Tag Archives: L.A. Noire

Achievements of the Week – The Calamity Hax0r1! Nut Edition

For this week, Achievements popped in only two games, but I also played a lot of Fallout: New Vegas (shocking, I know), as I’m slowly making progress on those ridiculous challenges added into the game via Gun Runners’ Arsenal, as well as aligning myself with Mr. House eventually. A part of me wants to pop in some older Xbox 360 games and go after a few Achievements, like finishing off LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean or doing that one for getting a ton of damage during a single case in L.A. Noire, but I kind of doubt that will happen. Something with my brain is working against me. Maybe though this weekend, seeing as the biggest of plans is pumpkin-picking and drawing.

Okay, here we go…

From Bastion…


Calamity Kid (30G): Complete the story in New Game Plus.

This didn’t take too long and was much easier than the first romp through. Probably because in New Game+ The Kid’s level and distillery drinks and weapon tweaks all carry over. Some levels I previously had trouble on were a breeze, even the dreamy parts of Who Knows Where. That doesn’t mean it was any less enjoyable, as it totally was. This game is constantly and consistently beautiful, sounds amazing, and it a blast to play. Also, it was nice to hear some more lines from the Narrator.

I also got another Achievement–the last one, actually, making for 12 out of 12–but it’s a hidden one and spoilery so that’s all I’ll say.

From Deus Ex: Human Revolution…


Consciousness is Over-rated (15G): Knock out 100 enemies in a single playthrough.


Hax0r1! (15G): Successfully hack 50 devices within the same playthrough.

The hacking mini-game is…interesting. I didn’t really understand it my first few attempts, and truth be told, I still don’t get it now, some 50+ hacks later, but I am better at it. You have to capture a bunch of nodes without getting noticed, and that’s made a whole lot easier with some Augmentation purchases. Hacking is a pretty important skill for getting into locked places, shutting off cameras, and reading people’s emails.

Also, this one’s definitely a contender for Achievement name of the year.


Gun Nut (20G): Fully upgrade one of your weapons.

I upgraded the tranquilizer rifle so that it reloads faster and fires better. Not that it’s doing me any good. Playing stealthy is one hill after another, and I’m just so ready to go tumbling down to the ground below. Next playthrough, I’m upgrading the shotgun fully and then taking everyone out with a single blast to the face.

And how did you do this week? If you don’t speak up in the comments below, I’ll never know.

Games Completed in 2011, #28 – L.A. Noire

I don’t think I’ll ever forget my L.A. Noire experience. It’s up there with Limbo and the featureless boy’s early jaunt through the forest, with Fallout 3 and leaving Vault 101 for the first time, with finishing a level in Super Mario Bros. by clinging to a flag pole and drifting down, fireworks praising your accomplishments. This crazy creation from Rockstar and Team Bondi is a mix of genres and games and most definitely not another skin for Grand Theft Auto IV fanatics to wear. It’s also unlike anything I’ve ever played, and it’s “motion scan” facial animation work has ruined everything that’s come before it–and possibly everything else after it. Deus Ex: Human Revolution may be all shiny and futurized, but it’s impossible not to cringe during cutscenes where characters are talking to each other.

You play as Cole Phelps, a detective trying to do what’s right, as well as avoiding the horrors of his past, namely his time spent at the battle of Okinawa during World War II. It’s the late 1940s, and Los Angeles is yours for the scouring; as the city begins to thrive with post-war opportunities and jazz and all things that encompass film noire, so does crime. Scoundrels and scum really earn their nicknames in L.A. Noire, committing horrific crimes, most of them against women, and it’s up to Detective Phelps to piece together what happened from clues, inspecting the crime scene, and interviewing key witnesses or suspects.

It’s a point-and-click adventure with astounding production values. As you search a crime scene, a deep, whomping bassline plays, letting you know you’ve not yet found everything. As you drive around the city–or let your partner take the wheel–you’ll go over the case’s details while listening to remixed versions of tunes by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra, Dinah Washington, Louis Jordan, Gene Krupa, and Billie Holiday. By far, the music is the strongest factor for immersing one’s self in a period lost to time and technology. Nobody writes songs like these anymore.

