Monday, August 10, 2009

Beaten : Eat Lead : The Return of Matt Hazard

Released back in March of this year to mediocre reviews, Eat Lead - The Return of Matt Hazard was nonetheless a game I wanted to play very much. Trailers like this one, as well as the voice acting by Will Arnett and Neil Patrick Harris painted a picture of a game that didn't take itself too seriously, and was an artistic parody of much of the last two decades of videogaming.

At fifty dollars, though, I couldn't justify picking it up. It eventually dropped to thirty dollars a few months back, but it wasn't until last Saturday, when I saw it at Wal-Mart for twenty dollars, that I took the plunge. For that price, I can say the game was a very satisfying experience.

Eat Lead : The Return of Matt Hazard is a third person shooter at its core gameplay, with a few quicktime events thrown in here and there. Technically, it is below this generation's standards in gameplay, if not graphics, but neither is an unforgivable issue when taken into the context of the delivery of the game's content.

There's a great cover system, but sometimes it misses what surface you want to hide behind. Enemies throw grenades at you, but you can't do the same (Matt even jokes about this design omission). Levels are big, checkpoints are frequent enough, and loading times are rarely an issue. Boss battles are often intense repeated-death sessions where it takes a lot of time and luck to figure out what to do.

As a comedic effort the game succeeds quite well in its parody of the videogame scene. It's not the Airplane of parodies in that the laughs don't come a mile a minute, but after beating down waves of repeating foes, when they do come it's a welcome reward.

Enemies come in the form of everything from construction workers to cowboys, zombies, Wolfenstein 3D-style 2D sprite-Nazis, water-gun toting commandoes, space marines, and more, each packing their own kind of in-character weapons. Speaking of which, the weapons and ammo dropped are never too scarce, and in a few places they respawn.

The story of Matt Hazard, a washed up videogame character who gets set up by a bitter software mogul, is perfect for the task at hand. There are a lot of moments in the game worth mentioning, but they are best left revealed to the player during the gameplay, and not through spoilers revealed on some obscure blog like this one.

The game even mocks the achievement system, granting achievements for just starting the game for the first time, pausing for the first time, an watching the end credits. Their names are fun, too, like the Russian Attack achievement, granted for using the AK-47 for a certain number of kills, a clear shout-out to the arcade classic.

So here's where I'm at with Eat Lead : The Return of Matt Hazard: It was worth the twenty dollars I spent on it for a weekend of fun gameplay and a few great laughs. I personally value what the game's developers were trying to do here, and in great measure they have succeeded. I got all the jokes and the tongue-in-cheek look at not just gaming, but game development. In spite of the game's poor sales, I hope there's a sequel, and I hope that other developers won't shy away from such concepts in the future.

For the average gamer looking for just another shooting game, and not too interested in the parody of our hobby, I can't recommend it. Like me, anyone playing Eat Lead must be more into the message than the gameplay for the whole package to work. And work it does. Eat Lead : The Return of Matt Hazard was great fun and a refreshing change from so many games that take themselves too damned seriously.

No comments: