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Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard

Score: 83%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: D3
Developer: Vicious Cycle
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Shooter/ Third Person Shooter/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Recently released for the Xbox 360 is D3 Publisher's and Vicious Game's Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, a humorous take on the last twenty-five years of gaming. As such, the graphics in the game sometimes take a turn to the past and aren't necessarily up to par on the next-gen technology, but this is an intentionally good thing. Most of the time while playing Eat Lead, however, the visual eye candy is average at best. The environments, in fact, are relatively basic in most respects. Whether indoors or outdoors, don't look for anything extravagant in the texturing, models, or general layout of the levels.

The characters themselves vary in quality as well. Matt Hazard, the star character, and his main boss-like foes all look great, but some of the other henchmen-type enemies don't have the same kind of flair. This is likely a design choice because of the number of on-screen baddies, but at the same time, it is a bit distracting. Of course, the exception to the rule is in the Doom-quality German soldiers who are 2D for nostalgia reasons.

As far as Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard's audio is concerned, the developers did a great job in hiring Will Arnett (30 Rock, Arrested Development) and Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay) to voice Matt Hazard and his evil cohort, Wallace "Wally" Wellesley, respectively. The voice acting is top-notch for all of the lead characters, in fact, and the funny one-liners can sometimes catch you off guard in laughter. The gunfire and ambient sounds throughout the game are great as well, helping to draw the player into the action quite nicely.


The entire premise of Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is that you control Matt Hazard, a fictional game character that is trying to resurface on the next-gen front. Mr. Hazard was once hugely popular and ran the gamut of genres back in the day, including silly kart-racing and water gun games. Where the storyline unfolds, Mr. Hazard has been "hired" (remember, he only exists in the videogame world) to star in a new game, only to be written out and killed off in a plot twist during the first level. This is where things start to go awry because Matt Hazard kills off the replacement, sending our hero on a spiraling course of upsetting the game's creator. As such, countless enemies from Hazard's past games are sent (via program code) into the game to destroy our hero.

Eat Lead does a pretty great job on the storyline of this title, adding numerous parodies and satire reflected on different gaming genres and the progress of gaming's graphics and gameplay while referencing stereotypical elements from both gaming and from pop culture as we know it. As such, you'll actually get to use a wide range of different weapon styles, from typical handguns and rifles to lasers and, get this, water pistols. You see, since characters from Matt's past are entered into the game, he has to take on baddies from clones of Halo (and has to help save "Master Chef" -- oven mitt and all), Wolfenstein 3D (with 2D characters), a kiddie-friendly Water Gun game (complete with spoofed "Super Soakers"), and a Western title (with six-shooters and hootin' and hollerin'), among others.

The staple of Eat Lead has to be the combat moves that the star character can perform while taking cover. The game does a fair job at allowing Hazard to put his back to the wall and peak around corners to aim and shoot at the henchmen. You'll also be able to take it a step further by clicking certain buttons to automatically roll to another barrier, run forward or roll over a barrier to the next one, or slide around corners with your back still hugging the wall. While it took a bit of getting used to, the system works pretty well most of the time. I have to mention that there were occasions when I got frustrated, however, because I either felt "stuck" to the wall in close-combat situations or I sometimes would plant myself on the wrong side of some smaller objects. The camera would sometimes come into play as well, because enemies can sometimes spawn behind you, making it hard to get your bearings. I do believe that this may be better on a widescreen TV, but wasn't so nice on a standard set.

The humor of the game really shines at moments. While there are a constant barrage of one-liners from Matt Hazard (and if you listen closely, from enemy characters), there are also special instances of charm that will crack you up. I don't want to give anything away, but my favorite moment came when Hazard got frustrated with having to click through the Final Fantasy-style character's dialogue box instead of having a genuine conversation with him. Classic! As previously mentioned, there are a number of genres and stereotypes represented in Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard. Others not mentioned include an Arnold Schwarzenegger sound-a-like, an RPG wizard, Fem-Bots, and a few very typical game level locations. Eat Lead definitely should win a Comedic Game award, if nothing else. Unfortunately, the play was very linear and repetitive.