It’s a game that demands you pay attention. To play detective. Sure, the musical sound clues make it a little easy for finding actual clues at a crime scene, but it’s up to you, you playing Cole, to determine what’s actually important, where to go to first, what questions to ask witnesses, when to get tough and accusatory, when to lock up the guilty. There’s even one mission during the Homicide desk where you’ll be traversing all across L.A. based on cryptic poetry, having to use your eyes and knowledge of the city to get you where you need to go. Genuinely rewarding, by the completion of it.

Unfortunately, L.A. Noire is quite disappointing come the end. The developers pull a Metal Gear Solid 2, and you’re suddenly no longer playing as Cole Phelps. Sure, there’s a story reason for it, but it felt a bit like a betrayal, as well as clearly foreshadowed what was to unfold. And what unfolded was trite, a death not needed, not justified. Cole bites it saving Elsa, the woman he cheated on his wife with, which didn’t make him a terrible man, only all the more human. Then there’s a funeral scene with some cryptic accusations tossed at minor characters. After that and credits, strangely, you can hop back into the game to look for newspapers, golden film reels, cars, locations, and missed unassigned street missions–as Cole. Yeah, it’s a videogame all right.

That said, it’s a fantastic one, and I encourage all to experience, even if, like me, you really hate the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Most of the time you can’t even take your gun out of its holster, and L.A. citizens are pros at hopping out of the way of reckless drivers. And you can skip all the action sequences if they are too tough or not your thing; it’s a story game, where the story overshadows the game, and the game exists only to strengthen the story. There really is nothing quite like it.

Achievements of the Week – The Police School of Philosophy Edition

Ahhh…another week of posts at Grinding Down comes to a close, and we have another round-up of earned Achievements. Alas, this was a light week. Extremely light. I mean, I did earnestly try for some Achievements in Fallout: New Vegas over the last couple of nights, but between getting distracted within the game and it freezing on me…it was all for naught. Besides, both Caravan Master and The Legend of the Star are time-heavy deals, frustratingly slow and methodic, and I’m inching closer, I swears, but nothing’s popped yet. Just need a few more Sunset Sarsaparilla Star Caps (41/50) and a few more Caravan wins (24/30).

That said, here’s my only two unlocked Achievements this week:

From L.A. Noire…


The Brass (30G): Achieve maximum rank.


The Long Arm Of The Law (30G): Complete all street crime cases.

I wrote about this one over here.

And that’s it! Boo.

My goals for this upcoming week are to beat Bastion, grind LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean to completion, and maybe give the extremely silly Nier a few more minutes of my time. We’ll see what gets done. I’m kind of teetering on my depression between wanting to do lots of comic work and not, so it all depends on the state of my headspace. If comics take the reins this week, most likely gaming gets pushed to the back-burner. Plus, there’s going to be even more moving and things to do this weekend. Really looking forward to stay-in weekends once Tara and I get into our new place, as the coming and going really does mess up my passion and trivial scheduling. Okay, sorry about that. The mind, it speaks what it wants…

Okay, Grinding Down readers. What’s your favorite Achievement unlocked this week?

Changing discs and stopping crimes in L.A. Noire

Last night, as I progressed towards reaching the highest law rank and stopping all street crime cases in L.A. Noire, I found myself constantly changing game discs and wondering if I had somehow slipped through a tear in the universe and traveled back to the days of massively epic RPGs on the original PlayStation. Nope. I checked my computer. It was 2011, it was the age of industry, and I was playing a game on the Xbox 360. I didn’t count, but I’d venture a guess that I got up from my comfy armchair to change game discs at least more than five times–within a ten-minute timeframe. Let me explain the why though.

