If you’ve ever wondered why so many video game reviewers - including the ones here at X-Play – seem to be obsessed with preaching the gospel of games with “different” storylines and settings like Psychonauts or Indigo Prophecy, it’s because we’re pretentious posers. Actually, that’s not totally true. But really, if we have to play one more space marine fighting the evil corporations/aliens/zombies in a dystopian future or yet another innocent young waif saving your village and the universe at the same time, we’re going to eat a controller. Video games (like movies and music and VH1’s Celebreality shows) suffers from a lack of creative variety.
That’s why we were pumped about Bad Day L.A.; a coolly cartoonish third-person shooter with a darkly comic storyline about terrorists and earthquakes and tsunamis that skewers the fear mongering that runs through our culture these days. Finally a game with a fresh look and a grown up sense of humor to break us out of our boring game rut? In the immortal words of Homey the Clown: “I don’t think so.”
Bad Game, Everywhere
Turns out, Bad Day L.A. is terrible. Like truly truly awful. Not only is it a bland and poorly designed shooter, most of its attempts at humor completely backfire as does the supposedly innovative gameplay that requires you to rescue people as well as kill them. You play as a homeless guy who bares more than a passing resemblance to Dave Chapelle’s crackhead character Tyrone Biggum’s. Not only des the person who voiced the game sound exactly like him, he’s constantly calling people bitches and makes jokes about “mudbutt.” I was half expecting Charlie Murphy to come running out of a burning taqueria at some point.
He starts out in the middle of the I-10 freeway that bisect Los Angeles, just as terrorists have crashed a planeload of biological agents that cause rampant zombieism into an overpass. In the chaos you must escape, armed only with a fire extinguisher, some bandages, and of course a shotgun.
Worser and worser
Each chapter of the game sees you escaping one disaster only to encounter another. Next an earthquake hits, then a meteor storm, a tsunami, etc. But the biggest disaster you face is probably the panic of the crowd. To that end you must keep them relatively calm by doing good things – putting out fires, killing or healing zombies, stopping looters, etc. Along the way you acquire a motley assortment of companions who are supposed to help you but really don’t. This basic idea is interesting at first, but eventually the game breaks down.
For one, your weapons are fiendishly underpowered. Either that or L.A. gang members are now capable of absorbing three shots to the center mass from a sniper rifle. Plus, the game is buggy as hell; why would someone attck me right after I’ve healed them, when the overall panic level is low?
Toon me out
Another thing that’s bad about Bad Day L.A. is the art style. Based on the signature style of the super talented husband and wife team Kozyndan, the weak 3D graphics engine fails to bring their unique style to life. The cutscenes look a lot better, but one wonders whether or not the game would have just been better if it was 2D, and therefore more faithful to Kozyndan’s style. In the game it looks like their art is haphazardly stretched over low polygon count models. Maybe because it is.
No laughing matter
But really what sinks Bad Day L.A. is all the missteps in the story and the intended humor. There’s some pretty fertile ground in making fun of the things we all fear, especially the end of the world, but Bad Day L.A. decides to wallow in immature toilet humor rather than taking the opportunity to exploit some juicy social satire. There are a couple bright spots though. The Mexican Army invading Beverly Hills from the underground tunnels all of their gardeners – who are really agent provocateurs – have been secretly building for years is pretty good. But too little too late. Instead, Bad Day L.A. aims for the biting wit of the Dave Chapelle Show but ends up more akin to the jackassery of Mind of Mencia. Just sort of sad and unfunny.
Article by: Tom Price
Video produced by: Tim Jennings