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American McGee Presents: Bad Day L.A.

Like the airport, it's LAX

Are you prepared? That's the question asked by American McGee Presents Bad Day LA. The question I'd like to ask American McGee is, prepared for what? For a deliciously styled mother of all disaster movies? For some self-satisfied satire that thinks using ASS as an abbreviation is the height of cultural criticism? For ten levels of simplistic third-person irritation?

Or for all three, as it turns out, because McGee sure doesn't know when to stop. It's not enough to have terrorists crash a jet full of zombie-making gas on to a freeway, oh no. You want an earthquake, a train wreck, a meteor storm, street gangs, a tsunami, a bank heist and an invasion by the Mexican army. And actually, you do, because there's something endearing about this worst-case scenario with its promise of a huge variety of situations and a massive story arc for a hero. The trouble is, this great idea has developed into a monotonous series of thinly disguised third-person corridors, serving up the most repetitive action against dullard AI hordes, and peppered with tedious attempts at humour (porn mags that increase your maximum health. Oh, my sides, they are splitting).


Alas, there's no GTA-style big city to explore here. Instead, you're corralled through levels with the most arbitrary barriers. Too often, you're charged with taking out a set number of gangsters, zombies or terrorists before you can proceed to the next section, and even what seem like bespoke missions are simply treks from A to B to trigger new cutscenes. Every now and then bosses are thrown in - a trio of nerd fanboys turned into superheroes, a gang boss and his entourage - but all they need are extended targeting, constant backing away and no guile or tactics.

To further underline how poor this is compared to the GTA model, Bad Day LA even has a threat meter, akin to GTA's wanted stars. Good deeds - healing people, putting out fires - keep your threat level down, while bad deeds - mainly killing civilians - raise it. If it gets very high you don't, as in the GTA series, incur the wrath of the authorities and their tanks, rather you just start losing energy. That's a very lazy design decision.

A special mention must go to the pointless allies you can pick up along the way. You can't control them and at no time are they integral to the proceedings, apart from their uncanny ability to block your way.

Bad Day LA is a superb idea and can boast some of the finest cutscenes around. But the game that comes with that is wearingly basic, and banks on the constant respawning of an idiot AI populace to pass for a city in chaos, and mask both its manifold flaws and short playing time. The tiresome efforts at humour only make matters worse, leaving this as one bad day at the office for American McGee.

The verdict

Great style but absolutely no substance

  • Ambitious
  • Attractive
  • Not funny
  • Not long
  • Not very entertaining
Action, Adventure