Game On: "Eat Lead"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Is it possible to make fun of the very game conventions that designers continue to overuse without falling victim to the most insidious common trait of the first-person shooter - mediocre gameplay? Apparently not.

As it turns out, a making a good game parody is harder than you'd think.

Eat Lead attempts to ridicule the cliches of modern shooting games. Exploding barrels, androgynous emo-punk enemies, long rides in elevators and overblown action stereotypes abound, but the game seems to get lost in a wash of mediocre locations and rather bland foes.

The main character, Matt Hazard, is a former video-game star who once ruled the action-gaming world with his 2D and early 3D titles. Sometime in the mid-1990s the character was given control of his own game line and he expanded beyond shooters into paintball games, super-deformed kart racers and the like, effectively killing his own virtual career.

Apparently Hazard is being granted a second chance as a video-game hero thanks to Wallace Wellesley, CEO of Marathon Megasoft. Wellesley, however, has other plans for Hazard's future.

Hazard continuously breaks the third wall, talking directly to the Eat Lead player and making light of the game's ridiculousness. Thanks to an excellent performance by comedian Will Arnett, Hazard's lines, even when not well-written, have a good sense of irony.

The comedy potential is strong, but unfortunately Eat Lead gets lost in its mediocre gameplay. There are a few levels where the perspective shifts and the visuals change to mimic old game eras; the Wolfenstein 3D-like level is fun to play because it shows how far graphics have evolved in 20 years.

But after a few levels of bland shooting action - the old basic formula of: enter room, take cover, kill mindless attacking foes, repeat - even the witty dialogue and parody elements can't keep you from putting down the controller.

If the cliche gameplay was a deliberate choice, then the designers forgot that even the best comedy is only effective if the audience can make it through the entire performance without getting bored. There are a lot of good jokes in Eat Lead, but sitting through the mundane game between them is hardly worth it.

"Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard"

Systems: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Price: $50

Players: 1

Rated: T for Teen

Who Should Buy It?: One-trick shooters

GameOn! Grade: C