Review by CyhortI82
"Ever wonder how it feels to be a total badass? Then you’re probably not Matt Hazard."
Introduction: Say what you want about the 80's, bad music, worse clothing, Michael Jackson, but one thing that the 80's had going for it was that men were men. And they liked their video game and movie heroes to be men too. Big muscled Adonis's who blew away hordes of bad guys while scantily clad women clung to them in fear and wonder and then after everyone is dead they turn to face the camera and spout out a cheesy one liner that you can't help but chuckle at. Now, picture one of these commie killing, babe getting, perfectly muscled video game heroes trying to survive in the late 90's and the 2000's. Picture a slew of bad attempts to make the transition into a world where maleness is a thing to be suppressed and the end result is a kid friendly squirt gun shooter and the death of a legend. If you can picture all that, then you can get some idea of the life of Matt Hazard.
Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is, above all, a parody of video games and the male dominated culture of the 80's and early to mid 90's. It pokes fun at the bad one liners, the lame names, the cliches of the different genres and the overused plot devices. But the best parodies are done by people who love what they're parodying. And that's what you get with Eat Lead. A wonderful parody of video games that will have you laughing and thinking to yourself Hey, I've noticed that too.
But a video game is more than just a good premise. So let's take a look at how Eat Lead stands up as a video game and not just a hilarious parody.
The story is simple enough. Matt Hazard was the king of 80's video games, signed to a lifetime contract and given creative control of his games after he becomes a megastar. He promptly drives his franchise into the ground with games like Haz-Matt Carts, a go-cart racing game featuring lesser known characters from his franchise and Soak Em, a child friendly water gun shooter. The era of Matt Hazard was over. Or so he thought. His company was bought out by Wallace Wally Wellesley III who decided to make a brand new Matt Hazard video game. But the dastardly CEO betrays Matt and attempts to kill him off in the first level, thus giving his new action hero, Sting Sniperscope (a hilarious Arnold Scwarzenegger parody) a chance to take Matt Hazard's spot at the top of the action gaming world. Matt defeats him, easily, and escapes into the game with the help of sexy computer hacker QA.
The game follows Matt as he goes through the levels of his/Stings game in an effort to reach the last level and force Wallace to release him. Throughout the way Wally hacks (or more accurately makes other people hack) in enemies (and parts of levels) from previous Matt Hazard games such as Cowboys, Space Marines, 2D Nazis and even squirt gun soldiers from Soak Em. The story never takes itself too seriously and while it can be argued that it falls prey to the same cliches that it's supposed to makes fun of it's hard to believe that that wasn't done on purpose for comedic effect. If you have some built in need to take all video game stories seriously then you will not get the most out of Eat Lead, but if you can suspend your disbelief you'll find yourself laughing out loud and enjoying a story that you really won't find anywhere else.
Story Rating: 9/10
The graphics are obviously next gen. Smooth textures, good lighting, all that stuff. Great atmosphere. The de-res effect when you shoot destructible cover or when a bad guy dissolves is pretty cool. Every time a new group of enemies are hacked into the game the screen distorts to herald their arrival and randomly throughout the game lines of code will flash on screen for a few seconds, this really helps to make you feel like you're trapped in a high jacked video game. There are almost no graphical problems in the game that I noticed when playing aside from maybe getting hung up on an object for a second or two once or twice.
Graphics Rating: 9.5/10
Now, with a game marketed solely on it's merits as a parody you wouldn't expect great gameplay. However the gameplay of Eat Lead is severely underrated. It's an over the shoulder shooter like Resident Evil 4 but it greatly improves on RE4's basic control scheme. The aim zoom is one of the most useful features in the game and you will be using it a lot. You can easily get the 100 headshot Achievement in the first two levels because it's so easy to shoot people in the head. Some of that has to do with the AI (which I'll get into later) but most of it s because the aim system is so smooth and easy to use. The cover system is also a wonderfully implemented feature. You press A to take cover behind pretty much any object, wall slide to the end and fire or shoot over the top if it's small enough. Like Gears of War you can expose yourself to enemy fire and aim or you can stay hidden and blind fire. Unlike GoW though if there is another piece of cover close enough you can use the B button to roll to it or the Y button to automatically run to it. They spent a lot of time perfecting the cover system and you will not be able to beat the game without utilizing it so its not just a feature tacked on to give it a tactical feel. (tacked, tactical? Crap that's a pun isn't it?) The gameplay is natural and in many ways better than similar systems on more well known games.
Gameplay Rating: 10/10
The sound I'm going to split up into two categories, score and voice acting.
Score: The score is pretty basic action game stuff. Rock-like level music that mostly fits the situations Matt finds himself in. No great sweeping Metal Gear Solid-like musical masterpieces but you don't really expect musical genius in a 50 dollar parody game.
Score Rating: 7/10
Voice Acting: The voice acting in this game however is excellent. Will Arnett is perfect as Matt Hazard, his voice and inflections fit the role of a grizzled action hero very well. He also doesn't deliver any monotone lines or emotionless voice acting (a common problem when screen actors try their hand at voice work). Neal Patrick Harris is, of course, hilarious as Wallace Wally Wellesley III. Again another perfect fit for the role and another screen actor who is a very talented voice actor. But the great voice acting doesn't end with the main characters. Everyone in the game is voiced almost perfectly with just enough exaggeration to remind you (as if you could forget when you're shooting a Space Marine with a water sub machine gun) that the game is not meant to be taken too seriously. The game even boasts notable voice actor Jim Ward, probably best recognized as Jack Krauser in Resident Evil 4 or Director Granin in Metal Gear Solid 3.
Voice Acting: 10/10
Overall Sound Rating: 9/10
Screw tactics, lets just run around! That quote from a soldier in the game sums up the AI pretty well. Every enemy in the game seems to have a set path that they run and never deviate from. At times enemies will duck behind cover and allow you to walk up next to them, aim carefully and shoot them in the head without ever turning to face you. Other times enemies will rush your position after spawning because their set cover spot is behind you. It can get frustrating at times to deal with the AI (or lack thereof) but it is by no means a game breaking problem. Half the time you won't even notice it, but the other half it's glaringly obvious and it is, in my opinion, the biggest flaw in the game. Luckily it doesn't extend to the bosses, only the regular enemies.
AI Rating: 6/10
Conclusion/Rent or Buy:
Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is an incredibly fun and well put together game. It has some flaws but I would recommend it to anybody who likes to poke fun at video games and who doesn't mind games that don't deliver a super dramatic MGS type story. As for rent or buy, for most people this is probably a rental, if you can find a video store that has it. But for a lot of people, whether they're fans of D3 or people who replay games just to experience the story again or people who want to get every achievement in every game they play (these last two reasons are really the only replay value the game has) this game is a must buy at a bargain price of 50 dollars.
-Superb voice acting.
-Bad enemy AI
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/02/09, Updated 03/03/09
Game Release: Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard (US, 02/26/09)
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