Each level in the Eat Lead universe progresses not only the storyline, but also the difficulty of passing it. This usually occurs in the sheer numbers of enemies that come at you in the latter levels. However, throughout the entire game, the computer's A.I. enemies essentially had a set pattern that made the game a bit repetitive. Being that Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is based on resurrecting old game characters from Matt Hazard's past, I would have liked to see a bit more variety in the A.I. dynamics, based on who he is fighting. A positive is that different weapons affect different enemies, so changing weapons becomes a big part of the game as well. The exception to this rule are the zombies that spawn in random points and act like, well, the undead, with their slow, lumbering motions and necessity to be shot in the head. All of the other characters essentially run and duck behind cover, which is what this game ends up being all about. Unfortunately, the enemies tend to be a bit on the slow-to-learn side because once behind cover, they are easily predictable and can be taken out relatively easily.

With that said, the number of enemies combined with the weapon types (certain guns can take you out in one shot) is what makes Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard's difficulty greater than it feels it should be. The game also contains Boss Battles, typical of most games of the past. These battles are also usually easy once you know the tricks and learn the patterns, but the first encounter with each may take a while or be frustrating. I especially had problems with the giant Final Fantasy-style boss avatar, even though it ended up being one of the simplest battles of the game after realizing what to do (don't worry... no spoilers here!).

The game also allows you to choose from multiple difficulty modes. I choose to play through on the middle difficulty and thought it was a perfect fit for my first time through. Unfortunately, knowing the secrets now changes the highest difficulty a bit, so I'm afraid that I can't get the full impact. It should be noted, however, that the game is increasingly difficult. I can imagine that one of the final scenes, where the enemy A.I. characters are taken out and the game company's employees (a.k.a. the "real human players") arrive in hordes would be a pretty big challenge.

Game Mechanics:

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard's controller interface did have a bit of a learning curve for sure, especially with smoothly learning to use cover and to figure out the tricks to aiming from behind that cover. However, in general, the controller layout was excellent and I really don't have any complaints. Where I have to be disgruntled is in the user interface. First off, the game did a good job of displaying the possible buttons that can be pressed for the aforementioned cover-to-cover moves (although there were times when I thought that some moves should have been options and they weren't, like rolling over small cover since there is no jump feature). Unfortunately, not playing on an HDTV makes it hard to see many things well. First and foremost is that the game occasionally threw button-pressing combinations at you for fight scenes and it was hard to distinguish between the (L) and (R) analog stick rotations. Also, as far as Menus and Loading Screens go, the text was extremely small and unreadable from a modest distance.

Another major issue that I had with Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard was in the form of bugs. Okay, it wasn't that there were a ton of bugs that distracted from the game, but rather the severity of the bugs that I encountered. I had to completely restart three times for various reasons. The first was that I got trapped in an area as the door shut behind me with nowhere to go, which led me to getting stuck in a doorway that led to nowhere because the room behind it hadn't spawned yet due to my directing Matt Hazard to an area that I shouldn't have had access too yet (I fell from a catwalk). The second was a flat-out crash after shooting a grenade. The third and final straw was that I ran out of ammo in one area that required me to shoot out some targets while avoiding a sniper. Normally, this is no big deal as you can melee attack enemies that are near and take their weapons, but this time there were no enemies. Okay, so if I let myself get killed, I'll restart from the same location with ammunition. Wrong. The sniper apparently also ran out of ammunition. My only choice left was to restart from my last save through the Menu system. Ouch! I am warning you right now... that "Reset" button that states any un-saved data will be lost (mind you, the game just got done saving a checkpoint) is a complete travesty... it resets the entire level! It was a very poor choice of wording.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, the final verdict is that Eat Lead is a great game in that it is entertaining in the sense that it does a great job within the nature of parody. The game itself isn't all that long and is quite repetitive in nature, but at the same time is somewhat addictive. I can't quite put my finger on it, but for the first time in a long time, I think that I was driven by the game's... ahem... storyline! Congrats on that. With that said, Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is absolutely worth a rental to see if you like it, and worth a buy for game fans looking to tease the medium that they so enjoy.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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