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Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard
Score: 84%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: D3
Developer: Vicious Cycle
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
You've never heard of Matt Hazard!? He is the biggest gaming icon in the last 25 years! Well, he would be if he were real. In what I am calling the first example of a post-modern game, Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard lives and dies by how much you are willing to invest into it.

Almost everything about Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard would be decried as generic by the informed gaming public... and they would be half-right. The graphics are bland, blurry, cliché, and sometimes pixilated, but it is supposed to be. How would a Wolfenstein style level look like it was straight from the '90s if it didn't have swatches of fluorescent greens, purples, and reds? The entire thought process behind Eat Lead preys upon identifying genre conventions and satirizing them to the point of absurdity. The main character, Matt Hazard, looks good enough by today's standards. He has enough detail to show subtle nuances in his face and the motion capture does add another level of believability, but it was clear there was more time spent on the writing than making every character stand out.

It is a shame that the audio suffers as much as it does. When Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is at it's best is when Matt is bantering back and forth between villains or even breaking the fourth wall and talking to the player directly. Matt gets frustrated if he is out of ammo and he is quick to let you know since he says "Ooh. If only there were an ammo counter telling me I'm empty" or "Looks like it is time to switch weapons, genius." The back of the box proudly brags about Will Arnett and Neil Patrick Harris as major characters. Will Arnett's nailed his performance as Matt Hazard. It's great and gives him a more identifiable quality. On the other hand, Neil Patrick Harris plays Wally Wellesley, the CEO of Marathon MegaSoft, the company that makes all of the Matt Hazard games, but he isn't nearly as funny as Will Arnett, just obnoxious.

Apparently the developers didn't know that voice talent isn't the only thing that needs to stand out, because the sound effects and music didn't receive nearly the same level of attention. The guns sound like firecrackers instead of meaty firearms and the accompanying soundtrack is full of generic guitar riffs, so at the very least, it sounds as good as a cheesy action movie.

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard poises an alternate reality where videogame characters are just as vibrant and real as action heroes from Hollywood. Matt Hazard is an aging videogame icon that had a slew of early hits in the 8-bit era and continued his streak until he cashed in and made kart racing games and kid-friendly shooters. Ever since then, Matt was left out of the spotlight and faded into the ether. After 6 years of retirement, Matt has come back for his big break. But his big break is a conspiracy plot to take him out for good and to use his death to build a new superstar hero.

Each level plays on more typical action game clichés. There are Japanese steakhouses, abandoned warehouses, and even shipping docks were you will kill hundreds and hundreds of enemies. Oh, how many enemies there are to kill! At first, it starts typically with some nightclub bouncers and elite special forces operatives. But then it takes a sharp turn into crazy town when cowboys, zombies, robots, communists, Wolfenstein Nazis, dock workers, and space marines all take you on at the same time. I think it's pretty awesome when a space marine drops a laser rifle and I can use it to shoot a cowboy and then punch a zombie in the face afterwards. It's just too bad that there isn't anything else. All that Matt knows how to do is fire a gun. It would have made the world of difference if there was some sort of crowd control like grenades, but instead, all they offer is fire and ice power-ups and shield pick-ups. Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is at its core an average shooter that is really funny but with only one cool feature; the cover system.

If a game comes out and makes fun of all of the other competition, it had better do something different that at least pushes the genre forward in some way. Eat Lead has at least one ace in the hole, and that is a very intuitive and creative cover system. Cover is essential to success in Matt Hazard's adventure and since the A.I. is aggressive, getting in and out of cover should be easy, and it is. Once behind cover, Matt can rotate around the cover point, roll over cover to get to a better spot and even run to another point when the heat is too much. It all flows really well and makes large encounters more interesting than in most other shooters.

If I could offer a word of caution to anyone that wants to play Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard and they feel like a veteran in shooters, it isn't wise to start on "Major Hazard." See, there are three different difficulties in Eat Lead: Minor Hazard, Major Hazard, and Max Hazard. They are tricking you into thinking it is Easy, Normal and Hard when it is really Normal, Hard, and "Oh my God, why!?"

On the harder difficulties, it becomes a test of reflexes and dexterity because not only is there less ammo, all of the enemies are smarter, more aggressive, and you die much quicker. It really is reserved for the truly committed and hardcore.

Game Mechanics:
A good measure of shooters is how satisfying it feels when you pull the trigger because you will do it a lot throughout your bloody journey. In Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, it feels... okay. Aiming and shooting is handled like most others with (L2) assigned to aiming and (R2) handling the business end of the gun. I don't think that the shooting is handled poorly as much as the enemy designs are handled poorly. Sometimes it takes far too many shots to drop someone that is at point blank range and that really drags the pace down.

By holding (L1) while you are moving, you can make Matt run, and (Triangle) goes in and out of cover. The easiest comparison to make is that it feels very much like Uncharted: Drake's Fortune in the way Matt moves around environments and dispatches enemies, but less polished.

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is very much a "B" level game in as much as The Running Man is a "B" level action movie. There aren't many people that are going to give this game a chance, and that is a shame. Even if they did, they won't play much more than an hour because they would feel like the have seen it before. If you have read up on the fictional history of Matt Hazard and go into it with the intent to laugh, then you will find Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is great fun for the right price with plenty of jokes to keep you entertained and maybe crack a smile. Games are meant to be fun, and I found Eat Lead to be just that, fun.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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