Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard Preview
Every once in a while, we need to take a step back and laugh at ourselves. After establishing itself as a serious, legitimate entertainment medium, it only makes sense that gaming should issue a pseudo-parody of itself, as the movie industry did with “Scream.” We say “pseudo-parody” because there’s still an actual adventure experience in Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, but the characters in the game acknowledge the affected cheesiness of the industry’s past. They acknowledge it and embrace it, much to the delight of the veteran hobbyist who remembers with a lopsided nostalgic smile the early days of gaming. Ever since we heard about the premise behind Vicious Cycle’s humorous shooter, we’ve been gathering up more information about Eat Lead, and now we have enough to present you with a full preview. Although everyone is all about Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2 this week, we can always use a relaxing, grin-inducing reprieve from such seriousness.
If you aren’t yet familiar, Eat Lead is all about the fictional ‘80s video game superhero, Matt Hazard. The character, most reminiscent of Duke Nukem, is a cocky, gun-toting badass who blasted his way through a horde of sequels in his popular – and in real life, non-existent – franchise. But as the industry moved forward, Hazard was left behind and nearly forgotten. Then, the company that published Hazard’s games, Marathon Megasoft, came under new management, and Wallace “Wally” Wellesley now wants to give the illustrious hero one more virtual day in the sun. Or at least, that’s what it seems like on the surface…although Wellesley creates a new world where Hazard can safely relive his glory days, something is amiss in the virtual simulator; someone keeps hacking in and trying to eliminate Hazard for good. Suddenly, a relatively pain-free, memory-laden romp becomes realistically deadly, and the hero from yesteryear needs to step up and dust off the ol’ moves. If he’s going to survive, he needs to get to the bottom of this: everyone loves Matt Hazard; who could want him dead? …Wellesley? Why?
This will be a fairly standard third-person shooter that features a point-and-cover system that lets you select your cover spot beforehand. In other words, all you have to do is aim at a potential safe position, press the appropriate button, and he will quickly move to that cover position. Furthermore, you’re going to have to adapt on the fly, because all the enemies and villains Hazard faced back in the day are back, and all are hell-bent on revenge. Much like in TimeSplitters, the zombies can only be taken down permanently with a headshot, and you’ll also have to face everything from old-fashioned cowboys to slimy, unclassifiable aliens. Just think about all those random, personality-less foes you’ve faced over the years, and you’ll get a good idea as to your opponents in Eat Lead. Of course, the hero of heroes will have all sorts of cool – and fittingly cliché – weapons at his disposal, and they will match the setting in question. So when you’re facing those cowboys, you’ll have a classic pair of six-shooters to deal with the problem. And those aliens? Why, space marine rifles, of course! As anybody who played games in the 8-bit and 16-bit days knows, the possibilities are endless.
Defeating the enemies of old will cause them to “de-rez” or simply splatter apart with an explosion of digital parts rather than blood; you know, something like “Tron.” And believe it or not, this digital dissipation will be essential for Hazard, because he’ll gain crucial new data whenever he eliminates the hacked-in enemies. It’s kinda like Blue Magic, Final Fantasy fans, where defeating certain foes allows you to use the conquered opponent’s abilities in battle. Of course, because Hazard himself is only playing through a simulation, he will start to emit digital “blood” when suffering hits, so that ought to be an interesting effect. But much like other shooters, if you’re getting slammed from all sides, you can seek cover and regenerate any lost health. Well, provided they don’t “de-rez” you before you “de-rez” them. Last on the gameplay list is something Vicious Cycle dubs the “intelligent physics system,” which is simply explained: you’ll be able to interact with just about everything you see in your immediate environment. Whether or not this will play a significant role in how you advance through the game, we’re not sure, but it’s a definite bonus nonetheless.
Some big names are lending their talents to this game, and that includes the writer of Dead Head Fred, Dave Ellis. Furthermore, we get two fantastic voices from Will Arnett (he played Gob in “Arrested Development” and has been in several comedy movies) and Neil Patrick Harris (“Doogie Howser, M.D. and relative Broadway fame). Harris will voice Wally while Arnett will handle the voices of Matt Hazard, which, as we’ve said before in news updates, is a perfect choice. He really is the king of corny/serious, and it’s exactly the right fit for a character like Hazard. We’ve already seen some gameplay videos for Eat Lead, and Arnett has more than a few hilarious one-liners at his disposal, as one would expect from an aging video game icon. This promising title is due out some time during the first quarter of 2009, and it should be a welcome change from the darker, more intense titles like Killzone 2 and Resident Evil 5. We expect to laugh, we expect to have a great deal of leisurely fun, and we expect Eat Lead to be well worth your time and attention. Stay tuned for more in the near future.
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11/4/2008 Ben Dutka