See, I’ve already beaten L.A. Noire, but wanted to go back and finish up all the street crime cases that I skipped during my intense, focused playthrough. I did a few of these petty crime cases in the beginning, but as the main story cases got more crazy and Cole began to lose himself in his work, so did I, letting many of these appetizers fall to the background. Thankfully, via the main menu screen, you can go back to each desk’s respective section and free roam in that world, gaining the chance to find locations, golden film reels, and stop criminals in quick, bite-sized side missions.

The problem is that since L.A. Noire on the Xbox 360 is so huge, it had to be expanded onto three separate discs, with the different desks divided up like so: Patrol and Traffic on disc one, Homicide on disc two, and Vice and Arson on disc three. My quest forward began with me popping in disc three and doing some street crimes from the Arson desk; once those were done, and the map was seemingly empty of red markers, I went to the Vice desk to do the same thing. A message popped up that said I had finished all the street crimes for this desk. Cool, thanks for that. Off to the second disc then, to play the Homicide desk. Did a few more crime missions, creeping closer to all 40 completed. No more markers on the map, but no message like before had popped up either. Oh well. Off to see what I missed during Cole’s time on the Traffic desk (Patrol has no “free roam” option). Upon starting free roam for Traffic, I got that message indicating all street crimes were complete for this desk. All right. Back to Arson desk then, switching the discs out. Load up free roam and can’t find any red markers on the map that highlight available street crime cases. I drive around for a bit and the police radio chatter cranks up, alerting me to a nearby crime in progress. Off I go…only to discover it’s a street crime case I had already completed. Grrr. Okay, maybe I missed something on the Homicide desk. Same thing happened, with no map markers, but getting called to a mission I had previously done. At this point, I only need to finish up two more street crimes to brush them all under the rug, and this is driving me mad. TO THE INTERNET, ROY EARLE! YOU CAN DRIVE.

Oh. Duhhh. Discovered that some street crime missions are only available at specific times of the day during each desk, meaning some during daylight and some at night. I had no way of knowing that.

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Basically, for the Homicide and Arson desks, I had to drive around for a good amount of in-game time, waiting for the sun to set/rise, and then–and only then–did the last two street crimes become available. They were easy ones, a car chase and a hand-to-hand brawl. I just wish that there had been a better way of keeping track of completed street crimes in the game. Like, why not have the stats printed next to the “free roam” option in the respective case folders so we wouldn’t have to load and switch out discs so much? Makes sense to me. Unfortunately, this experience does not instill me with a sense of excitement towards chasing down that final newspaper, the remaining 25+ cars, and, uh, 49 golden film reels. Yes, forty-nine. Throughout my entire L.A. Noire experience, I only stumbled across one out of those fifty collectibles.

Anyways, here’s my reward for all the back and forth disc-changing madness:


The Long Arm Of The Law (30G): Complete all street crime cases.

Achievements of the Week – The Burning Love Edition

Here we are for the second stab at rounding up all of those juicy Achievements unlocked during the last week. Don’t expect the naming convention of these posts to be conventional; they are born on a whim, on a phrase, on a wild brain-bite, with most often the first Achievement listed acting as the muse. Okay, let’s do this!

From Team Fortress 2…


Flamethrower (5G): Set five enemies on fire in 30 seconds.

I was trying so hard for this Achievement, managing to set three enemies on fire before a turret took me out. Was bummed. But then, after respawning, I quickly shuffled back to the warzone, lit two more dudes on fire, and ping. Glad to see that it didn’t have to be all five on one life. I have to imagine though, that since it took me about 10 seconds to respawn and five or so more to get over to the fighting, that it was down to the wire.


Nemesis (5G): Get five revenge kills.

Revenge is a dish best served BOILING HOT, YA BUNCH OF SNIPING SNOTHEADS. This one also tied in with the above Achievement, in case you couldn’t figure that out on your own.

I actually unlocked several more Achievements for Team Fortress 2, but I did them in a whoring kind of way and am not terribly proud of my actions. We’ll leave them unmentioned this week.

From Half-Life 2…


Hot PotatOwned (10G): Kill a Combine soldier with his own grenade.

Ha, funny.

From L.A. Noire…


Johnny On The Spot (30G): Respond to 20 street crime cases.

