Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard First Look

The venerable (fake) action game hero returns in this tongue-in-cheek action game from Vicious Cycle.

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Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard
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If you took one part Coded Arms, one part Duke Nuke 'Em, and one part Charlie Kaufman movie script then mixed them all together, you might end up with a game like Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard. Developed by Vicious Cycle (Dead Head Fred) and on pace for a first quarter 2009 release, the game is a curious mishmash of third-person shooter with a tongue-in-cheek satire of video games in general.

Action game star Matt Hazard will blast his way through walls of cowboy (and zombie, mafia, and butcher) flesh in Eat Lead.
Action game star Matt Hazard will blast his way through walls of cowboy (and zombie, mafia, and butcher) flesh in Eat Lead.

Eat Lead marks the return of famous video game hero Matt Hazard. What, you've never heard of Hazard? Well, perhaps you know his games: A Fistful of Hazard (1987), Conflict of the Deities (Featuring Matt Hazard) (1990), and the all-time classic You Only Live 1,317 Times (1995). What, you've never heard of these games? Well, neither has anyone else--they're all merely a handful of fictional games that Eat Lead's Hazard starred in back in the "good old days." At the beginning of Eat Lead, those good old days are behind Hazard, who's since gone into retirement.

It isn't long before Matt is called back in to star in a game being developed by Marathon Megasoft, a company owned by the nefarious Wallace Wellesley, who is being voiced by comic actor Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, M.D., Starship Troopers, Snowbound: The Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story). It isn't long before Hazard realizes that something is very wrong with the game he's starring in; more to the point, it appears someone is trying to kill him. And we're not talking video game-style kill. We're talking killed kill. As in dead. No respawn. Dead.

The demo of Eat Lead we watched saw Hazard, who's being played by actor Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Blades of Glory, Loomis), making his way through a gameworld that was, literally, being reprogrammed before his eyes. After breaking into a building filled with what appeared to be bloodthirsty butchers, Matt immediately began dealing lead. It wasn't long before whoever was hacking the gameworld turned the butchers into zombies. Then, later in the level, that hacker turned them into six-shooter-blasting cowboys and even mafia goons. With the enemies and the settings in seemingly constant flux, it's tough to know what to expect from Eat Lead from one level to the next.

Of course, amidst all this chaos, it's nice to know that Matt Hazard's job doesn't change from one moment to the next: Take cover, arm your weapon, and blast anything that moves. In this sense, Eat Lead is as straightforward as can be, and the developers at Vicious Cycle are developing a cover system that looks to be easy to use, as well as effective. The way it was explained to us, all you need to do is point your cursor at an object or area and press the Y button, then Matt will move to that spot to take cover. Take heed though: Some objects can be destroyed and won't last as cover for long.

Hazard takes a breather behind cover before unloading on the undead hordes.
Hazard takes a breather behind cover before unloading on the undead hordes.

Because the enemies you face in Eat Lead aren't real people, but rather manifestations of programming code, they don't really die when you shoot them. Instead, they de-rez, which, in turn, allows Matt to absorb their code and eventually earn ability upgrades (such as the ability to dual-wield weapons). In addition, Matt has some help on the inside; a mysterious figure known as QA will use her own hacking skills to assist Matt in tight spots.

While the third-person gameplay looks to be on the generic side, it's hard not to smirk at the constantly evolving gameworld that Matt will need to fight his way through to defeat Wallace Wellesley's evil (and, frankly, preposterous) plan. In fact, it just might be the best butcher/zombie/cowboy/mafioso-fighting third-person action shooter starring a fictional video game character we've seen all year. Matt Hazard's return is currently scheduled for early 2009, and we'll be keeping tabs on him through the rest of the year.

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