Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard review

  • The randomness (when it happens)
  • The humor (when it happens)
  • The cover system
  • Not enough randomness
  • Not enough humor
  • Stupid enemies

Midway through third-person shooting his way around the Japanese steakhouse that comprises the first level of Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, the title character has encountered something out of the ordinary: a jive-talking African-American costumed in psychedelic space-clothes like a member of George Clinton’s band Funkadelic. Rather than diving into a kung-fu battle, Hazard lowers his pistol and deadpans, “I’m sorry … is this game set in the 1970s?”

This, in a nutshell, shows the sheer comic and creative genius of the game’s premise. Hazard (voiced by the brilliant Will Arnett) knows he’s a game character. Thus, it makes perfect sense when he makes wisecracks about lame videogame clichés or even meets a Mario or Master Chief parody character. And it’s funny when everyone in the game strives to keep him from uttering his canned corn catch-phrase, “It’s Hazard time!” And when the game company’s boss (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris), who wants you dead, begins dropping in enemies from every game you’ve ever made - space marines, zombies, whatever - it becomes clear that this game could take ANY form. Literally anything could happen. 

And at times, it does. One early level starts as an Old West town populated by cowboys and tumbleweeds, then moves into a modern dance club filled with house music and mobsters. You’ll encounter 2D Nazi guards who don’t care about cover - they just turn sideways, making themselves impossible to hit. And the game’s undisputable highlight is a boss battle against a mute RPG character who has spiky hair, carries an enormous sword, chooses his attacks from a text menu and “speaks” only through floating blue text boxes.

The problem is, those highlights are waaay too few and far between. The overwhelming majority of the time, Eat Lead falls colossally short of its potential and promise by simply refusing to do anything really creative. This is a game world in which anything can happen, yet you still spend 90% of your time in nondescript warehouses and docks, hiding behind differently shaped crates. Why? Why am I not fighting on a pirate ship flying through space and piloted by super-deformed talking animals? Similarly, while the enemies range from sexy robots to Russian soldiers, because all but the shambling zombies seem to have the exact same behaviors – which is to say, they’re all dumb as posts – it still gets boring. And why, oh why, are we shooting so many construction workers and sailors? Where are the robot dinosaurs?

For example, there are soldiers here who wear bright, plastic armor and carry squirt guns – they’re taken from a non-violent kid’s watergun game – and speak with tons of water-related puns (“Prepare to be liquidated!”). But their guns are still deadly and they act just like every other enemy. How much more interesting and darkly funny would it have been to have them stay true to their original form? They could appear in bonus areas in which Matt could mow them down by the dozens. Or they could be immune to real bullets and have their own neon colored areas in which their orange, yellow and green armor actually did camouflage them. Or Matt could use their water guns to short out robot enemies resistant to bullets. Anything. As it is, they’re just a palette-swap, which cheapens the entire premise.

One thing that the game does beautifully is cover. You can hide behind nearly anything with a quick button press, then peek and aim or just blindfire around it. And when it’s time to move, you simply target another cover area and tap a single button – Matt will run (as well as he can, at least. He’s no track star) to that new area and take cover again. It’s great. And we still get a kick out of little, “remember this is a game” touches, like the way destroyed cover leaves a hole in the game world. Too bad the dialogue isn’t snappier. 

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is trapped in many of the clichés it seeks to skewer, but it’s still a fairly adequate shooter and occasionally gives you a chuckle. It’s just that we were hoping for something truly unique.

Mar 10, 2009

More Info

Release date: Mar 03 2009 - Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Shooter
Published by: D3Publisher of America
Developed by: Vicious Cycle
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Language, Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes


  • TheIronMaiden - April 5, 2010 8:57 p.m.

    played this game today, have to say its a good game. I'm enjoying it thoroughly and the humor is great. Just needs more of it.
  • Montag - March 12, 2009 12:10 a.m.

    Does nobody at the play test and focus group time not say that a game is a let down? It seems that the number of people who let it pass must be enormous but nobody has the nads to say "I dunno bit boring innit"
  • ssj4raditz - March 11, 2009 3:31 a.m.

    It is unfortunate that the humor is stretched so thin. I thought it could do a lot better. Oh well, still gonna play through it.
  • idlemindkiller - March 11, 2009 2:52 a.m.

    at least they tried. oh well. oh and R.I.P. EGM.
  • FourMe2PoopOn - April 30, 2009 10:35 p.m.

    I love this game.
  • EricBratcher - March 27, 2009 9:12 p.m.

    super-saint, you may be thinking of a 6 on our scale as the same as a 60 in school, which is usually a D. It's not. If you look at our review scale, 6 means "Decent". So, just short of "Good", which would be a 7, but better than "So-So" at 5. That sounds "fairly adequate" to me. As for why it didn't score more highly, it's just too redundant and the enemies aren't clever enough. So that's what's "askew". Sorry if that wasn't more clear. Thanks for reading!
  • super-saint - March 23, 2009 5:33 a.m.

    mhmm... i guess a game is only as creative as the delelopers... meabey you guys should make the sequil? and a 6 seems kinda odd considering that the last part of the reveiw reads "Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is trapped in many of the clichés it seeks to skewer, but it’s still a fairly adequate shooter" so my deep subconsious tells me theres something askew with the gameplay that would dampen the score to a six... it should be also noted im not accuseing of anyone takening money or attacking jornalistic intregity, its just sorta odd
  • RebornKusabi - March 14, 2009 11:28 p.m.

    I actually really liked this game. It was actually laugh out loud funny at times which is pretty damn rare in video games and the game was pretty playable compared to another certain bikini-clad zombie slaying game that they pubished in America.... I have said to others and I will say it again- if this game had been picked up by someone like Bungie or Microsoft, this game would have been very successful but because it was published by someone relatively small, it really doomed the game to obscurity a la The Suffering.
  • Stabby_Joe - March 12, 2009 1:05 a.m.

    I'm still interested in this title. It seems to be getting 6 or 5/10 reviews so its not great but not bad. More for a laugh if anything.
  • idlemindkiller - March 11, 2009 9:22 p.m.

    damn, i thought that more people would comment on this game. it really did seem like it could be a fresh yet familiar at the same time. i love games that arent just some shitty clone of 50 other shitty clone games. game developers need to realize that gamers like me who have been playing almost 30 years need new stuff. left 4 dead is a great example, take boring tired FPS and make it cool again. lets go developers, WAKE UP!!!!!!!!

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