Petty crooks and ruffians are no match for the mighty Cole Phelps. I also unlocked the Miles On The Clock Achievement, which gets some coverage here. Closing in on a few more, such as The Long Arm Of The Law and The Brass. Maybe they’ll ping this weekend. Maybe they won’t. I’m no fortune-teller.

And that’s it. Been a slow week for Achievements, mainly because I was focusing more on other projects, like journal comics and Supertown comics. Writing up a crazy review of Minecraft. Watching some old Shark Week stuff on Netflix to make up for the fact that I don’t have the Discovery Channel currently. Oh, and moving. Always with the moving. Wish I could get Achievements for packing boxes and carrying them to my car, over and over and over again. Something like this, perhaps:


Professional Boxer (100G): Packed five consecutive W.B. Mason boxes, carried them down two flights of stairs, loaded them into your car, and broke a sweat.

Hells yeah.

Putting miles on the clock in L.A. Noire

I beat L.A. Noire a couple weeks ago, but I’m not going to be talking about the game as a whole or its ending just yet or all the things I loved slash hated. That will all have to wait until I get to it on my 2011 Completed Games list. In the meantime, I’ve dipped back into the game to play clean up for Achievements, as well as just drive around Los Angeles without the constant pressure of finding clues, undermining suspects, and closing cases. It’s been really nice.

Team Bondi and Rockstar’s 1940s Los Angeles is bland in terms of things to do other than driving from point A to point B, but brimming with beauty and buildings to look at, observe, eye hump, and be amazed with. Aesthetics is the name of the game here, and hoping into a car, tuning in to Billie Holiday, and driving down busy city streets is a little like time-traveling. It’s also quite relaxing because, unlike Grand Theft Auto IV, bumping into a car or accidentally swerving over to the sidewalk does not get the black and white chasing after you; in fact, you’re the black and white, and the game does quietly reprimand you for reckless driving, but never enough to put the fear in you to drive as straight and narrow as they come.

I do try to drive safe and civilian-like, but sometimes I get sleepy and veer into another car. Or some dinkhead begins to turn, but suddenly decides to stop in the middle of the road; that seems to happen a lot. No worries. Cole and his partner are always fine, never thrown from there car or anything, and the cars don’t ever explode like they would in Liberty City. Crash a car, find another, and so on. The developers have made it extremely easy to stay in the game, to keep exploring and listening to those snazzy, jazzy tunes, and that’s pretty amazing as most open-world games get boring real fast. Die a few times in The Saboteur or Grand Theft Auto IV, and seeing that I’d have to re-drive (or re-walk) all the way back to where I was is more frustration than I need, and off goes the system. However, with L.A. Noire, there’s none of that. The only pain, I guess, is having to switch out between three different discs to “free roam” certain crime desks.

Anyways, last night, as the heat and sleepiness wore me down, I found out that I’d been driving a whole lot so far, unlocking this fun Achievement:


Miles on the Clock (15G): Drive more than 194.7 miles.

Obviously, this took some considerable time, especially since I reveled in the fact that, during the game’s main missions, you could totally make your partner drive to the desired location without fear of ruining your car or losing your way or simply getting distracted. However, doing so did not count towards your total mileage for this Achievement. Post-game, finding hidden cars and completing more street crime cases definitely helped with this. I think I was mindlessly driving around near the Hollywood sign though when this nugget pinged. Vroom vroom.

I still have a few more somewhat attainable Achievements to go after, meaning I’ll be spending more time in the glitz and glamor of L.A. That sounds fine to me. Locations, newspapers, more street crimes, hidden cars, golden film reels–here I come!

30 Days of Gaming, #23 – Game with the best graphics or art style

Gameplay always trumps graphics for me, but there are the occasional videogames where the graphics or art style simply just can’t be ignored. It almost gets in the way of whatever you’re trying to get character X to do, and you have to give in, take a hit, sit back and gaze upon the sweat and tears of artists and designers and visionaries alike.

