It's definitely a blast to cruise around 1940s Los Angeles, fighting crime. Probably what I need to do most is slow down and enjoy the ride and the sights, but with senses honed from plenty of GTA, I drive everywhere at about 85 miles an hour. And at that speed, my vision narrows down to a tiny circle of asphalt ahead of me. But from time to time, there's the pleasure of seeing some familiar landmark or streetscene. Or better yet a quasi-familiar landmark, like Angel's Flight in its original location, or Bunker Hill as it was then.
The game is pretty cinematic, which is both good and bad. The main narrative is very linear, as you tackle cases in a set order. It's not quite as bad as it sounds, since after the first few cases, they start to get more complicated, and you may have to choose among several different locations to visit, and doing things in different orders does -- it would seem -- have an effect on how things work out. And also, you're almost guaranteed to get a radio call announcing some random crime in progress that you can get involved in as a little side mission, and some of them are fairly involved and written with as much care as the main missions, if not as much depth. And really, so far, perhaps my favorite five seconds of game play was getting a radio message of 'shots fired, officer down', turning on the siren, and executing a brilliant bootleggers turn on rain-slicked streets to get pointed in the right direction. It's one of the strengths of GTA as well -- it can be fun to just drive around town.
I'm still getting a hang of the interrogation/interview. It's interesting, but one of its real strengths is you don't have to be perfect. You can sort of muddle through a case, biff your questioning really badly, know that you've fucked things up and not gotten the juiciest info, and yet still collar someone for the crime -- maybe even the wrong guy. *And* you get reamed out for it by the captain. And you feel bad for messing up, but it now becomes part of the story that's being told. And it makes it feel so much better when you really ace the next one.
There's some really good incidental music. Ominous little snippets that remind you of this film or that film. Sometimes they seem a bit random, with Psycho knife music as you're driving to a bar just to interview the bartender about a customer. But sometimes the music and the action are perfectly in sync, and you're hooked.
Okay, minuses. There is sort of a strangeness that all you do is fight crime. You do not sleep; you do not eat; you do not go home; you do not talk to your wife. Someone could, and no doubt will, make some bizarre existential bloviation about this. I half-expect a magic negro to appear and explain that I'm in the Matrix or Dark City or something, 'When was the last time you slept? Do you remember what you had for breakfast this morning?"
There is a bit of sameness to the gameplay. It's all well-written and acted, but if I were to unfairly boil the game down to its essence it would be:
Go to crime scene. Walk all over everything and examine all clues you bump into.
Go to other places and do the same thing, interrogating everyone interrogatable and asking them all available questions from the menu.
Now for the flurry of button-mashing and joysticking! A suspect runs! Chase him down on foot or in car in scenarios requiring greater and greater manual dexterity.
Enjoy the lengthy cutscene.
Now as I say, that's a bit unfair, but I can see that this movie/game may not have much replay value. Once more to hone the questioning, perhaps, and see some things you missed, but there's not a lot of incentive to redo the twitchy game parts -- what, I should try to catch the guy with less damage to my car?
And the cut scenes involve a lot of flashbacks, which I assume will become more relevant as the story comes to a close, but at present they're a little mystifying, bordering on annoying.
But again, these grumbles remain pretty minor in the face of what's a very absorbing and beautiful game.