on January 2, 2012
I've been intrigued by this game since I first glimpsed the facial animation technology used to render such amazingly detailed features and expressions on the game characters, as well as the potential for a great interactive detective story set in 1940's Los Angeles; however, I was leery to spend $50 on a PC title so many people have had problems with. I finally decided to buy/download from Steam (because it was on sale), and I followed the advice on the help forums and was able to get the game running (which after reading some of the reviews seems a small miracle).
Excited to see the game boot up, I was instantly crushed by the dreadfully handicapped graphics. The performance of the game was abysmal. After updating drivers, dropping the graphics settings to the minimum and tweaking all the computer setting I could, the game still stuttered and lagged horribly. Admittedly my rig is not cutting edge (Windows 7 64bit, Intel Core Duo 2 (3.0GHz), (2) GeForce GTX260 SLI, 8 GB Ram), but it runs plenty of graphic intensive games just fine. I tried! truly I did, but after only 30 minutes of game play, I just couldn't get into the game or story with such horrible frame rates. So, alas, it's hard to say if the game is actually fun...it certainly looked fun.
Although I was really disappointed, I can't say that I was surprised. This is Rockstar's signature "nose thumb" at the PC gaming community. As far back as GTA Vice City, Rockstar has been releasing PC games as an afterthought, never bothering to optimize or rebuild the code to run smoothly on PC rigs. We, fellow PC gamers, do not make up enough market-share for Rockstar to really care. This is unfortunate, because I really do like their games (when they work). To be fair, I think Rockstar did an amazing job breaking new technological ground, but I just hope somebody else runs with it and makes a game designed to run on a PC, not a console.
If you say anything about Rockstar, say that they're consistent...consistent in selling non-optimized, sluggish PC games that are unplayable even on the fastest PC Rigs. Between GTA IV and LA Noir, I feel a bit battered...once bitten, twice shy? Twice bitten, pathologically terrified? I do not think I will be purchasing any Rockstar products again in the future.
UPDATE: After poking around a bit more in the Steam help forums I did find a workaround for my system (see specs above). It required typing a command line (modifier?) "-str" (without quotes) under the options menu on the launch screen. This is Rockstar's "fix":
"These command line parameters are not officially supported but are provided for your convenience. To use them, input the command line parameters directly into the Command Line field of the launcher. To access this, launch the game using LANLauncher and then access the Options menu."
"-str Enable single threaded renderer, which may improve performance or compatibility on some systems."
The -str command (with the graphics set to low or "performance"), increased my frame-rate from 5fps to about 30fps. This was a huge improvement that made the game more or less playable (although there were still frame-rate lags and funky textures). I'm still utterly frustrated with Rockstar for basically releasing a beta version of this game, which requires clumsy workarounds that "...are not officially supported".
I'm most of the way through the game. Overlooking all the technical flaws, the game is a refreshing change in genre and design. The rendering of 1947 Los Angeles is impressive and the game does immerse you in that time and place. Although the Cole Phelps character has a loose back story, I feel that Rockstar could have spent a bit more time developing the protagonist. The facial motion capture has set the bar pretty high, so I wanted to know why Phelps had that pained expression on his face(remorse or a bad burrito?). What drives this guy? Why does he care? Like in any good story, character development is key. I have high hopes that this facial motion capture technology will really allow the gaming industry to explore deeper story telling. All that said, the game is still pretty amazing and fun. If you like games where you have to hunt for clues, check your facts, and read your suspects amazingly detailed facial expressions (which can be very challenging), then you will enjoy this game. If you're looking for a 1940's version of GTA, then you'll be outta luck. I think most of the reviewers here do an excellent job summarizing the game itself, so I'll not babble on any further. Thanks!