In this generation of gaming, high-res graphics are pushing the boundaries of real and unreal, bringing in unbelievable lighting, textures, and movement. Those cars in the latest Gran Turismo games might as well be plucked right off some heavily raced and televised track; those plants and jungle bushes in Uncharted are covered in bugs, and you know it; those faces in L.A. Noire are true faces, skinned off their respective actors by sick-minded men like Dr. Hannibal Lector and tossed into the game to give you a realism unlike any you’ve previously seen. There’s a new level of game graphics, as well as a new horde of gamers demanding they get better and better. That’s cool and all, but I’m a firm believer that we’ve reached the peak–or a few feet from it–and that this is as good as it gets, which is fine because realistic graphics are not the be-all, end-all, and you just have to look at the indie gaming scene to see what can be done with less…or more creativity.

Games like Limbo, PixelJunk Shooter, Bit.Trip Void, and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom all stand tall with stellar gameplay and a look to match it. Would Limbo have been as haunting as it was if you could actually read the little boy’s expressions? Most likely no. Would those quirky pie puzzles feel as quirky if it wasn’t for that silent films-esque presentation? But enough about those titles. Let’s get wet.

I think Aquaria has a fantastic look to it, nailing a world we honestly don’t know too much about and only get to glimpse sparingly through documentaries or movies or fascinating photos. Like in Finding Nemo, the scenes set underwater in the wild ocean where life is all colors and bubbles were a sight to behold. It’s so foreign and strange under the water, and yet it can be equally calming and uplifting, just floating in the blue, weightless, full of wonder. There are two men behind Aquaria, Derek Yu and Alec Holowka, and Yu was the lead artist. His work gives Aquaria a hand-drawn, storybook style, complimenting the 2D exploration gameplay. It looks gorgeous in screenshots, and then doubly in action. Loneliness is an important theme and feeling in the game; one certainly feels all by their lonesome when swimming gently through open waters or the kelp forest. Items are more detailed in the foreground, but blurry shadows and outlines of other structures in the background give off a great sense of scale. And brain coral never looked so brainy.

I do vow to return to Aquaria and Naija’s troubles someday, maybe a day when my Mac isn’t on the verge of breaking. At least for one more look at beauty in motion.

A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in

Hey, Grinding Down readers, did I mention that I’m on vacation? Well…I am.

That’s not to say I haven’t been gaming some because vacation, to me, does imply some videogaming, but just not enough to get the creative juices flowing for writing over here. I did end up purchasing two more downloadable titles for my Nintendo 3DS: Super Mario Land and Dragon Quest Wars. I love the former for nostalgia and beat it in one sitting in less than half an hour, and the latter is a little weird and unclear, but I’ll continue to give it a sporting try.

Speaking of sports, I’ve also played some golf while on vacation, and this is real life golf, with real life sweating and real life swings and real life pars. I got par on a par 3 hole, and that’s all I will ever need out of that sport, truthfully. I also ended up winning minigolf last night at the Ocean City boardwalk, using my skillz efficiently and effectively. Going golfing again today; don’t be too jealous.

When not using my Xbox 360 to show my sisters the greatness that is Game of Thrones, I’ve been playing some more L.A. Noire. Closing in on the end of the game, methinks. Hoping it all comes together in the end because it seems more like we’ve already reached the title’s peak, and now there’s nowhere to go but down. Like, I’m still waiting for the newspapers and war flashbacks to click, and then for Cole to make something of himself in Los Angeles.

Naturally, while on vacation, I’m spending some time thinking about what I’ll do after vacation is over. The third DLC for Fallout: New Vegas, Old World Blues, comes out next week, as does Bastion…I think. Too lazy to actually look this up for confirmation. Being a videogame journalist is tough work, y’know. Then there’s the final Harry Potter movie, as well as A Dance With Dragons to zoom through and beginning to slowly move out of the Leaky Cauldron, making for one crazy stressful time upon returning to the real world.

