Let me begin by saying I enjoyed Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard for the XBOX 360. It was humorous, poked fun at games and genres in a witty way and had some cool moments. It didn’t hurt that I also racked up more then half of the possible achievements in the first two hours of game play… it is always fun hearing that gratifying achievement sound ding repeatedly as you play any game (see my review on Backyard Football ‘10).
The story of Matt Hazard for those of you who don’t know is that he is an old video game star and all of his virtual enemies throughout his past titles are out to get him. It worked for me, I didn’t play it for long but I played it enough to feel like I got my money’s worth. Now comes the XBLA/PSN title Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond and I don’t know that I can say the same thing. $15 of your hard earned money might be a bit of a stretch but there is value in this title amongst the muck.
When you fire up the game you have your first choice to make. There are three levels to choose from to test your gaming skills. They are as follows, and I am not making this up or going for shock value…
2. Damn this is hard
3. F**k this sh*t
I am not F**k this sh*t quality, so I went with the middle option and let me tell you, it is still very difficult. Almost too difficult. Matt Hazard: BBB is a throwback to the side scrollers of old and the action comes at you fast and furious like a Contra on steroids. In the beginning the game starts out with the old text on the screen conversations and Matt brings up the fact that in “Eat Lead” they had high quality voice actors and now they have text only. The person he is talking to responds by saying that since the prior title did so poorly they couldn’t afford voice actors.
I laughed out loud when I read that, the men and women at Vicious Cycle are indeed funny people, I give them credit for that. However after that joke there were more jokes about how crappy the first one was and it started to make me think to myself… “was it really crappy, I didn’t think it was that bad, but I guess it was.” Self deprecating humor is not necessarily always a good thing especially in large quantities.
The levels are all themed, the first one finds you on a cruise ship (The Hate Boat) while level 2 is pirate themed (Booty Call). Again, the humor of the developers shines through pretty well in the level names and designs. If you pay attention you will find many little nods and tips of the hat to some of the big titles out there as well. Games like Team Fortress 2, Gears of War and more lend their parts to various levels throughout the game.
The game looks very nice for a side scrolling downloadable game. The rag-doll effect is put to good use, there is plenty of blood and explosions and again, some of the level designs are fun too look at. I enjoyed seeing pirates coming at me that mimicked Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean almost perfectly.
With the good things however, always come the bad. The controls are very clunky, even by 2D side scrolling standards. There were times when I knew I was aiming a certain way and it just wouldn’t go. Both sticks should have been utilized and they were not. I also felt like, and I need to be careful to not open myself up to the “you just suck” comments, that at the medium level the game was not forgiving enough. In the first level it took me 22 minutes to finish and I used every life and every continue that I was offered. With enemies that can kill you with one hit, a system that sometimes reloads your next life right on top of something that immediately kills you again and sub par aiming it all had me feeling like I should have played on the “wussy” level… and while I admit I am not a “F**k this Sh*t” caliber gamer I don’t much fancy myself a “Wussy” either.
All in all, there is a certain level of fun and funny within this game. You can do split screen co-op with a buddy by your side (although not online – boo) which might make things easier for you and some of the things Mr. Hazard belts out while killing baddies are funny (although repetitive). 1200 Microsoft Points might be a stretch as I mentioned earlier, but I don’t want to just dismiss this game either. Maybe you’ll get some points for your birthday or maybe you just like giving things that are a little outside the box a chance. If that is you, give it a spin. If you are thrifty and haven’t bought anything on XBLA since the first original Modern Warfare map pack then maybe hold off.
FINAL SCORE – 72/100