Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard Review
Written : Tuesday, March 17, 2009
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Comedy games are a rare breed, primarily because they often struggle to actually be funny at all. Aside from a number of high quality point and click games there have been few, if any, real attempts to blend humour and action but here we have a contender. A game that is not afraid to poke some fun at a few of its more illustrious peers and run with it. The question here is; will the game raise a few laughs or will it sink beneath a tirade of heckles from irate punters? Bring on the gags!
It is not often that a game character knows they are in fact only a game character, but Matt Hazard does, and that is the crux of this game. The developers have decided to take a swipe at the videogames industry as a whole, and who better to do that than one of its own? (Before you all go rushing out to find old Matt Hazard games please be aware that there are none). Matt is a gaming icon from the eighties and took part in many of the best selling titles of his time – then he went into spin off games (Hazz Kart anyone?) and his career went downhill from there. He is given the chance to shine again when a new company takes over his gaming label but sinister goings on behind the scenes may see his gaming odyssey ruthlessly cut short.
Using advanced weapons against cowboys, how unfair.
The plot is obviously pure hokum, and deliberately so, as every level and enemy is some kind of pastiche of previous Matt Hazard games which in turn, ape a large number of games you may well know and love in the real world. Matt is brought out of retirement when the games company he was owned by is taken over. He thinks he is to star in a new series of games but, in reality, the new CEO plots to kill him off to usher in a brand new star. Matt is not too chuffed about that idea and with a little help from a company insider, sets about taking out the new hero and everyone else that gets in his way. In truth, the plot could have been ripped straight out of the WWE – it is that over the top and ridiculous. It has its moments though and pretty much just serves as a device to throw any number of characters into the line of fire.
The main point of this game is to be nostalgic and humorous, and that is where the problems begin. A lot of the pastiches are more liable to make you groan instead of chuckle, like the Master Chef (a culinary space marine) or Captain Carpenter (who is most certainly NOT a plumber). Throw in a few asides at other genres, for instance Bill the Wizard, who sounds suspiciously like William Shatner, and you can see that tongue has been planted firmly in cheek. Other nods include some witty banter, the ongoing struggle for anyone to like the protagonists catchphrase, foes from a variety of games (like 2D men, Lara look-alikes and RPG bosses replete with HP counter) try to spice things up too. Despite all this the game just feels ... flat. All of the jokes and punch-lines keep on coming but few of them really hit the mark. It is a real shame as you can see that there is a real love for the source material here but it never seems to quite come off.
Trick shot or blind luck? You decide.
None of this would matter if the rest of the game looked and played like a charm but that is not the case either. The graphics are nowhere near top notch and even the main characters look fairly drab, especially when they speak and their mouths seem oddly distorted. The backdrops are extremely generic which, while maybe intentional, still leaves you to plough through them without really caring. Even the explosions look like they could have been done a lot better a few years ago. On the plus side, the voice work is pretty damn good and Will Arnett in particular does an outstanding job. Some of the quips are genuinely funny and, though they may be few and far between, they still keep you going in the hopes for another gem.
The gameplay is what really breaks this game as it plays out as yet another Gears of War clone, with the now mandatory cover system thrown into the game. Unlike Gears there is very little strategy involved as you merely have to blast through the game with nothing in the way of tactics or skill. With the same few enemies constantly thrown at you and the usual array of generic weapons, barring the amusing water pistols, it just seems like you are playing the same level over and over again. The fact that most of the boss fights devolve into button pressing mini games is also a major disappointment. With a bit more variety and polish, this game would have truly taken off. How about sticking Matt in a Mario style side scrolling level, or a driving one, maybe a nod at the point and click genre? It could have all been done and would have really made the game a nostalgic trip down memory lane. As opposed to being another run and gun shooter with a few old skool references.
It is getting like the frickin’ Matrix in here.
At least the achievement list shows plenty of humour and variety. A lot of the referential stuff here is often funny than some of the in-game quips, and none of them with tax you overly. Getting the maximum amount of points can be done in a couple of plays through the game (or one if you use a cheat to unlock the hardest setting) and it will not take you that long to polish this off. At least doing things like kicking a cowboy in the butt or protecting dance bots adds a touch of fun to proceedings. Totally attainable and extremely amusing is the order of the day here.
Overall there is plenty to like about this game but it just does not hit enough of the right notes. The humour all too often falls flat or will just make you recognise a familiar character rather than enjoy the parody. The gameplay is also rather stale and repetitive so you will have no impetus to play this again once you have completed it. By all means give it a go but do not expect it to distract you for more than a few days.
Plenty of decent voice work and some of the snappy one liners do raise a smile; the background music and effects are fairly sub par though.
Just because a game is aping older titles does not mean it should look like them. The characters are rough around the edges and the backgrounds are pretty dull and generic with some dubious textures.
Fun while it lasts but far too repetitive, with too few new enemies and levels that are over before you have really gotten into them.
A decent attempt at an action title with its tongue firmly in cheek, but the humour never hits any high notes and the whole thing feels rather rushed.
A remarkably solid list with some good fun to be had in getting them too, not the hardest 1k around but at least plenty of thought and effort have gone into the achievements.
This game brings back a lot of memories but fails to provide many out and out laughs. The game is also remarkably short and easy even on the toughest settings, so will not really provide any long term appeal. Rent it for a nice homage to some classics but never imagine it will be join them in the upper echelons of gaming goodness.