theuselessgod's Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard (Xbox 360) review

I still recommend renting it, despite the low score.

The Short

Pros

- Entertaining parody game that lampoons almost every major franchise

- The "JRPG" boss is probably one of the funniest things I've seen in a while

- Graphics are on the Unreal 3 Engine and thus look pretty good

- Matt Hazard is voiced by Will Arnett of Arrested Development fame, and the big bad is voiced by Neil Patrick Harris of Dr. Horrible fame.

- Many of the gags are genuinely entertaining and the game has a large handful really, really funny moments

- It parodies Halo where they are all people in power armor shooting super-soakers, which Matt "pumps" to reload. Seriously, that's pretty funny.

Cons

- Is about as bland as a third-person shooter can get, both in terms of shooting, enemy types, and guns

- Wears out its welcome pretty quickly

- It's too bad it basically goes "funny bit, really long horrible shooting part, short funny bit, etc."

- The squid boss is absolutely awful

- No diving, running, or anything to speed him up. And he moves so slow.

- Some of the jokes fall flat, and in a game that seems to be relying completely on its humor, this is a bad thing

- Texture popin, the bane of Unreal 3 games, is here in full force.

I hope you like shooting cowboys, 'cause you're gonna do it a lot.

The Long

Matt Hazard is a washed up video game hero. A very not-subtle parody of Duke Nukem, Matt Hazard lives in a world where video game characters can interact with their creators, jump from game to game, and have actual personalities and opinions. So Matt started off in a 2d platforming shooter, one of the first action heroes of gaming (well, fake gaming, since none of his past games really exist), evolved into his pinnacle: Matt Hazard 3D (Duke Nukem 3D?) before fading into complete obscurity. He attempted to rebrand his image by making a Kart racer and other things, but in the end poor Matt was just a washed up bald space marine with no job.

You gotta admit, that's pretty funny.

Luckily his boss, owner of Marathon Megasoft, pulls Matt out of his early retirement for a new game, one that will for sure launch him back into the limelight. Well, it turns out it's actually just a big trick for all the bosses from the older games he's in to try and kill him, resulting in a wild miss-mash of game types all coming for a piece of Hazard.

Even the 2D enemies from his "3D" first person shooter days are back.

If this sounds like a fun premise, you'd be thinking correctly. Eat Lead sort of doesn't make any sense, but the plot is just there to throw as many references to other games as possible. Right off the bat you get a holographic girl (Cortana?) who bosses you around the whole game, and from then on it's just reference after reference. Seriously, they just keep on coming.

No shame here.

For the most part, the humor works well. Will Arnett does the voice of Matt and he does it very well. Neil Patrick Harris is the big bad boss of Marathon Megasoft that devised this whole thing, and he also goes into his lines with just the right amount of cheese. The parodies are thick and are (for the most part) cleverly done, tying both music in with the visuals. When you fight a bunch of clunky, heavily armored gray-brown space marines, the song that plays is so close to the Gears of War theme I'm surprised they didn't get sued. The Halo jokes are equally good, with guys wearing brightly colored armor blasting each other with...super soakers. There are a handful of other parodies and jokes (Hazard sits in an elevator for a really long time and complains about it, right after the whole Mass Effect elevator thing was a big deal), but the best by far is the JRPG boss. It's already bad enough that you fight a spikey haired guy with a huge sword and one wing that floats, but when you actually see him selecting his attacks from a floating menu (in japanese) before he does them that you know that Eat Lead at least sort of knew what he was doing. And the damage numbers popping off him (when it doesn't happen with any other enemies) when you shoot him is a nice touch too. Here, this is the whole thing, just watch it. I'll wait.

