Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard (360)
As a tongue-in-cheek spoof of action video games, Matt Hazard fails. There are some genuinely funny self-referential bits but the developers just didn't take it far enough. It also suffers from some design issues, chief among them pathetic AI, boring boss fights, and a general lack of polish. It's ironic then that Eat Lead actually ends up being a half decent action game, even if it does fall victim to some of the same cliches that it tries so very hard to make fun of.
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The Story Thus Far
Let me get the generic info-dump out of the way now: Matt Hazard is a third-person action title in the vein of Gears of War that features a cover system as its main game concept. You play as Matt Hazard, a video game action star, who falls victim to the shenanigans of a crooked CEO of a game company; you're "cast" in a video game but things quickly go awry as enemies from your past are hacked in. The game offers about eight hours of gameplay (ten or so if you die a lot, like I did) and there's a good variety of enemies, from Western gunshooters to futuristic space soldiers to shoot at. You're also given access to a nice set of weapons that range from pistols and shotguns to plasma rifles.
The cover system is the game's greatest strength and it's handled really well. Hug against a wall and press A to stick to it; lean out over a corner and you're given various contextual options like the ability to run to the next available piece of cover or slide around the corner. Some cover is destructible so you have to be nimble but dispatching enemies is fairly easy thanks to the slick controls (though camera issues can make life difficult when the heat is on). The graphics are also fairly decent but they won't make you forget about Gears of War anytime soon.
But while it's a solid enough effort, the game shoots itself in the foot with a tremendous lack of polish. The level designs are boring, the difficulty is uneven and the enemy AI is atrocious. The only time I took note of the level architecture was when the textures suddenly went old school in an homage to Wolfenstein 3D-the rest of it was plain-jane office buildings and warehouses. The game is also ridiculously easy for the most part-enemies make good use of cover but conveniently expose their heads for long stretches, making them easy snipe targets-but there are sections that are brutally hard in the 'too many enemies, not enough ammo/cover' way. I didn't beat these sections so much as I endured them, which is always a bad feeling.
The game also fails miserably in its attempts to spoof the action game genre. Except for a few jokes that caused me to chuckle, the game doesn't do enough to poke fun at the established cliches, which is a shame. Will Arnett's comedic talent also goes to waste thanks to uninteresting dialogue, though he does make the most of his lines.
What Could've Been
I came very close to hating Matt Hazard for the reasons I just listed but at the end of the day, I had to admit that I enjoyed playing through it. It's not a triple-A blockbuster and Matt Hazard is definitely not the second coming of Duke Nukem but it's a solid action title that delivers its fair share of thrills. With some better writing and more polish, it could have been something more; maybe that's something the developers will take to heart for the inevitable sequel.
PROS: Solid action, great cover system, interesting variety of enemies and weapons.
CONS: Not enough polish; humor falls flat; uneven difficulty and wonky A.I.