Within minutes of starting Eat Lead you will learn that Matt Hazzard was a big celebrity back in the 80s where he starred in a string of very successful video games. Since then he has unfortunately plummeted off the charts (due to making a Mario Kart type game) and been out of work. Destined for a comeback he is commissioned by "Wally" Wellesley to star in a new, next-generation video game. But not all is as well as it seems—Wally really wants to destroy him.
Allow me to explain: When Wally was a kid he bested every video game he played except for one—Matt Hazzards. Taken as a whole it is actually an intriguing idea for a video game as it leads to an unusual take on breaking the 4th wall.
For instance kicking off the voluntary tutorial leads to Matt Hazzard exclaiming, "Great--an in-game tutorial. God I hate these things!" and “Yeah Yeah! I know how to shoot a damn gun!”
During the beginning of one particular level--in habitual third-person/first-person fashion—the objectives start to appear in the upper right-hand corner. As they pile on they begin to cover the protagonist making him exclaim “Ok! Ok! Can we summarize this or something?” This prompts the list to be consolidated to “Shoot stuff that moves”.
It gets even more clever.
In one particular instance Matt Hazzard has to fight some of the enemies from his first game and they are literally 2-D sprites running around shooting at you. The real clever part is they purposefully become more difficult to hit by turning to their sides, thinning themselves.
But all this great material is simply overshadowed by the real issue--the gameplay. Though it replicates Gears of War in this regard, it fails to be engaging. The weapons have little-to-no kickback and lack any sort of originality. The AI is nonexistent and possibly inferior to the PB&J sandwich I had for lunch today. The quick-time events are slow and far too crude to be entertaining. The game is so unbalanced I completed 75% of a level using melee attacks that—when performed at the right moment--seemingly render you invincible.
It would be a bit trite for me to even mention to the readers of this blog that most video games expect you to slip into the boots of their protagonist. But in Eat Lead it’s just too difficult to do because the games foundation is so weak. It leaves Matt Hazzard to be possibly the most apologetic video game character ever. He consistently looks back at you winking and nudging his way through the levels in hopes that he will distract you from the real issues at hand.
No More Heroes is a similar game in that it’s self-aware (but to a much more mild extent). One of the glaring differences is the protagonist--Travis Touchdown. He is self-assured, hilarious and backed by an extremely robust gameplay model. In contrast I imagine Matt Hazzard would rather crawl out from the TV, sit next to you on the couch and entertain you with his knee-slapping humor. It ultimately makes for an awkward gaming experience that eventually falls prey to the same ridiculous paradigms it sets out to mocks.