The title of this game is an understatement. Players visit a virtual Los Angeles that is experiencing not just a "bad day," but quite possibly the worst day imaginable. Throughout the black comedy action-adventure, the City of Angels suffers such devilish disasters as earthquakes, meteor showers, terrorist attacks, riots, and an infestation of biochemically altered zombies. From a third-person perspective, players must make their way through ten distinct regions of danger and disaster.
When society goes to heck, who better to save it than a self-affirmed social outcast? Players take the role of Anthony Williams, a disenfranchised loner who is "homeless by choice." Although he begins with the simple goal of escaping the cursed city, he finds himself obliged to help hapless victims he meets along the way. Luckily, Anthony is not completely alone in his travails; he is joined at times by a juvenile zombie, an amnesiac gardener, a Beverly Hills bimbo, and a combat-happy commando.
On second thought, perhaps he'd rather be alone after all, but each of these sidekicks has a distinct characteristic that may help the reluctant hero to make it through this remarkably bad day.
Bad Day L.A. was conceived by American McGee, who first gained attention for his Quake level design and went on to produce Alice (an interactive interpretation of the Lewis Carroll children's story) and Scrapland, and to hold an executive position with transcontinental software publisher Enlight.
Bad Day LA is American McGee's latest foray into the weird and unexpected. The premise of the game is essentially all manner of natural and man-made disaster happening all on the same day (from terrorist attacks to tsunamis), in the crowded, surly, smog-choked streets of Los Angeles. The anti-hero is Anthony, a homeless person full of crude behavior, and a distaste for almost all things. Yet he is forced time and again into the throes of LA's disastrous fate as the "only guy" able to help. As I've been following the creation of this game for some time, I was intrigued by the satirical view of America's worst fears brought to light in an unapologetic in-your-face manner. To put it short, this game had potential.
The game, unfortunately, did not live up to it. Most of what was seen of this game before its released consisted of pre-rendered cut scenes using a fairly stylized, interesting and unique cel-shading technique. It seemed to give the game a cartoonish vibrant look that was very catchy. The actual in-game graphics however, are sadly lacking; a complete absence of polygonal detail cause every character to plainly show their angles and ruin the fluid, rounded cartoon appearance. There were also multiple clipping issues and a lack of detail in general. Everything in the game is overly simplified to the point of just looking cheap and rushed.
To tack onto my disappointed rant here, the plot was non-existent. While occasionally punctuated by amusing (or not) cut scenes of horrific disasters. The game mainly consists of repetitive mini-quests that have you running to and fro performing the same exercises in slightly different environments. Speaking in terms of the loosely tied together plot, the humor that is much touted in this game is unnaturally...unfunny. Its not to say jokes haven't fallen flat before, but this game's hype was almost based on the jokes and the humor of playing on berserker media fueled fears. However, this is filled mainly with crude and vulgar jokes that fail to entertain, or even really to shock. Every risque point is delivered with a distasteful sour note, as if they're not mocking the silly people who buy into media shock-factors, but mocking YOU the consumer of this game for even buying it.
So with an unfunny comedy game and mediocre graphics, we're left with the sound and gameplay. The dialogue in the game is trite and overly filled with swearing (because they can, not because they need to), but the lines are at least delivered pretty decently and humorously. The effects themselves are all pretty basic, and nothing seems to stand out dramatically; most things sound washed out or flat even with good speakers. The game itself, as a whole, is riddled with bugs, replaying the same scene over and over again (which happens too often) you will find that scripted events don't work, because characters aren't at their cue points. Sound cuts in and out and objects randomly appear/disappear. Tack on some sluggish controls and unbalanced combat and gunplay system, and you have a very well rounded list of complaints. It wouldn't have hurt to have at least tried to make the combat unique in some way, but it's the same run-of-the-mill gameplay you've seen since FPS games started coming into fruition, with nothing at all to set it apart in the gameplay department from titles out almost a decade ago.
Obviously I'm disappointed with this game, on multiple levels. If I were forced (at gunpoint) to list off the positive aspects, I would say that it is occasionally funny, even hilarious for short bursts, and the cheap simplistic graphics randomly catch you off guard with odd humor - I'm thinking specifically of the first level where cheerily smiling corpses lay lopsided in their crashed vehicles, for example.
People who downloaded American McGee presents Bad Day LA have also downloaded:
Alpha Prime, America's Army, Aliens versus Predator 2, Area-51, Aliens versus Predator, Alien Trilogy, Alias, American McGee presents SCRAPLAND
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