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Matt Hazard Review

Game Review: Matt Hazard: Bloodbath and Beyond
Release: January 6 2010 (XBLA), January 7 2010 (PSN)
Genre: 2D Shooter
Developer: Vicious Cycle (Published by D3 Publisher)
Available Platforms: Xbox Live, PlayStation Network
Players: 1-2
MSRP: 1200 MSP, £9.99 PSN
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Website: http://www.viciouscycleinc.com/games/game-detail.cfm?ID=101&divID=1

The follow up to the not-so successful game, Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, is a refreshing title. Whereas the last game was a third person cover orientated shooter, much like Gears of War, the sequel is a 2D shooter with 3D elements. The main focus of the series is to take elements from other games and mock them, for example in Eat Lead one of the bosses was a typical RPG character who only spoke through text boxes, had long hair and a massive sword. Experience points burst from his body as you pumped him full of ammo and he even chose attacks from a menu.

One of my criticisms of the downloadable title is the dropping of Will Arnett as the voice of Matt Hazard, his witty one liners were one of the great things about Eat Lead. The comedy is still there, just more jokes such as at the start of the game Matt is talking to Quentin through text boxes and he asks why they had to use text because they had big name voice actors last time and Quentin replies by saying that they had budget cuts due to bad reviews. A company not afraid to make jokes about itself is a good company. When games downgrade from retail to download they usually get worse but this title is an exception to that, the 2D shoot ‘em up style suits the game. The many nods to other games are brilliant, for example, the first level is called The Hate Boat and once you get inside it looks very similar to Rapture, even down to the Plasmid machines and Big Daddies. These not-so-subtle references add to the game’s experience, making it even more brilliant.

There are 3 difficulty modes; Wussy, Damn This Is Hard and Fuck This Shit. The easiest is very easy, middle is a bit of a challenge but when you try “Fuck This Shit” you die after one hit, very challenging indeed. The story is based around Matt’s nemesis, General Neutrenov, kidnapping Matt Hazard’s past self to kill him to completely wipe Matt off the face of the virtual earth. Matt has to chase the General through missions from his past games, tracking him down as he hopped from game to game. The game can be played in co-op mode with the second player taking on the role of Matt’s sidekick Dexter Dare. The game plays out as you’d expect any 2D shoot ‘em up to play, you move left and right shooting the enemies in your way. There are pickups, such as more powerful weapons with limited ammo such as shotguns, flamethrowers and machine guns which replace your standard-infinite-ammo gun. There is also Hazard Time pickup which just makes your current gun very powerful. As I said earlier, the game plays like other 2D shooters, but there’s one difference, this one has 3D elements so you can shoot towards the background as enemies occasionally come from that direction or standing at vantage points shooting at you. The game is great fun and has some pretty good graphics for a downloadable title.

In conclusion, it is a very refreshing downloadable game. It’s not a particularly new idea, as 2D shooters are decades old but this game brings it back with nods to great gaming moments, a hint of comedy and 2 player co-op. The games game’s mechanics do get tired after 4 or 5 levels as the novelty of the gaming nods ware off and you realize all the enemies are basically the same but re-skinned, other than the more powerful enemies, bosses and flying enemies. The bog standard gun isn’t great but the specials such as the machine gun and flamethrower are extremely satisfying, the same goes for melee and grenades. The story is bad, the game play isn’t brilliant and the lines are extremely cheesy but it’s extremely bloody, funny and shallow fun.

I have to congratulate Vicious Cycle for this effort, it’s not great but it’s better than most the stuff that gets put on the store. Another thing I want to mention is there needs to be more publishers like D3 Publisher, supporting these smaller projects, giving developers a chance. I hope this sells well enough to warrant a sequel because it’s a good game and with a bit of work could be brilliant. Overall, a fun but flawed game, if it had a bit of variety in it the game would be great. It’s definitely worth picking up if you have a bit of money spare and a few hours to kill.

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