Review – Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard

1 04 2009

Run and Gun Without the Fun…

Great plots, superb controls, shiny visuals, immersing soundtracks. These are the things great games are made of. They make us part with our hard-earned cash every Friday release day. However, when a developer makes humour the unique selling point of one of its games, it had better be funny and enjoyable enough to warrant the price of admission. Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, try as it might, isn’t one of those games. Instead it’s a generic cover shooter with daft jokes, lampooning other game franchises twice as accomplished and twice as revered by fans than it could ever hope to be.

Matt Hazard himself is a washed-up action video game star, his fame diminished by a slew of crap sports and go-karting tie-ins. After a spell on the z-list of gaming celebrities, Matt is hired by a brand new game company to start in a new cop shoot-em-up game, involving lots of generic Yakuza gangsters shooting up a Japanese tea-house. It starts off simple enough, with an easy to use cover-and-shoot system, so far so tolerable.

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After a while, the game starts to glitch and random enemies from other games start spawning in, trying to kill Matt. He’s discovers he’s not actually the lead in the game as he was led to believe, instead he is supposed to get killed off at the end of the first level by a shockingly un-funny Arnold Schwarzenegger sound-a-like. So Matt, with the help of obligatory female sidekick (who may or may not fall in love with Matt by the end credits) must fight back against the game and survive.

The premise is actually solid, it really is. It is almost a shame that this title does not materialise into something better but after you have fought the 40th pack of enemies who all move, react, defend and attack the same way, you just can’t help but care less about what happens. Another problem is just how confusing things can be. Some jokes are clear and easy to understand, but aren’t funny, others are just plain baffling.

For example, one mission sees you protecting a wizard who sounds like an Irish William Shatner, presumably ripped from a fantasy game of some kind (it’s honestly impossible to figure out what he’s supposed to be), as he recharges his spell power so he can teleport to safety. You pick off the attacking goons, who all run along set paths and spout the same four lines of dialogue you just feel drained. It would be easier to care if the humour was present and correct and the game itself had some real innovations, but it doesn’t.

Weapons are standard fare, including shotguns, machine guns, magnums. The arsenal is as uninspiring as the dodgy camera and poor signposting. One stage sees the boss enemy turn off all the lights in the area as he lays in darkness with a sniper rifle. This could have been a tense game of cat and mouse. Instead, you literally can’t see where you are going and find yourself dying several deaths because you ran into a bit of terrain you couldn’t see, long enough for the boss to kill you with a headshot. Absolutely infuriating stuff.

It isn’t big, it isn’t clever and it certainly isn’t as funny as it attests to be. It’s parodial sure, but you can’t help but feeling a game this lacklustre simply doesn’t have the right to poke fun at its peers. This is truly a wasted chance to make something clever and enjoyable.

Words: Dave Cook

Pix: Games Press

This review was originally published on Scotland’s best video game magazine and website, SquareGO  here.

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