Get More: GameTrailers.com, Eat Lead - Hazard vs. JRPG Hero Gameplay, PC Games, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

While the parody humor is great (I forgot to mention that whenever you get an achievement he points to it on the screen and says something along the lines of "That's an achievement!" or "I bet all your internet friends will love you now!") it is spread a little thin, and that's where Eat Lead falls apart. See, Eat Lead is a cover-based third person shooter. Fair enough, right? We had a lot of these this generation, and most were decent, some were mediocre, and some were excellent. Well I hate to say it but unlike Dark Sector, which came out of nowhere as a surprisingly good third-person shooter, Eat Lead is pretty freaking awful when you actually have to play it.

The cover based controls are crap and only seem to work half the time. The shooting is poor and never feels right, with enemies being cheap and annoying. The melee attack is horrid and more often than not trying to melee somebody will end up with you dead. Enemies suck up an insane amount of bullets unless you use their own guns against them, and even then it's way too long unless you score a headshot. Hazard can't run like in Gears of War and while he can sort of slide to different cover, it doesn't ever seem to freaking work.

But hey, supersoakers!

It unfortunately gets worse. Remember when I talked about all the silly enemies you fight, that are obvious parodies of other games? Well, the game doesn't use them as much as it should. Often you are in the same bland warehouses fighting the same bland enemies: workers, secret agents, chefs, etc. Just run-of-the-mill fodder (which also bonuses as taking a billion shots to kill). Not only was the shooting bad and the guns underpowered, but the enemies were boring too? And I always constantly run out of ammo and cheap deaths happen all the time? I really wanted to like you Eat Lead, but you make it so hard.All this pales in comparison to the squid boss, who I think deserves special mention. I'm pretty sure this is a God of War parody, but regardless this boss fight is miserable. You die constantly, there is little to no cover, and the game keeps spawning Space Marines on this boat for no freaking reason whatsoever. I died constantly, on normal, and I consider myself pretty decent at third-person shooters. I've certainly played enough of them.

Which is another thing: by the end the game just ignores theme and throws a billion enemies at you. Granted, a particular scene where you fight every employee of Megasoft as they are "playing" the game like a multiplayer shooter (complete with kill/death counter and their gamertags floating over their heads) is pretty funny, but it gets weird when the 2D enemies are fighting with the space marines are fighting with the other type of space marines...in a generic warehouse. Alright?

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY COWBOYS?!

This is where Eat Lead failed for me. Which made me sad, because the funny parts are really good, and I knew there was a good idea in this. The shooting was just so bland and repetitive, and even the little bits of great, off the wall humor couldn't save it for me. It's a bit better on easy, where you can breeze through it and get to the good parts a little faster, but at it's core Matt Hazard's new game is just a dull, monotonous, unfunny mess 80% of the time.

Despite this, I will still recommend you play through it at least once. The current $15 asking price is too high, but it's a solid rent. I really think that, underneath all the garbage gameplay, there is stuff here worth seeing, and it's funnier in game (though I guess you could just youtube it). But don't pay more than $5 for it, and only after you buy Dark Sector first, because that game is better.

Sorry Matt. You were a fun rent when my wife was away a few years back, but as it stands a two out of five is all you've earned. Too bad your XBLA sequel sucked too; I really could see this parody of Duke Nukem (who needs it, especially given his most recent release) that riffs on other games actually working if it was done correctly. Here's hoping that if there's ever a new Matt Hazard game (which I would love to see happen) they figure out the gameplay first before deciding how to cram as many references as possible into their game.

Or they could just make a kart racer.

This fake box art is pretty funny, though.

More at nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

0 Comments

Other reviews for Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard (Xbox 360)

    So So Shooter 0

    You know I went into this game with low expectations and didn’t think it was all that bad. The story is cheesy with Matt Hazard being a washed up video game hero making fun of the very video game he is in. I think the game was long enough that this didn’t get too annoying. I think one of the funnier lines was when your character tells you he is going to finish things up and get the so and so achievement.About the achievements,  you can’t beat getting 60 achievement points for just watching the c...

    3 out of 3 found this review helpful.

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