Xbox 360 Review: Eat Lead – The Return of Matt Hazard

Is it HAZARD TIME yet?

Get ready for a fictional account of the world’s most popular video game hero… of the 1980s. Matt Hazard is coming out of retirement and making his next-gen “comeback” against all his old enemies in a hilarious parody of the last 25 years of gaming.

In the world of Eat Lead, however, everything stops being a game and becomes reality when it is clear that Wally is using the new game to bring about Matt’s death once and for all. With only the mysterious “QA” to help him, Matt must fight against zombies, cowboys, space marines and more to keep his game from being over.
I first saw Eat Lead in October 2008 and it looked promising. A game in a game so to speak, it’s an interesting idea and one that seemed to work quite well when I saw it. The game is finally out and I can say while it does suffer from many third-person clichés, it does a fairly good job in enticing you to play it to the end.

Matt Hazard is a videogame actor from the 80’s who has hit rock bottom, but has a chance to redeem himself in Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard. It later emerges that the new owner of game publishing company known as Marathon Megasoft is trying to kill him off through game exploits and hacks. Matt has a life-time contract with Megasoft, so the only way to get rid of him is to kill him off…which Matt doesn’t take too kindly to and fights for survival.

The manager Wallace “Wally” Wellesley tries everything to kill off Matt. He gets programmers to change levels from a shop to a set of a Western videogame, add in zombies, cowboys and many gaming icons that will make you chuckle. I’m surprised Microsoft didn’t sue the developers for the character of Master Chef, which made my sides split.
The levels in Eat Lead are linear, despite the changes to the overall design of a level at any time. It’s pretty cool to see a level change from one area to another, also for a level’s enemies to change. Eat Lead is actually a fairly tough game to beat; you will probably die quite a bit. Enemies can take a lot of damage before dying and the weapons can be a mixed bag from great weapons like the shotgun to the laughable water gun. There are a few bosses throughout the game. Some require a simple quicktime battle, while others demand a bit more strategy, like trying to defeat a monster with tentacles on a ship…trying to learn his pattern so you don’t get instantly killed…which is perhaps the toughest boss fight I came across.

The game makes fun of many clichés of videogames like cover, exploding barrels and dumb AI. There’s no multiplayer in the game, but still they find time to make fun of that in an achievement which description says “What? No multiplayer? Sigh. Well…not like we can take the achievement back NOW….” and it’s not the only achievement description that will make you smirk.

Matt is also a walking cliché…the typical action hero, but as dumb as a rock. *SPOILER ALERT* He can’t work out that there’s an imposter right under his nose, even though the person acts differently and even looks different…that is, until the real one arrives. The humour of Eat Lead is fantastic, over the top…but to a level where it’s acceptable. The characters are all clichés of the 80’s like a big guy with an afro and so on. I do feel they missed out on capitalizing on the whole concept of Eat Lead and instead focused more on the clichés.
As a third-person shooter goes, Eat Lead is fairly average…enemies are predictable; shooting doesn’t feel as satisfying as it should, levels are linear and the game itself becomes repetitive quickly. There’s a pattern to the way Eat Lead plays…kill everything and the move on. It’s a little one-sided that way; it also lacks a challenge other than during boss battles. Despite these problems, it’s still a game that I enjoy…why? Maybe I like the idea of the game more than the game itself, which is perhaps its ultimate flaw…but still, it entices me to play it.

Visually, Eat Lead is a fairly good looking game…but it’s nothing spectacular. Enemy animations are average, but the framerate rarely drops. Loading times maybe are a bit longer than most games, but it’s only a small problem. Voice-acting is great with celebrities Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, Harold & Kumar, How I Met Your Mother) and Will Arnett (Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Blades of Glory) joining the cast.

The Verdict

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is your typically average game. That is, it would be if the idea didn’t sound so good and the humour sucked, but it doesn’t…both are great and while the game is flawed, it’s just mindless fun…which is what videogames are meant to be about.