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Platform

Playstation 3

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

D3 Publisher

 

Developer

Vicious Cycle Software

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

February 26, 2009

 

 

- Great premise and storyline

- Overall excellent voice work

- Will Arnett AND Neil Patrick Harris. 'Nuff said

 

 

- Frustrating gameplay

- Sluggish controls

- Decent music ruined by repetitiveness

 

 

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Review: Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (PS3)

Review: Afro Samurai (PS3)

 

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Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard

Score: 5.5 / 10

 

eat lead the return of matt hazard          eat lead the return of matt hazard

 

The sign of a mature industry is one that can not only afford to laugh at itself, but one that sometimes willingly embraces the foibles and stereotypes associated with it in order to help make the joke.  That being said, parody is probably one of the harder forms of comedy because it's far too easy to either fall short or wildly overshoot the mark.  Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is probably one of the first big budget titles I can think of which attempts to parody videogames, as opposed to a videogame attempting to parody something else.  It has all the right elements for a great parody but somehow doesn't transmute those elements into gaming gold.

 

Eat Lead's visual appearance is pretty slick.  It's not superdetailed like what you might find on Heavenly Sword or Killzone 2, but retains what I can only describe as a slightly retro feel to it, something that you might have seen three or four years

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ago on PC.  Whether this was the intention of the designers or not, it works, setting a sort of visual tone suggesting older games and attempts to bring them up to date with newer technology.  The characters are well modeled and move fairly smoothly.  There are all sorts of neat little effects tricks that reinforce the idea of a character not only being in a videogame but actually being aware

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that they're in a videogame.  Elements which would normally be destructible and show evidence of damage here look like they're malfunctioning holograms off Star Trek's Holodeck.  Particle effects are numerous and nicely done.  There's not much in the way of blood in this game which again goes towards reinforcing the idea of being in a simulacrum.

 

Arguably, the game's biggest asset is its voice work.  Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Blades of Glory) does a pitch perfect spoof of numerous videogame protagonists, the most obvious being Duke Nuke'em, who tend to shoot first and quip immediately after.  Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog) chews up the scenery "back in the real world" as the megalomaniacal CEO of Marathon Games, Wallace "Wally" Wellesley, attempts to destroy Matt Hazard partially because of a clause in the character's contract that won't let him quit or be fired, but mostly because the little putz couldn't beat any video game starring Hazard when he was a kid.  It's over-the-top stuff and does get some giggles.  Ambient sound effects such as gunfire are clean but nothing special.  The music is fine the first couple of times you hear it, but it does tend to wear on you after a while as it seems to be literally variations on a common theme.

 

eat lead the return of matt hazard          eat lead the return of matt hazard

 

The gameplay in Eat Lead is what hurts the title more than anything.  On the plus side, the developers have cribbed some of the good stuff from titles such as Gears of War and The Bourne Conspiracy, making it fairly easy to not only get into cover but fight from it as well.  The storyline and characters are well written, giving Arnett and Harris an opportunity to further enhance their reputations as comedy heavyweights.  On the negative side, there are times where the system puts you into cover on the wrong face of an object like a box or pillar, which subsequently gets you shot and killed for your troubles.  For a game that is supposed to be fast paced run-n-gun action, the controls are sluggish and imprecise.  I particularly found the sniper rifle, usually my favorite weapon in any shooter, to be cumbersome and imprecise.  While you've got plenty of options to pick up different weapons, ranging from the usual shotguns and submachine guns to matched revolvers from Wild West themed enemies to lethal squirt guns from a "kid friendly" shooter, it's almost like the developers want you to be a lousy shot, to burn through ammo and pick up the next dropped weapon without a thought.  Moreover, there's a distinctly frustrating element to the levels.  While there are numerous checkpoints which you can start at should you get killed, the frustration sets in when the objective isn't quite as clear as it ought to be, or when you keep getting killed because you didn't quite get around the corner of a box in time, or when you find yourself getting shot when you're in cover and there's not an enemy to be seen.  Just as it seems like the developers want you to be wasteful with ammo, it feels like they want you to be wasteful  with your character's health.  I can almost see drinking games flowing from this title.  Get killed in Eat Lead, take a shot.

 

There are times when shortcomings in a game can be overlooked when you have superlative strengths that essentially add to the fun.  There are design decisions that could be handled better but you don't care because you're enjoying the game as a whole and you're not focusing on the small stuff.  This is not one of those times and this is not one of those games.  Eat Lead has an excellent premise and a superb voice cast, but the gameplay leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

 

- Axel Cushing

(April 21, 2009)

 

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