Game: "Eat Lead: The Return Of Matt Hazard"
System: Xbox 360
Published by: Other
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Review: A masculine, gun-toting character with a string of hit games under his belt. It’s not Duke Nukem, it’s Matt Hazard, star of such classics as the beloved platformer, “The Adventures of Matt in Hazard Land”, as well as less appreciated games such as the kid-friendly watergun FPS, “Soak ‘Em!”
Well not really, but that’s the premise for Eat Lead: Matt Hazard was once a beloved hero of the video game world. However, a string of ill-advised projects has placed his career squarely in the crapper. Just when things look their worst for the hero, he gets a call to star in a new game, one that may very well resurrect his flailing career and make Matt Hazard a household name once again.
As a parody of all the gaming cliches we all take for granted, the game works really well. The short history of gaming is lampooned from the abundance of exploding objects in urban settings right down to JRPG heroes speaking in ellipses. Will Arnet provides the voice of Matt Hazard, and he really sells the combination of dim-witted action star and world-weary game icon. Not all the quips he makes during the course of the game hit the mark, but even the ones that don’t do as well still hit the mark as the kind of corny one-liners you’d expect from an action hero. Neil Patrick Harris also does a decent job as the evil CEO bent on destroying Hazard, but the focus is more on parodying game design rather than parodying evil CEOs.
While the dialog and cutscenes in the game are quite entertaining, however, the gameplay itself leaves a lot to be desired. Eat Lead is a third person shooter that plays just like any other third person shooter made in the last few years: you enter a scene, duck behind some cover, shoot all the bad guys, then move onto the next scene to do it all over again. The only variable, apart from what weapons you ring with you, is the inclusion of fire and ice “hacks”, special attacks you can use to freeze/burn your enemies, provided you’ve killed enough of them to fill your special meter.
Combat itself is no more entertaining thanks to the resilience of your enemies. Since AI is not a factor with them, their real strength comes from their collective ability to resist shots to the chest (and some are able to shrug off an extra headshot, too). Close combat remains an option, though healthy enemies will require as many as three hits before they go down, and you don’t want to be caught combo’ing an enemy while others are still at large.
On the positive side, the game does throw a healthy variety of enemies at you, all culled from past games featuring Matt Hazard: Russian soldiers, cowboys, zombies, and even two-dimensional, Wolfenstein 3D-era Nazis. The game also works in some parodies of recognizable game characters in the form of characters like Master Chef, from the “Crown of Light” games, or Altos Stratus, the spikey-haired guy with the huge sword from the “Penultimate Illusion” series.
In terms of parody, Eat Lead is great. On the other hand, if you’re not that interested in seeing a parody of the last few decades of gaming, all you’re going to see is a mediocre third person shooter. It seems like the creators of this game started off with a great script, and then threw together a game for it as an afterthought. The argument could be made that the designers intended for the bland shooting mechanics to be a jab at the entire third person shooter genre, which from Gears of War all the way to Dark Sector, can be more or less boiled down to “cover-shoot-move”. If that is the case, it’s a pretty lame move. Parody games can poke fun at their genre of choice without succumbing to the worst pitfalls of the genre. For that, you need look no farther than the 2004 Bard’s Tale game, which had a great script and gameplay that didn’t feel like a forced march from one bit of funny dialog to the next.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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