Just when we thought the overcrowded shooter genre couldn't possibly accept any more bald space marines, along comes Matt Hazard in Eat Lead. This third-person shooter makes a mockery of past videogames by combining A-list voice talent, toilet humor, and a vast amount of parodies. Can Matt's slapstick, self-referential shootout avoid becoming a stereotype itself?
Funny man Will Arnett voices Hazard, a superstar from the '80s who made it big back in the eight-bit era. After fame, and a few flops, the now defunct action hero has finally been offered a starring role in a new game. It's not without a price. The moment Hazard enters stage one, it becomes apparent that someone is out to kill him. Together with QA, a newfound hologram ally, Hazard must rescue his comrades, and uncover the mysteries behind the game.
Eat Lead's satirical plot is told through well-scripted, hilarious cutscenes. It parodies everything from Master Chief to Mario, and even mocks Final Fantasy's fabled bosses. Not all of the jokes hit, but the concept of a game within a game keeps things mostly unpredictable.
Judging solely on the box-art, you'd think Eat Lead is an over-the-top, gun blazing, action-packed summer blockbuster. In reality it's a highly generic third-person shooter, where you'll spew water streams at cheap enemy A.I., duck behind obstacles to avoid unfair deaths, and most disappointingly, conserve ammo. Poor design choices litter the game from top to bottom.
Armed with the usual repertoire of guns including a shotgun, Uzi, sniper, and assorted handguns, you'll work through eight single-player missions. You'll also earn fire and ice powerups that can be incredibly effective.
Backtracking is far too prevalent, and the reaching each checkpoint becomes a relief. Boss battles manage to help break things up from the endless ducking and shooting.
Without any multi-player or cooperative options, you'll quickly burn through the entire game in under 10 hours. After rolling through the credits you'll earn a higher difficulty setting, but like most comedy, the jokes just aren't as funny a second time through.
The basic movement controls feel fine, but the sloppy cover system feels dated and broken. Often times you'll find yourself sticking to the wrong wall, or worse, incapable of taking cover at all. The animations used to roll up and over cover, or move from one spot to another, are too slow, and leave you vulnerable to attack.
Guns manage to get the job done, but the shotgun is useless unless you're three feet from your enemy, and the AK 47 and Uzi have awkward recoil. Enemies can lob grenades at your feet while you're ducking in cover, but you are incapable of returning the favor. Being limited to just two guns, and a clunky melee attack mocks make Eat's Lead's title ironic.
Whether you're talking about the slow-moving zombies or trigger-happy fembot Lara Crofts, each one is as brain dead as the next. They'll either storm you from all sides in narrow corridors, or look positively awkward as they attempt to take cover. Headshots are a must in order to conserve ammo, but poor hit detection, especially when firing blindly or from the hip, makes for frequent unwarranted misses.
Enemies are vulnerable to their own weapons, a welcoming play on strategy, but it still doesn't explain why they absorb bullets like sponges. The Halo-inspired space marines can take a full clip to drop. It can be incredibly challenging, especially when enemies continually respawn over and over again. Be prepared for tons of cheap deaths.
The visuals feature bland textures, and dull, cramped environments, yet the presentation is really what sells all the parodies. The monitor on Hazard's back, cocking the super-soaker water rifle, or even swapping in and out of guns all add a touch of personality. The short-lived Wolfenstein area with 2D German soldiers is one of the highlights. A long elevator scene that spoofs Mass Effect is another success. Even if you don't like Neil Patrick Harris, the voice acting goes a long way in selling the whacked-out scenarios. The weapons sound way too underpowered with no satisfying boom or blast from the barrel.
The problem with Eat Lead is that it only replicates the looks of all the games it spoofs, and not the gameplay. What's left is a repetitive, subpar third-person shooter skinned in various game themes and filled with cheap gags. If you've been playing games for a long time you'll appreciate some of the more clever scenarios, but the clunky cover system and idiotic enemies will keep you form enjoying it for long. The Return of Matt Hazard will likely be his first and last appearance.