Bad Day L.A. Updated Impressions - French Terrorists, Zombies, and More

American McGee shows off his absurdly over-the-top and violent spoof of disaster movies.


American McGee says that his latest game was inspired by a billboard in Los Angeles warning of a biological attack by terrorists. This made him recall some of the disaster spoofs of the '80s, such as Airplane!, and thus Bad Day L.A. was born. "Destroying LA seems like a fun idea," McGee told us recently when he swung by to show the game, which is shaping up to be, potentially, one of the most hilarious and subversive games of 2006.

You've never quite had a bad day like the one in this game.
You've never quite had a bad day like the one in this game.

In Bad Day L.A., you play as Anthony, a homeless person with an attitude that's inspired by popular and edgy comedian Dave Chappelle. Anthony is trying to eke out a living by pushing his shopping cart along the jam-packed Santa Monica Freeway one day when an airliner, loaded with poison gas and piloted by French terrorists, slams into the ground nearby, releasing a cloud of noxious smoke that turns anyone who breathes it into a zombie. And it all goes downhill from there, as the absurdity of the situation escalates even further, with earthquakes, gunfights, car chases, and the Mexican Army all making appearances at one point or another.

The one twist about Bad Day L.A. is that Anthony is just a guy who wants to get out of town as fast as possible, but he's reluctantly drawn in to being a Good Samaritan along the way. In other words, he's the ultimate antihero. And keep in mind that these are some seriously bizarre Good Samaritan deeds he performs. McGee explains that he wants Bad Day L.A. to be sort of a satire about violence, and thus, the game purposely aims to be completely over-the-top. For example, Anthony will run around LA wielding a bewildering arsenal of weapons. And even normal, everyday objects, such as fire extinguishers, can become deadly weapons. As McGee puts it, there's "ridiculous violence" throughout the game.

You must do good deeds, like saving burger man from the dogs.
You must do good deeds, like saving burger man from the dogs.

McGee gave us a brief tour of Bad Day L.A. by showing us different levels in action. In one, Anthony mans the machine gun on the back of a speeding van as he races around the city while trying to stop an army of French terrorists. The entire time Anthony is blowing up pursuing cars, and, like in any Hollywood action movie, he's managing to destroy half the city while he's at it. In another sequence, Anthony must rescue civilians trapped by a burning fire, and he does this by picking them up and literally hurling them to safety. He even drop-kicks a baby across a gaping chasm to its mother. This is all done with over-the-top humor, of course, and there's very much an exaggerated sense of silliness at work in the game. In another example, when an old man has a heart attack, Anthony can perform CPR by jumping on his chest.

Part of the reason Anthony is a Good Samaritan is because he'll need to do good deeds to keep his karma positive. That's because there's a color-coded "threat advisory" level in the game (taken directly from the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded system). When Anthony does a good deed, he gets a happy face. If he does a bad deed, he gets a frown face, which boosts the threat level. At high threat levels, civilians will attack Anthony in anger. And at higher threat levels, the LAPD will come after you, SWAT team and all. So a large part of the game will be trying to maintain the game's threat level by doing good deeds, even when you've got your hands full battling zombies and terrorists at the same time.

One of McGee's goals is to keep Bad Day L.A. as simple to play as possible, because he says he wants a mass-market-friendly game. So the gameplay mechanics will seem basic to hardcore action fans, but they should be relatively easy for those without video game experience. This is a very animated game, in both look and sound. Bad Day L.A. will feature more than 25,000 lines of dialogue, and, judging from what we've heard of it so far, it's on par with what you might expect from an episode of South Park. This fits in with the game's art style, which relies on a stylized cel-shading effect to create the look of an animated television show or movie. In fact, Bad Day L.A. looks like something that could air on a cable channel such as MTV.

Did we mention that the action gets over-the-top?
Did we mention that the action gets over-the-top?

Admittedly, it's a bit difficult just trying to describe Bad Day L.A., because we've never really seen anything quite like it. It takes the basic concepts of an action game and combines them with a level of edgy humor that's rarely seen in games these days. Will it be controversial? No doubt. Is it funny? We must admit that we laughed quite a bit throughout the demo. And when you get down to it, the game's absurd and politically incorrect humor will likely touch a chord with an audience out there. Bad Day L.A. is scheduled to ship early next year for the Xbox and PC.

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