks and instead of the leaving quietly they’ll chase after you in their car and try to kill you. You can apprehend a suspect and find out that he’s got a gang chasing after him, so suddenly you have to protect him from an all-out war. The action isn’t constant, but it is there. The game focuses more on being suspenseful and it makes you think before you leap into action. Did you find absolutely every clue? What clue are you going to present to prove that you know what’s going on? Is that person lying?
I completely understand why this game has so much hype behind it. It should. It’s extremely well done. The characters, the story, the environment, I enjoy every part of it. It’s rare that I become so emotionally involved in a game, but as I play I find myself snapping at people, “Oh I know you’re lying, you won’t even look at me,” and, “Ha! I knew it! I knew you weren’t innocent!” Even more interesting than the criminals at times are the people you meet in the police force. Cole just gets so much crap for being a good guy! You’ll see police officers doing things that piss you off — one officer slaps a woman in front of you, another might call a murder victim a whore — and you just want to rip their head off. But these men have rank over you, and it’s such a different time period. Still, it’s frustrating, and you really want to be that good guy when no one else is.
5 stars. Case closed. Definitely pick this game up, folks.
Want to see something make it into the segment? Let me know via email: brichibi. Tell me what it is and why you feel it is over-hyped, under-hyped, or hyped just right. Take care, fair readers.