L.A. Neo Noire
Originally published on GameInformer.com May 2, 2011, at 9:40 PM.
Selected for Blog Herding: Editor and Reader Picks 5/26/11.
Selected for Game Informer Newsletter 5/28/11.
7,392 views as of June 4, 2018.
L.A. Noire inspired me to tour the Historic Downtown area of the City of Angels to see how the streets might have looked during 1947 as depicted in Rockstar’s gritty and entertaining vision. I’ve interspersed my pictorial with notorious tales during my lifetime and one unique experience of my own, all in keeping with the hard boiled atmosphere of the video game.
1977-1978: Hillside Strangler. Twelve girls and women were raped, tortured and murdered in the hills above the city by this serial killer, who turned out to be two male cousins, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono.
1980s: Bloods vs. Crips. These two violent street gangs waged a four decade war from about 1960 to 2000, reaching a zenith during this decade due to the media’s coverage of regular drive-by shootings, executions and injured or murdered bystanders.
1984-1985: Night Stalker. Richard Ramirez terrorized L.A. with 14 random killings that also involved torture, rape and mutilation. His victims were young and old, male and female, and covered a wide swath of the city, fueling paranoia.
1985-2007: Grim Sleeper. The murders of at least 10 women, many of them prostitutes, are attributed to this alleged serial killer, who was inactive for 14 years between 1988 and 2002. A suspect was arrested in 2010 based on DNA evidence.
1990s: Rampart scandal. More than 70 officers in the Rampart division’s anti-gang unit were implicated in unprovoked shootings and beatings, evidence planting, suspect framing, drug dealing, bank robberies, perjury and cover-ups in one of the nation’s most widespread cases of police misconduct.
1992: L.A. Riots. The acquittal of police officers in the televised beating of Rodney King sparked six days of unrest that resulted in 53 dead, thousands injured and about $1 billion in damage. State and federal troops were required to quell the disturbances.
Mid-1990s: I worked in Koreatown. It was exciting but not for any reason that can be considered good or worthwhile. Homeless harassment, muggings, shootings, drug dealers and car accidents were part of the landscape outside our combination protected doors. I enjoyed that job, and we did go out often for lunch. But that didn’t mean you dropped your guard.
One afternoon when I was walking to my car for the slow drive home, I noticed a commotion at the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and S. Oxford Ave. I was in no rush, so approached what appeared to be an automobile accident. A paramedic was standing apart from the scene, so I what happened. “There was an accident,” she said tersely. I asked if anyone was hurt. She glared at me as if I was telling her how to do her job.
So I left her alone to survey the scene, if that is in fact what she was doing. As I drew closer, I could see that three cars were involved in a chain reaction collision. The only victim I could see was a man reclined in the middle vehicle, clearly dazed by the experience. The cars all showed damage though his was the worst for wear. At that moment I saw a man approaching from the vicinity of the accident.
He was a tall Asian man, walking leisurely toward me. Behind him, another man gained ground, lifting his feet more purposely. Perhaps at the sound of footsteps, the first man began quickening his pace, turning into our parking lot and racing between the cars. His pursuer shouted, if I remember, but to no avail. The first man climbed a fence at the back of the lot, and fell head first on the other side, below our lot.
As we approached, we cautiously looked over the edge of where our lot dropped down into the mass transit lot on the other side. On the ground below we saw the man lying on his back, eyes partially open and with labored breathing. I couldn’t be certain, but it appeared as if he had a red bump on his forehead. A crowd had gathered at this point and sirens could be heard winding their way through city streets.
We watched as his breathing became more shallow, then his lips began to turn crimson as blood escaped from the narrow part between them. His entire body began to twitch, albeit subtly. At this point, some officers had arrived via patrol car and secured the scene. In so doing they took note of bystanders and asked if anyone witnessed what happened. I and one other indicated we had, and were asked to join them.
By the time we made our away around, more emergency personnel had arrived. Officers on bike and motorcycle joined the others; many standing around talking as if catching up. Paramedics quickly went about their work, kneeling beside the man as one raised his sleeves and took a pulse while both inspected his head and body. I don’t think they even attempted resuscitation. The one sighed and half shrugged in exasperation. “He’s gone,” he said.
Soon thereafter he twisted the man’s arm, saying “Look at this” and revealing needle marks on his inner forearm. The crowd took note of this sign, but scores of people who since had arrived on scene were preoccupied with other matters. I even saw a muscular man in a skin tight light purple body suit with “Police” stamped on it. He looked like some kind of pulp crime fighter, though I now wonder whether my memory was playing tricks on me.
Out of nowhere, an angry cop confronted us bystanders. “Don’t you know CPR? I can’t believe you didn’t do anything.” I couldn’t imagine that giving CPR to someone bleeding out of their mouth would have helped and frankly was wary of the risks. A paramedic standing behind the officer apparently concurred, as he looked at us and shook his head while grimacing. That assessment was gratifying to say the least.
At this point, a motorcycle officer joined our group and said, “You’re not gonna believe this, but this guy apparently caused another accident nearby, fled that scene in his vehicle but was pursued by witnesses present at that collision, before colliding with the motorists at this intersection over here.” It was beginning to make sense, he was likely strung out on a heroin high as he careened through L.A. streets.
An officer took my statement as matter of course, but it was clear this investigation was winding down. With the suspect dead and the pieces falling into place, it was time for everyone to leave the scene and for me to finally head home. I was a little more wary of the commute but no more wary of the colorful people that careen in and out of our lives daily.
1994: Murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Former star athlete and actor O.J. Simpson was found liable for the wrongful death of his former wife and her friend. Their brutal murders and the subsequent pursuit and trials mesmerized the public.
1997: North Hollywood shootout. Two heavily armed bank robbers, Larry Phillips, Jr., and Emil Matasareanu, waged a running street battle with police, injuring 11 officers and seven civilians and causing much property damage before both were killed.
1999: Millennium Bomber. Ahmed Ressam, AKA Benni Noris, attempted to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year’s Eve, but was caught at the border with explosives capable of 40 times the damage caused by a car bomb.
2005: Train derailment. Two commuter trains collided after one struck a vehicle left by a suicidal man, resulting in 11 deaths and multiple injuries. The man, who left the vehicle after changing his mind, was later convicted of 11 counts of first degree murder.
2009: Station fire. The largest fire in L.A. County history burned about 144,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest and killed two firefighters. It was deemed the result of arson and a homicide investigation was begun.
2011: L.A. Noire. Cole Phelps commandeers 46 of 95 vehicles in two hours of public service as a member of the LAPD. I don't know why, but this has caught my imagination and is what I've spent most of my time doing, not to mention abandoning my chaperones.
Driving, gunplay, melee combat, traditional gameplay elements work well in a title nonetheless focused on police investigative techniques. And although there are framerate and collision detection issues, not to mention fans that blow on walls, the presentation in general is superlative.
The game's Motion Scan technology is truly phenomenal and creates inspired gameplay whether interviews or interrogations. But, in the words of Clarice Starling, can Phelps "turn that high-powered perception at yourself"?
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