Eat Lead has so much going for it as a premise. The titular character is a self-aware video game character who rises to fame in a Wolfenstein esque FPS which makes his video game star explode. His skyrocket to popularity is quickly destroyed when he is given the go ahead to direct his own career. He opts for a Mario Kart esque racing game and a shoot em up called Soak Em that turned into Die Hard with water pistols; hardly the career path for a character known for violence. The humour and wackiness is something this game has in spades; sadly the game play side doesn’t share this fantastic grounding.
Hazard is best described as a Duke Nukem/ gamer hybrid; all of the humour of the first with all the appreciation for the medium of the second. The plot follows a short rundown of Matt Hazard’s past games and places you into his newest as a hard boiled detective (his words not mine) setting out on a new case. Slowly this world gets turned upside down by the games creator whom wants to kill off Matt with his reasoning being equally as wacky as the plot. Hazard’s original game was too difficult for the new CEO so he decides to kill him off in his own game as he can’t fire him because of his contract.
Will Arnett from Arrested Development fame and Neil Patrick Harris, Barney from How I Met Your Mother, continue the trend of bringing TV and film talent into games and both do a fantastic job. Both fit well into the roles they are given as Hazard and Wallace Wellesley, the evil CEO, respectively and they seem to enjoy the originality of the script they are given.
The humour is where Matt Hazard shines, particularly as the video game industry isn’t well known for its comedic value unless the consistent war theme we are going through at the moment is amusing to you. Stereotypes are thrown around thick and fast, and to great effect. Hazard gets irritated by the fact that the player chooses to play through the tutorial level as he has done it so many times before. Sting Sniperscope, a take on Arnold Schwarzenegger, produces one-liners about Matt Hazards impending doom, which don’t make any sense. Hazard’s love interest meets him in game and gets irritated that her ratings have gone down as Hazard made it look like she cheated on him.
Furthermore, the allies he meets along the way are a not so subtle dig at well known characters, with ‘Master Chef’ appearing in a space marine level being a personal favourite. The fact that all the characters know they are in video game , and talk about the odd concepts they have to deal with as characters that us gamers take for granted, is a nice and original take and reminds me heavily of Arnies ‘Last Action Hero’. (which just so happens to be one of my favourite films) The maintenance of the character beyond the game is also brilliant with an XBLA sequel released and most of the characters actually having their own Facebook accounts.
Matt Hazard throws every genre and enemy possible at you with cowboys, zombies, Russian communists and your bog standard gun wielding maniac as the game is adapted to try and kill the hero with them all appearing from Hazards past games.
All of the above is what makes the rest of the game so irritating in its mediocrity. It never strays from anything more than look, cover, shoot, kill and then move on to the next area. Although you do have access to a decent array of weapons, spanning the genres you face, all sound the same and feel the same. A massive great handgun should never feel like a peashooter nor should it sound like someone let rip at the wrong moment.
It also falls into the Gears of War trap of several conveniently placed chest high walls to dive behind as you are temporarily swarmed, though the cover system is perhaps one of the only game play element that is original and noteworthy. As you are in a game and the code of said game is changing rapidly, cover can appear and disappear out of existence throwing up difficult situations when everyone is firing at you. The cover system itself alternates between allowing you to run to other cover automatically, dive over cover or edge around it, perhaps one of the best mechanics in the game and something a Mass Effect or a Gears of War could really learn from.
Enemy AI is borderline non-existent and it is more than possible to hit enemies over or around cover without too many problems. Playing on a medium difficulty I had little to no trouble with any of the game aside from the few times the enemy AI remembered it actually had AI and became stupidly accurate killing poor Matt in one. Graphics are also pretty poor, with textures looking very last generation. There is also no blood at all, enemies emit code when shot and just disappear when dead, which makes killing enemies generally unsatisfying and highlights the graphics problems further.The character models are ok but frequently are not synced to their speech ,pulling you out of any atmosphere that was created. Scenery seems to have been rehashed from every genre possible which misses being endearing and exchanges it for seeming lazy and rather crude.
Matt Hazard is best described as a fantastic experiment that placed all of its focus on genre subversion and humour rather than what it was actually supposed to be, which makes it even more of a shame that the humour is so entertaining. The drive to finish the game is to witness the next one liner or cut scene is made all the more difficult as the game play is just so generic, the graphics dull and the gunplay unrewarding. Its difficult to recommend it for the humour alone as videos of all of this are easy to access on the internet which , all in all, is a real shame.