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Fictional videogame character Matt Hazard (voiced by the bored-sounding Will Arnett) is the star of Eat Lead, a hero who’s been through all the trials and tribulations of videogame history: fake box arts from classic-style 90s platformers and shovel-ware kart racers with the Hazard brand are mimicked in the opening cut-scene, as well as nodding towards recent starlets such as BioShock in a conservative bid to be current. It certainly puts a smile on your face and creates a positive first impression, but it’s when you start playing the game do you realize just how cringe-worthy some of the parody gets.
For instance, the tutorial is introduced as a means for Matt Hazard to express his dislike for being instructed on the things he already knows. Fair enough; that’s a sentiment I think we can all relate to on some level. However, the biggest fault which is instantly noticeable in all this parody is Matt Hazard’s bleak quality of character. Naturally, I’m not an idiot and understand the bald, space marine look is a very timely prodding to today’s big games, but it’s hard to find the joke when you’re actually playing as this character in all these purposefully conventional settings.
What’s more, conceptually Eat Lead could have hit a homerun with all the laughable infancy of videoagames, but no. Clearly developer Vicious Cycle Software is not the most suited company to take a stab at this – the entire time I was playing I kept thinking how Rockstar would have nailed everything ten times better and funnier. At the same time, I’m sure Rockstar would have devised a more enjoyable experience altogether, seeing how the actual gameplay is pretty awful too. The aiming is shoddy; the camera is poorly managed and contextual stuff like taking cover is harder to perform than it needs to be.
The story continues to fail with delivering the comedy, introducing some painfully one-dimensional characters that do nothing for the game’s personality in the long run. Now and again they will come out with relatively pleasing inside jokes that you’re only ever going to catch on to if you’re A) a working games developer or B) a constant player and fan of games in general. Plus, when enemies spurt out blue shreds of digitized code in lieu of blood, the whole aesthetic comes off feeling very corny. There are some neat ideas such as each level representing a different typical gaming locale, but a lot of it just falls flat on its face (since when were Westerns the new World War II in videogame land?).
As an extremely generic third person shooter, it’s difficult to determine whether or not Eat Lead was designed to be ironic by being a bad game. Truth is, it’s just a bad game.