When I sit down to review a game, I usually like to start with the thing that I enjoyed most or found the most exciting. For Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard that's… um… well, the Achievements are very, very easy. You should be able to rack up a ton of these things on your first play through for stuff like pausing the game, watching the credits, and other easy-peasy tasks.
Beyond that… um…
Listen, it's not that Eat Lead is bad, it's just that it's completely lost -- it doesn't know what it's trying to be. The basic story is that you're Matt Hazard, a washed up videogame hero. See, in this universe, the characters in videogames exist outside of their games -- not in the real world, just in the digital ether. Matt used to be a big deal but started lending his name to cart racers and quickly burned out. Still, the company that makes his games has a lifetime contract with the guy, so Matt's just chilling out while the world moved on. A new owner named Wally takes control of the company, hates Matt, and decides to put him in a game where he dies. Matt finds out about the plot and rebels against the plan and begins hacking his way through the game world looking to beat the character Wally's tapped to replace him and just plain survive.
Zombies in HD.
All of this plays out in a traditional third-person affair. Matt can only carry two guns, he can take cover on most objects, he can blind fire, there are power-ups that make him invulnerable and his attacks more powerful, and he can take out bad guys with melee moves. If you've played Gears, Dark Sector, or any of the other similar titles, you'll immediately feel at home with Eat Lead. The one thing the game does add is Point to Cover. Here, Matt can be in cover on one object, point to the next object he wants to hide behind, tap one button, and jog on over there automatically.
Meant to be a comedy, Eat Lead actually takes a few quality jabs at the videogame landscape -- including mocking long loads in elevators, the stereotype that JRPG bosses are so goddamned long-winded, and the fact that explosive barrels are so prevalent -- but these laughs get lost in a sea of mediocrity. If the story didn't sound ridiculous enough, Wally's whole motivation is that Matt's games were the only titles he couldn't beat as a joystick wunderkind. The game sticks with the tired formula of walk into a room and beat everyone to open the next door. There are only a handful of music tracks, and they repeat throughout the whole game. I don't know if Eat Lead is trying to take subtle shots at the formula of the old 8-bit titles, but it falls flat. This isn't an 8-bit game, so the pigeonholes make the title feel stilted -- and annoying.
Jiminy Christmas, Sunday morning sucked. Most of Eat Lead is a cakewalk; you'll walk into a room full of baddies, grab some cover, and take the opponents out -- they stand in one spot and your crosshairs can be aligned before you pop out so headshots are simple -- but when I got to the Tramm monster, things hit the skids. See, after beating another room of fools, Matt quantum leapt onto a pirate ship thanks to QA -- his curvy, virtual guide through the game -- but a beast had its tentacles around both sides of the vessel. Matt needed to dogde the tips of the tendrils as they slammed into the deck of the ship and then take out the orange gems on the tip-heads as they got stuck in the boat. It sounds easy, but this boss battle becomes a battle against retarded mechanics. You need to run from impact hole to impact hole so that you can be in position to shoot the lodged tip. If you aren't moving with the holes, the beast will slam down on top of you and kill you in one hit. Add to the mix a bunch of bad guys who keep spawning into the mix, and you get a confusing/irritating battle with poor camera work thanks to obstacles on the deck and a limited POV (Where is the latest hole? I can't see it. What tendril is about to come down? I can't see it.). On top of that, I had one round where the holes got out of sync and the tentacle I was supposed to be shooting was getting stuck before the hole I needed to shoot from was getting created. By the time the hole was there, the gemmed tentacle was taking off. Worse, when I'd run into a spawned bad guy, I'd start to melee with him and the animation would take so long that we'd both get crushed by the beast.
Sadly, that "beat my head against the wall" battle was just the tip of the iceberg of new troubles for Matt Hazard. Sure, up until this point I had to deal with Matt's melee attacks looking like he was punching air, the fact that the game insists on spawning foes behind your back, and that boss battle end in awkward quick-time events that are moving at half speed, but the final two levels in this game are marathon sessions in repetition and boredom. Up until this part in the game, the Eat Lead levels have been paced well enough and look different (albeit bland) enough, but when we enter these final two levels -- the docks and the offices -- everything goes to hell. It's like the developers realized they were coming in light on gameplay hours and decided to extend it in the worst way possible by tossing every enemy you've faced in the game at you in wave after wave in the same drab environments. I mean, a section of the "executive office" is just plywood (like it's under construction), but the connecting area is completely decked out. Did they build the top of the building, then the bottom, move people in, and then get around to the middle? Zombies, cowboys, space marines, and more keep getting spawned in. Every time you turn a corner, there's another sampling of the saps you've beaten dozens of times.
That's a weird exam...
What this boils down to is basically breaking the game to make sure you don't die because although the checkpoints are forgiving in most of the game, they can be a bitch in these levels with wave after wave of tools in one area. I'm sure that Vicious Cycle wanted me to take cover on objects and blind fire around them or whatever, but I'd basically walk into a room, trigger the bad guys, run out of the room, and begin working my way back in inch by inch so that I could cap guys as I saw them (sometimes you can shoot through corners of walls) rather than be in one spot they were all firing on.
It would be a crime to not mention that Will Arnett -- yes, Gob Bluth -- is on hand to voice Matt and that Dr. Neil Patrick Harris is playing Wally. Their performances are good, but the sound quality overall is nothing to write home about in Eat Lead. I've had lines of dialogue get dropped, the repetitive music suddenly disappear, and more. Plus, there's only a handful of lines for in-game stuff, so you'll get sick of Matt saying "use your head" and Wally screaming at his programmers pretty quickly.
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