Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond
Developer: Vicious Cycle Software
Released: January 6, 2010
MSRP: 1200 MS Points / $15.00
Gamers growing up in the mid-eighties have finally aged to the point of being well positioned to receive a Monty Python-esque video game and Matt Hazard sets out to do just that. In Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard players were introduced to out-of-shape, over the hill video game hero Matt Hazard. While the game wasn’t the most spectacular title the video game had ever seen, it was in its lack of taking itself seriously that made the title stand out and overall enjoyable to play without standing to be overly memorable. Thus, it came as a bit of a surprise when D3 Publisher set out to bring Vicious Cycle Software’s Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond to gamers on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
Discarding the 3D elements in favor of 2D side-scrolling with slight 3D portions is the first and most obvious divider between the 2 games. Once the first level loads, it feels almost like a knock-off version of Shadow Complex; however this is merely where its faults begin. Eat Lead offered gamers something they had never seen before in the form of being a self-aware video, Blood Bath and Beyond seems to struggle with this as a lot of humor fades in the first few levels. Spoofs are all well and good, but from the first level on, it seems to taper off and feel a lot like Contra. For a game that utilizes so much humor, it seems to drop off from having an interesting narrative early on. You don’t really care about Matt Hazard anymore than you did in his previous title. Eventually the game merely breaks down to what the designers decided to parody.
Despite the downfall of a forgettable story, there are a few pluses to the game. The controls are relatively smooth, feeling clunky very rarely. I only garnered genuine frustration from the controls about one in ten times, but when that one time does happen, you’ll notice it and hate the game a little bit more for it. One should also take into account that there being only 3 difficulty settings (Wussy, Damn This is Hard and Fuck This Shit) makes the game accessible for just about anyone looking for a quick shooter fix. Additionally, a co-op component opens up the possibility of going through this with a friend and that is never a bad thing.
Overall, I wish I could convey more about what I saw playing through Blood Bath and Beyond, however I felt the game really didn’t do its 3D equivalent any justice. If this game had released as a regular shooter, independent of the Matt Hazard name, I would tout it as competently designed. But it feels like something is lacking and I still can’t put my finger on it. My largest complaint comes from the fact that more often than not, it felt like the designers spent more time trying to come up with things being funny and left the important things like level and enemy design fall by the wayside. With a decidedly lacking replay value ever-present, running through a level, slaughtering just about everything in your path and picking up the occasional power-up are all the game really does in an acceptably satisfactory manner.
The underlying problem remains that the game, in an attempt to be funny and not take itself seriously suffers from a lack of quality, which it tries to play off as being funny. But this ends up only being frustrating for gamers when better shooters have been out for a significantly longer span of time like Shadow Complex and Pixeljunk: Shooter. The game is fun without being memorable or coming off as unique since Eat Lead already did it conceptually and despite lacking production values, did it far better. It doesn’t seem like a really worthwhile buy at about 1200 MS points and for now seems like a game that is comfortable not taking itself seriously to the point of being okay with being mediocre.
Here’s hoping the next Matt Hazard title ups the ante a bit.
Final Score: 6 / 10 (D-)
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