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Bullet Buffet- Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard Reviewed

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard. Developer: Vicious Cycle, Publisher: D3 Publisher

When not playing an action game for review, the ‘rule of three’ is applied. I force myself to watch a game’s first three cinematics. If just one of the cut-scenes excites, or gives vital plot information, I will watch every successive in-game movie. However, if none of first three scenes captivates me, the skip button will be pressed for each subsequent cinematic. Call me jaded, but an estimated forty percent of all shooters fail this ‘rule of three’.

Recent Xbox 360 and Playstation release, Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard hooked me during its opening movie. The game’s narrative follows the career trajectory of an 80’s action game star, from his early beginnings in a Contra-styled shooter, and early FPS hero, to his ensuing decent in a cart racer. The concept of an aging, fictitious game star is both original and fertile matter for game design. Since so many games rely on a set of tropes and conventions- from the requisite mine cart levels to the lava and snow worlds, Eat Lead has an abundance of material to form its farce around. Parodies of NES-era boxart, chip tunes, and pixilated graphics had me suitably mesmerized.  Sadly, it’s Matt Hazard’s actual gameplay that disappoints; it’s somewhat dated and uninspired, making me ask throughout, “Is this part of the joke, too?”

Clearly the paramount element of Eat Lead’s gameplay is its functional and well-implemented cover mechanic. When close to an environmental object, a press of the ‘A’ button sends Hazard into a defensive position. From there, players can pop up, fire blindly, and scuttle to the next secured position. Occasionally, player will find themselves behind a destructible object, required Hazard to keep moving. Each Levels are typically linear, and while the theme changes, the gameplay largely remains static.

Sadly, enemy artificial intelligence offers more of a nuisance than a real threat.  Foes either take pot-shots from a covered position or rush the player, if close. We wish CPU had evolved as much as Matt Hazard; unfortunately, it seems stubbornly stuck in the last console generation.  In apparent homage to the golden age of power-ups, our protagonist can obtain fire and ice abilities, yet puzzlingly cannot use grenades.

Like the gameplay, Matt Hazard offers a competent graphical palette that rarely astounds.  Luckily, the framerate is solid and each level brings a new video game parody, from space marines, cowboys, Nazis and zombies. Occasional flourishes like smoke leaving the barrel of Hazard’s just-fired pistol elevate the proceedings. Will Arnet and Neil Patrick Harris sound like they enjoyed recording the game’s comical voice-acting, which features a constant barrage of game and pop-culture references. While not all of the material is hilarious, it is at least consistently amusing.

Ultimately, Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is an amusing game with a competent, yet uninspired engine. The title’s humorous narrative and solid voice-acting sucked me in, yet the pedestrian and repetitive gameplay had me longing for some substance. Matt Hazard’s greatest offense is succumbing to the same pratfalls and conventions the game’s skews. Play it for the guffaws, not for the gunplay.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. I love the idea of the game. I’ve ready every site just hates how its done, though.

  2. I love the RPG screen. Those are in need of parody.

  3. Perfect rental.

  4. This is like those Epic Movie parodies. You have to be in the right mood, and even then you might feel ripped off.

  5. He’s got a freakin’ Super Soaker. Thats full of throbbing wet win right there.

  6. Didn’t this got dropped during its development cycle.

    That can’t be a good sign.

  7. Is the main character part of the joke too? He looks like every other game hero..

  8. How much is the game? I love the concept!

  9. Jason Statham’s and Bruce Willis’ love-child.

  10. This could have been way cool. Still I need to play it to enjoy the jokes.

  11. Tell me there’s some bomberman jokes and I’ll be happy.

  12. I agree great game concept, I wish they had different game type instead of FPS.

  13. $19.99 or less for me.

  14. Black Bomberman jokes would be even better!

  15. I think it’s $49.99

  16. Why no mention of the multiplayer?

  17. Love the name of the game.

  18. This one sounded like it had a lot of potential. I put it on my GF list.

  19. I bought it last week and absolutely hated it. You die all the time. The gameplay is too hard and not fun at all.

    But, yes, it is a bit funny went its not frustrating.

  20. Never heard of this game before this review.

  21. I must say the graphics look pretty damn good. Reminds me of the Mass Effect guy.

  22. What else has vicious circle made?

  23. Zombies Nazis and cowboys. I got to take a look!

  24. What’s going on with the first pic?

    He’s blind firing, but leaving himself WAY open to enemy fire, and not even looking at what’s down range.

    That just looks incredibly stupid.

  25. A send up of all the tired cliches? Great, especially that JRPG screen, gawd hoe can anyone play that syle of game anymore?

  26. The really good Dead Head Fred, and the really bad Robotech: Battlecry.

    They also did a bad port of Puzzle Quest to the PSP.

  27. Polygon Paradise

    Who forgot to put the fun in funny?

  28. Morning Tentpole

    All you had to say was freakin’ Doogie Houser MD!!

  29. Whats it rated? I hope there’s blood, cussing and nudity.

  30. What grade would you have given it?

  31. Rated “T” for teen, dude.

  32. A rental for me. Hopefully, they’ll correct any problems in a sequel.

  33. That bottom pic looks like its from the last Indiana Jones movie.

  34. I totally agree. If you make a FPS these days, it better be triple A.

  35. i loved this game!!!!!!
    this is one of the BEST games i’ve ever played! (i own 167 games) i reccomend buying it. (cuz if u dont, they wont make Eat Lead 2) =(

  36. I had high hopes for this one. May still have to rent it.

  37. Good review.

    Eat Lead was one of those games that had such a strong paragraph summary of concept that I wanted to root for it the second I heard of it (see: Okami, No More Heroes, Fallout, Katamari Damacy) but became more skeptic with each preview batch that came out. It’s such a ripe field to take on and it didn’t look like they were running with it. What I’ve played was pretty good, but that’s the problem. It wants to be completely over the top but was dragged down to competent by overall design. I do want them to make a sequel, sure, but only because I still love the idea of it and think that it can be fixed. More importantly I worry that no one will really be able to pick up the torch of this kind of parody if they leave it here because it’ll be hit by “it’s been done.”

  38. i LOVED this game, and i WISH there will be a Eat Lead 2 🙂

    (a Sequal called “It’s Hazard Time” is coming out during summer)