Oh, and there’s been a lot of Munchkin happening in South Jersey. More on that later, but I will say that Munchkin Zombies is particulary fantastic. Mmm brains…

Okay, gotta put pants on to go golfing. The course I’m going to has a strict “must wear pants” policy.

The top five greatest things about L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire is not Grand Theft Auto IV set in the 1940s, and for that I’m eternally happy. That’s not what I wanted. I wanted that open-world feel, but more guidance, more direction, and that seems to be the case here, pun intended. A linear game set in an open Los Angeles that, if you want, you can go explore and get lost in and attempt to run citizens over. But you’re a good-natured detective, and a detective like that moves slowly, meticulously, combing crime scenes for clues and interrogating suspects and musing with partners over possible plans of action. Sometimes action takes precendence, with Cole chasing suspects on foot or car, or trying to survive a shootout, or desperately trying to keep his hat on during a fistfight. But it’s the detective work and questioning of suspects and branching paths that make L.A. Noire its own game, and not just Grand Theft Los Angeles.

Oh, and here are five other great things about L.A. Noire:

5. Make a face, any face

This might surprise some to find my praise of the facial animation not number one of this insignificant list of mine, but that’s how I roll. I like the face work, I do. It’s very impressive, especially considering that both Tara and I immediately recognized Greg Grunberg as Hugo Moller just on his face alone. We were like, “Hey, it’s that guy!” And we were right. It was that guy. And we recognized him before he spoke, whereas it is often the opposite that confirms a suspicion about a voice actor in a videogame. And then Hugo began to talk, and it was like I wasn’t even in a videogame anymore, just a show on TV, where a guy was being questioned, and he was answering accordingly, twitching and looking away and furrowing his brow as we all do, and we had judgment calls to make.

4. All that jazz

In the late 1940s, after the horror of World War II, music reflected American enthusiasm tempered with European disillusionment. Jazz and solo singers breaking free from big band ensembles ate up the limelight, and Rockstar took it a step further for L.A. Noire‘s soundtrack, utilizing the remixing skills of some of today’s best DJs to create new versions of the old. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton are re-imagined in spectacular ways. Take a listen, I promise you that the songs are intoxicating and hypnotic. It’s a shame that I don’t drive around more to listen to them, but more on that in a bit.

3. That carrot is not irrelevant

When at a crime scene and searching for clues, Cole can pick up and inspect a number of items, many of which are either red herrings or simply inconsequential to the case. My favorite pick-ups are inside a suspect’s house, where Cole will meander into the kitchen, pick up a carrot, and stare at it for minutes before finally deciding that, yes, it’s most likely not the murder weapon. I’ve also noticed his love for picking up boxes of laundry detergent. Either way, it’s nice that they kept these items in, as it does give the feeling of truly examining a crime scene, no matter how silly they ultimately are. Always examine shoes, too.

2. Baby steps up the stairs

Y’all might think the facial motion capturing work in L.A. Noire is its greatest achievement, but you’d be wrong. Somehow, after seven years of programming and coding and researching, the people at Rockstar and Team Bondi were able to perfectly capture the way people climb stairs. If you don’t hold down the run button, Cole will climb a set of stairs in itty bitty steps, bobbing his head all the way up, like a jogger running in place. It’s hilarious and at the same time instantly recognizable; we’ve all gone up stairs like this at one time or another, placing both feet on each step all the way to the top, and it only helps to nail down immersion and authenticity.

1. You drive, I’m lazy

Most cop-work is done in pairs. Partners are not just a stereotype of the cop genre, but an integral aspect of working the streets and solving crimes. Plus, they can act as a personal chauffeur. At just about any point, you can hold down a button and have your partner drive to the next location. This is wonderful. You still get to listen to the interactive dialogue you’d hear if you yourself drove, but now you can listen without worrying about running into another car or careening off a cliff. If there’s no dialogue to be had, you simply warp to the desired location via a short loading screen. Again, this is wonderful.

