LA Noire: The philosophical and existential observations of Cole Phelps

At first I didn't think to pay much attention to Cole Phelps' comments as he picked up irrelevant items when working a case. I assumed they were just meaningless remarks that had no bearing on anything important at all. But then, while nosing about for evidence in someone's apartment, Cole picks up a clock and says: "This tells me nothing". Bam. Science. Dropped. Just like that.

As you can imagine I was like, 'Whoah. That's some deep cosmic shit right there.' Because clocks tell the time and here's Cole Phelps trivialising and challenging the established concept of a physical quantity temporal measuring system in a game that is ostensibly about wearing hats in 1940s Los Angeles. To say that this revelation blew my mind would be understating the mind-blowingness by at least 300%.


Above: Cole Phelps. Good at detecting, shouting,wearing a hat, going over notesand thinking about stuff that is, like, totally out there

So I started paying attention to the words spoken during these apparently bland moments of investigatory activity. It became apparent that behind Cole Phelps' fairly boring exterior is an intellectual man-fountain ofprofound philosophical and existential observations about life, the cosmos, the universe and a whole bunch of other crap that means stuff.

Here's a small selection of some of the complex contemplations (and what they mean) that Cole Phelps dropped on me as I played through LA Noire. But be warned, this is pretty deep and intense, so feel free to bail now if this kind of radical thinking scares you.

Observation #1: Carrot "This isn't what we're looking for."

What you think Cole Phelps means: It's a carrot. Rabbits like them. Nothing to do with this murder though.

What Cole Phelps actually means: The carrot is a vegetable that grows beneath our feet in the darkness of the soil. It symbolizes reward - the term 'to dangle the carrot' characterizes this root vegetable as a lure or temptation to passively encourage movement generally considered to be in a forward moving direction. The carrot is also - completely erroneously - associated with an augmented ability to see in the dark. Cole's conceit here, clearly, is that there is little advantage to having enhanced night vision attained through the gratuitous consumption of carrots (i.e. temptation)if we - the human race - are still enshrouded by the metaphorical darkness of sin. Ultimately, it is better to be a blind man basking in the purity of light.

Observation #2: Diary "Nothing significant."

What you think Cole Phelps means: Wow. Whoever wrote this is dull and quite clearly incapable of committing anything as exciting as murder.

What Cole Phelps actually means: What is a diary if not the song-sheet of a person's soul? The innermost thoughts of the true self, channelled through the ink of a pen or the lead of a pencil, painted with naked candour upon blank pages. A masterpiece never intended for public viewing. The intimacies of an entire life's work, displayed for the eyes of a single person - author and reader - in a leather-bound gallery. Yet Cole regards such a personal, private account of an individual's existence as insignificant. The record of their time on this spinning ball of rock is not important. In two simple words Cole blows away the journeys and encounters - the very poetry of life - that define a person as though nothing more than infinitesimal specks of dust on a barely perceptible cosmic breeze. I suspect that Cole Phelps is a nihilist. Which may explain why he has no problem shouting at old ladies.

Observation #3: Tissues "Don't think this is going to help us."

What you think Cole Phelps means: Tissues. Useful if I hada cold. But I don't.And they clearly have absolutely nothing to do with the dead naked lady with blood writing all over her tummy.

What Cole Phelps actually means: Like the actual tissues themselves, Cole's meaning here is fairly transparent (once you know that Cole has a habit of philosophising, anyway). He's basically saying that crying isn't going to help. Tears aren't solutions to problems or answers to questions. They're not politics or science or violence or prescribed medication or lies. They are watery secretions from the eye triggered by a heightened emotional state. A bodily function that is particularly popular with babies. Because they're babies. Tears are just a man's dignity leaking out of his face. The world's problems won't be fixed by blubbering. They'll be fixed by men with brains and mouths and pills and needles and guns. With his military background, it's little wonder that Cole is acknowledging this fact. The victors of the Second World War weren't the ones sitting in their bunkers crying. It was won by the men that were bombing the shit out of everyone.

Observation #4: Shoes "Incidental."

What you think Cole Phelps means: The murder happened outside a shoe shop. But these shoes hadnothing to do with it.

What Cole Phelps actually means: Whether we realise it or not, comfortable and appropriate footwear is essential for a happy life. Shoes play a crucial role in our physical journey. From beginning to end. Without them the road would be infinitely more uncomfortable. Gandhi wore sandals for a reason. And it's not because his agent had secured a lucrative sponsorship deal. An ancient Cornish proverb says that a two-legged man with only one shoe is a man with a sore soul. Make of that what you will. But while shoes are an indispensable sheathing on the feet of civilisation, once we have shuffled off the mortal coil, they no longer seem quite so important. What we covet in life, death's reverie reveals to be incidental decoration. Whether we ascend to a higher plane or simply rot in the ground, either way we won't be needing shoes.

I could go on. I've catalogued plenty more of this. But too much knowledge is a dangerous thing. Like a loaded weapon waiting to blow your brains out. So next time you play LA Noire, take some time to listen to Cole Phelps as he examines a bunch of useless crap. But be careful. It could blow your brains out. With knowledge.

July 14, 2011


Just a couple of Joes shooting the breeze in the office


Being a cop in the '40s must have been awesome


Photobombs from one of the greatest games of the year