When L.A. Noire first came out on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, it caught my eye: a free-roaming detective game set in 1940s Los Angeles sounded up my alley. Unfortunately, a PC version wasn’t on the cards back then, so I missed out, not being one for console gaming. At Edinburgh Interactive that year, I went as far as to ask a Rockstar North developer, who had just accepted an award for the game, when the PC version would be coming out. “I can’t even tell you if there will be one,” he said, eager not to spoil any surprises. C’est la vie.
A while later, however, a PC version of L.A. Noire did come to light. Called “The Complete Edition” and boasting all the console versions’ DLC, it finally brought the game to PC gamers, although afflicted with frame rate limitations and black bars on certain aspect ratios – things that the developers defended as part of the game’s artistic vision as a film-like experience, but lambasted by the general gaming populace as laziness and a shoddy port. The limits were promptly patched out by modders, but remain in the official, vanilla game.
I’d love to be able to review the PC version of L.A. Noire, which I bought on sale in a GAME store in Belfast this past week. Unfortunately, I can only review the installation process – because I didn’t manage to get much further. After installing the game from its two DVD discs, a process which, while slow, was free of issue, I ran into a couple of brick walls. When I launched the game for the first time, it wanted to activate over the Internet, as many games do these days. I popped in my activation key and all seemed to be well. It ran a check for patches.
Immediately, it found a “mandatory” patch, which had to be downloaded and applied in order to continue. Kindly, the launcher chose not to mention the size of the patch – 176 MB, if you’re curious – but just started downloading, and then attempted to apply it. It failed to apply it, but carried on regardless, and prompted me to create a Rockstar Social Club account. I was somewhat reluctant to do so, but I couldn’t figure out a way around it, even though one allegedly exists, so I created the account, and even gave my postcode as requested (for some inexplicable reason).
The Social Club overlay disappeared and I was faced with a neon sign reading “L.A. Noire”, very much in line with the tone of the game. It blinked and flickered like a real neon sign, and… didn’t do much else. The game did nothing else. Presumably, this was because of the patch that failed to apply, so I force quit the game and headed to the installation directory, where I found the 176 MB patch file, and ran it as an administrator. It patched successfully! Happy that I found a way around the issue, I ran the game again – only to meet a new error about a malformed settings file.
Suffice it to say that I was not amused by this point; it had probably been a couple of hours since I first inserted the game disc and I was still not playing, but rather troubleshooting. The malformed settings message told me to delete the settings file and restart the game, so I did just that, and met the same error again. I looked online, and found a solution which advised that I delete the settings file then run the game directly from the installation directory, without going through the game launcher. A bit of a work-around, but it succeeded in dismissing the error.
Unfortunately, when I started the game, it asked me to download and apply a mandatory patch: the very same mandatory patch that I already manually installed. The patch failed to apply, presumably because it had already been applied, but the game continued rather than closed, and prompted me to log into my Rockstar Social Club account, and then forced me to stare at a blinking neon sign until I hit Alt+F4 and killed the game. I’m not sure how many hours it had been at that point since I first installed the disc. Simply downloading the massive mandatory patch took time on my connection.
Like I said at the start of this article, I was once quite excited about L.A. Noire, and that’s exactly why I bought the PC version. Now, if the PC version were to actually work, there’s a good chance I would enjoy the game; to be perfectly honest, I did play a few minutes of it on a friend’s PS3 one night, and found it quite fun (even if he wouldn’t let me play the driving segments). Right now, I’m still following instructions on the Rockstar support site, which wants me to completely uninstall and reinstall the game into the default installation directory, which is a hard drive I rarely use for games.
If that succeeds, Rockstar Games might be somewhat redeemed in my eyes, as I may finally have the opportunity to enjoy the game I bought. So far, though, I’m completely unimpressed: most of my efforts were carried out last night, and I’ve spent additional time today trying to figure out the errors and issues to no avail. A game should never take so long to play, particularly not when its console edition can be run immediately, straight from the disc: account creation and mandatory patches are the bane of my PC gaming experience right now.
Addendum: I finally managed to play L.A. Noire, more than a full day after attempting my first installation, by reinstalling it to the default installation directory, redownloading the patch, and then manually installing the patch, which involved deleting a number of files from the installation directory, then running the patch file as an administrator, and then running the game directly from the installation directory, also as an administrator. See this page. The game itself then stuttered at 3 or 4 frames per second until I added “-str” to the game’s launch arguments manually.