Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard
10 years on, it's still a setup waiting for a punchline
Comedy and videogames are strange bedfellows. When a game is funny - really, laugh out loud funny - it's usually down to a specific collision of player(s) and mechanics. Mostly, in my experience, the capacity to screw over your friends in local multiplayer, the funniest being the kinds of game that can change their outcome in a microsecond. Hubris exploding in a player's over-ambitious, excessively confident face. That's funny. Fast-paced, head-to-head madness. Preferably even with slightly dodgy controls and/or handling. Micro Machines V3 is funny. Dashin' Desperadoes is funny. Duck Game is possibly the funniest thing ever made.
Ten years later, Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard (Xbox 360, PS3) is still not at all funny. Games making fun of themselves is never, and has never been funny. A completely rote third-person shooter - completely bereft of any unique mechanics - based around a washed-up old game character who doesn't want to be replaced. The joke is that the game is bad, videogames are stupid and that you're stupid for liking them. Doesn’t this level suck? Aren’t these controls awful? Isn’t this level design uninteresting? This whole thing is so unoriginal, right? In a sense, I genuinely admire the audacity of making a videogame about how videogames are ultimately wearisome. In that respect, Eat Lead is superficially similar to Undertale, but without any of its subtlety and without any of the humour managing to be amusing.
I want you to imagine something. I'd say close your eyes, but I am working with text here. Imagine a man kicking you in the shin. Not overly hard - more of a firm tap with his foot than an outright kick. But still, it's direct, it's an act of, seemingly, aggression.
"Can you believe I'm doing this?" he laughs. "This is so annoying! And painful! Why would I do this!?"
You shake your head, unsure, irritated. You realise you recognise the man's voice; it's the guy who plays Bojack Horseman.
"But I am doing it, though" the man continues. "I am doing the thing that I have previously acknowledged is a bad thing to do."
That's Eat Lead. That's Matt Hazard. Does that sound funny to you?