One of my biggest gripes with Grand Theft Auto IV is how sadistic the mission structure was, often having you drive across two bridges and many miles to start a mission. Upon death or failure, you’d have to do all that again. It was even hard to stay on track in games like The Saboteur and Red Faction: Guerrilla. Here, in L.A. Noire, arrival at your destination is guaranteed. Occasionally, I do drive, but it’s always messy, and I rear-end a lot of cars, which gets my partner all huffy and puffy. Not needed. Hopefully this is something every open-world game can implement though how is not a quick answer to me. The fact that you are constantly paired up with a second person surely helps.

Don’t think I’m 100% sweet on the game though. There’s plenty I dislike, and if y’all are good and enjoy this post and share it with Reddit and Kotaku and StumpledUpon and the whole Interworld so that I can get rich and famous fast, then I’ll do a post on the five worst things in L.A. Noire.

Color versus black and white in L.A. Noire

L.A. Noire is defaulted to play in color, which is a bit odd given its namesake and obvious admiration for film noir, low lighting, and unbalanced compositions. You do have the option to switch between playing in color and playing in black, white, and gray, but you can only select this option after starting the game and getting through its first chunk of cutscenes. That’s unfortunate because now you’ve already experienced the game in color, albeit just for a bit, and I guess it’s kind of like making a turkey sandwich, taking a bite, deciding that today isn’t turkey’s day, stripping the sandwich of its meat, and then replacing it with bologna. I mean, why didn’t you just make a bologna sandwich to begin with?

Okay, food analogies aside, after the opening narration and cutscenes, I switched over to black and white via the main menu options just as young, calm detective Cole Phelps and his partner began searching an alleyway for clues about a recent shooting. The change from color to black and white was phenomenal, striking even, especially with both detectives wielding flashlights, casting these sharp, bright cones of white on everything. It made searching for clues a little tougher due to the epic wash of white, but you truly felt like a bit part in a hardboiled police procedure.

And then a little later the game informed me that doors with golden yellow handles are open to Cole while doors without golden yellow handles cannot be opened. Great. In grayscale L.A. Noire, all door handles look exactly the same: a solid gray. There’s no way to tell the difference except to have Cole walk into every single door, making him look like a complete tool eight times out of ten. Strike one against black and white. The second strike came a tiny bit later as I was flipping through the game’s manual and noticed that, during gunfights and skirmishes, loss of health is indicated by the world’s color fading from color to black and white. The more muted it gets, the closer Cole is to his coffin. Perfect. In grayscale L.A. Noire, you can’t tell how much damage you’ve taken because the world around you is already muted and monochrome. The world doesn’t, for instance, revert back to color upon being wounded. It just stays the same. Strike two.

There’s no strike three. Two reasons were enough to convince me to switch back to color, and while it is not as aesthetically pleasing, at least I can be sure that playing the game will be easier. Certainly, I’ve found doors with golden yellow handles much quicker.

The Saboteur did not make a big splash on the gaming scene, but it’s a game that surprised me and took me for a wild ride across Paris; as the Nazis were destroyed and pushed back, color returned to France. It was a neat gimmick, but those early levels of the game where the only color you can see is red were so attractive and haunting. Same kind of goes for Fallout 3, wherein the Lone Wanderer is transported back to a simpler time before the bombs dropped, to Tranquility Lane, a virtual reality simulation housed in Vault 112. Here, the player will have to free his father from the same trap while dealing with a small neighborhood of 1950s-perfect people. Everything is seemingly pulled straight out of Pleasantville. Both games have a lasting impression on me, and both for the same reason: the excellent inclusion of effective noir stylings. It shouldn’t get in the way of gameplay, but it should definitely set a tone, pun intended.

Other than not being able to truly play in black and white and enjoy myself, I’m having a great time in L.A. Noire staring down suspects and searching for clues. As well as letting my partner drive me to and fro. Every open-world game needs chauffeurs. Yup, even you, LEGO City Stories. I just got up to the first case for Homicide called “The Red Lipstick Murder,” and I’m looking forward to solving some more mysteries this weekend. With Tara’s help, too. She’s like my very own personal assistant detective. “She’s lying! Look at her face!”