You might think that a game that features a drunken homeless hero battling terrorists, surviving earthquakes, witnessing meteor strikes and dealing with zombies would be a lot of fun. You might think that a game that spoofs homeland security, current events and silly disaster movies would be ripe for satire. But judging by the muddled mess that is Bad Day L.A. you would be very, very wrong.
American McGee's Bad Day L.A. has a lot of good ideas to work with. The idea of having a Grand Theft Auto-style third-person action game in the middle of one disaster after another seems like a pretty solid game. With the media trying to scare us 24 hours a day, it's not hard to imagine a pretty entertaining video game spoof. But Bad Day L.A. is not that spoof; instead we are met with an action game that is short, painful to play and no fun what so ever.
In Bad Day L.A. you play Anthony, a homeless man minding his own business on the busy city freeway until all of a sudden, with no warning at all, he is witness to a terrorists attack on Los Angeles. Within the first few minutes of starting Bad Day L.A. you are privy to airliner crashing on the freeway and unleashing some kind of weird chemical weapon. From this moment on Anthony knows that he's in for one heck of a wild ride. In fact, this chemical attack is just the beginning of his terrible day, a day that will throw just about every terrible scenario his way.
On the surface this sounds like a great premise to a game, natural (and human) disasters are great fodder for video games, yet somehow Bad Day L.A. fails to capitalize on the fun of a meteor strike or a horrific flood. The biggest problem with this game is that it all feels like a chore. No matter what disaster you're dealing with, you just get the sense that there are better things you could be doing, it just seems like you have to work in order to have a good time.
While the game will be compared to the Grand Theft Auto series, Bad Day L.A. is really nothing like Rockstar's crime simulator. You don't have free reign of the city, you can't drive stolen cars, and you won't be playing a bunch of mindless (yet fun) mini-games. Instead of being an open-ended sandbox game, Bad Day L.A. is a linear action game that only allows you to interact in a small area. If you stray too far from the mission you will get a short animation that tells you to turn around. You can still shoot innocent civilians on the street, but even that isn't as satisfying as it should be.
The game is split up into a number of different levels, each taking you to a different part of the city. You can expect to visit just about every major hotspot in the Los Angeles area, including the Hollywood walk of fame, Beverly Hills, LAX and Inglewood. With each new location comes a new disaster to deal with, from navigating through an earthquake, saving people in burning houses, swimming through a flooded downtown or dodging meteors on Hollywood Blvd.
Even though there are different scenarios in each level, you will find that you are asked to repeat the same kinds of missions over and over. In almost every level you will have to heal a certain amount of people (by throwing bandages on them, no less), kill a bunch of zombies/terrorists, and extinguish people that are on fire. Regardless of the location, in almost every level you will be asked to do one of those missions, which tends to give this game a repetitive feel.
One of the biggest reasons why these missions aren't fun is because of gun system found in Bad Day L.A. Throughout the game Anthony picks up a number of different weapons, including an AK-47, shotgun and sniper rifle. Towards the end of the game you will also find a bazooka and a flame thrower, making it easier to cut down on big crowds of zombies (or terrorists).
But the biggest issue with the guns is not the lack of variety; it's how ineffective they are. Shooting people seems to take off a random amount of damage. Shooting somebody in the head at point blank range with a shotgun takes off the same amount of health as if I were to stand back a ways and shoot them in the legs. This is especially troubling since it takes several shotgun blasts to take down your average bad guy, this is both unrealistic and time consuming.
To make matters worse, with all the action going on around you, it's sometimes hard to make out whether or not your gun is even firing. Too many times I spent time shooting at a terrorist, only to realize that not one single bullet was coming out of my gun. Is it too much to ask for your weapon to automatically change when you run out of bullets?
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