Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The videogame industry is ripe for parody, especially given its propensity for tired cliches like exploding barrels, random ammo pickups, and an endless supply of warehouse levels. Eat Lead: the Return of Matt Hazard tries to fill the satirical videogame void, but ends up being about as successful at its humor as the Scary Movie series is for film. It has good intentions, but the writing simply isn't up to par (especially considering they got the hilarious Will Arnett to voice the title character). Moments of inspiration or genuine humor pop up on occasion, but they're few and far between.
Gameplay is reminiscent of a less-polished Gears of War, with a lot of cover-based shootouts. However, the enemies feature some absolutely horrible A.I., and they have a tendency to "take cover" in plain view, run into walls, or simply stand there and get shot in the face without moving. At some points it's hard to tell if its faults are intentional parody or just oversights. For instance, one large room features seven fire extinguishers adorning the walls. Was this supposed to be a funny jab at action games that frequently use them as weapons, or were the developers just overexcited with the item placement?
The gunplay gets repetitive very quickly, even with the large variety in enemy types (cowboys, Russian soldiers, femme fatales, etc). On occasion, the game tries to break up the standard action with a boss fight, but the large majority of these are a pain. Early boss fights are done in the style of quick time events, which means you'll be rotating the analog sticks and pressing buttons in a Simon Says fashion a lot. It's really not an immersive way to get the gamer into the boss fight. God of War did an amazing job with these events, but that doesn't mean every subpar action game ever has to feature these now.
Hazard's "wit" is supposed to be one of the selling points of the game, but his dialogue is uninspired. Despite an entertaining backstory, his in-game quips are not typically clever, and Arnett sounds uncharacteristically bored. Many times, these jokes won't even make sense. During one section that featured me and one baddie in a hallway, he said "Back in the 90s they would never have been able to have this many guys onscreen at once!". It attempts to make a bunch of nerdy references to pander to longtime gamers, but they almost all fall flat. Despite the failure of most of the humor, I did enjoy the 2D Nazis that are straight out of Wolfenstein 3D.
Satirizing the gaming industry and its overused conventions is a great idea, and it's never been done quite right. Eat Lead tries pretty hard, but in the end it's no better than all the unoriginal action games it tries so hard to mock.
First Play: 6.5
Replay Value: 4.0
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