Bad Day LA E3 2005 Report

Game designer American McGee explains what his potentially controversial game will have to offer.


We sat down with game designer American McGee to get some more details on his upcoming third-person adventure game, Bad Day LA. McGee describes his game as an attempt to make a very solid and highly playable third-person action game that also "pokes fun at modern American fear culture." This "fear culture" not only refers to post-9/11 terrorist scares, but also to uneasiness resulting from modern-day racism and to the campy, generalized paranoia of common conspiracy theories about alien invaders and government cover-ups.

Apparently, as the game's title suggests, Bad Day LA will be about the worst possible day that the city of Los Angeles could ever possibly witness--a day when all the conspiracy theories turn out to be true. Apparently, you can expect to see an overdramatized terrorist attack, followed by the rise of zombies, followed by an earthquake, followed by a South Central gang war, followed by a tsunami. The designer suggests that the game could be best summed up as "an irreverent Mad Max, [with the part of Mad Max played by comedian] Dave Chappelle." The game's protagonist is an unemployed African-American fellow who has no desire to be a hero at all. In fact, he wants absolutely nothing except to escape from the increasingly dangerous streets of the city. Even though he meets up with four different "support" characters (such as a constantly nauseous kid whose continuous stream of vomit helps clear paths for him, and a Mexican immigrant gardener whose chainsaw works wonders against zombies) along the way, he'll actively try to get rid of them on his way out. In fact, even though many of the game's missions will require you to help out other LA citizens in distress (for the purposes of making your own escape), McGee suggests that "nine times out of 10, you end up accidentally killing the person you're trying to help."

We watched a few video trailers of what was presumably gameplay footage. The game will use a simplistic, cel-shaded cartoon look whose washed-out colors recall the crude drawings on "how to react in an emergency" pamphlets. However, the game will definitely not be for children. Apart from having extremely profane language and a very dark sense of humor, it will also have plenty of graphic violence. One movie trailer showed our hero and his gardener buddy trying to escape a burning building in a helicopter before a cruise missile flew in through the window and decapitated the pilot (showering cartoon blood all over the cockpit). In another level, you'll take shelter in a movie theater from a meteor shower, only to find that the theater owner, who is spouting pro-MPAA, antipiracy dogma, has captured a bunch of citizens and is holding them hostage.

It's true that some of the humor in the game will be harmless, like how the game's 110-plus unique characters will include incompetent airport security guards and Hollywood transvestites, or how the game will replace impassable areas with angry reactions from your character (instead of running into an invisible wall, your character will turn and exclaim, "Dude, I don't want to go there!"). However, McGee concedes that some of the game's jokes may also border on being subversive. As an example, the designer cite's the game's all-powerful "smart bomb" weapon--the toenail clippers (one of the most commonly confiscated items at airport security checkpoints). In keeping with the game's worst-case-scenario humor, these seemingly harmless personal hygiene tools are actually weapons of incredible destructive power, and you'll be able to carry one yourself to use on a limited timer. Unfazed, the designer explained that although he's definitely not aiming to pursue violence and controversy for the sake of doing so, "if the game gets people upset...if it gets people on the Right...or people on the Left talking, that's fine by me." It seems pretty clear that the game will get people talking, one way or another. Bad Day LA is scheduled for release early next year.

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