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Xbox Live Arcade Review: Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond

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Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond is the sequel to the 2009 third-person-shooter Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard. While Eat Lead was a full-priced retail release that was generally met with poor reviews, this sequel is a far more inexpensive Xbox Live Arcade Game. The sequel surpasses the original in just about every other regard, as well.

The lead character of Matt Hazard is the star in a fictional series of videogames that has been around for the last twenty-five years. Hazard is a bit of meathead goon, and he perfectly fulfills every cliché from any cheesy action game you have ever played. This game is unafraid to make fun of itself, which is definitely a plus. In the first few minutes, Hazard mentions his previous game is now available in bargain bins everywhere. There are amusing parodies and references to other famous videogame franchises throughout the title — this is probably the most self-aware game I have ever played.

The plot of Blood Bath and Beyond has the old, 8-bit version of Hazard being kidnapped. In order to prevent his past from being erased, the present version of Hazard must go back in time through several eras of videogame history to rescue himself. The series pokes fun at the confusing nature of time travel, but the levels are all varied and entertaining.

The gameplay is what really distances this game from its predecessor. This game is a 2-D shooter in the same vein of Contra. This simpler style really suits the series much better than the last entry, a 3-D one. Hazard is constantly running to the right and shooting enemies. In a cool twist, you can actually shoot into the screen by holding the left trigger, a. The gameplay is still 2-D, but this adds a new wrinkle to the classic side-scrolling shooter mechanics. Thankfully, the types of enemies vary from level to level. Weapon upgrades are plentiful and include a shotgun, flamethrower, ice gun, machine gun, grenade launcher, plasma rifle, and rocket launcher. Unfortunately you can only have one upgrade at a time, but there are plenty of chances to switch them around. You can also throw grenades or tag enemies with them, a la Gears of War.

Each level ends with a boss battle, and these tend to be really fun (though a few are somewhat more frustrating). Ragdoll physics are in full effect here, as enemies are hilariously launched off-screen, or sometimes into the screen towards the player. A fun minigame after each level, “Ragdoll Pachinko,” features a body being dropped through a series of pegs for bonus points. There is definitely blood and dismemberment, but it is all over the top and funny. The game certainly earns its “M” rating.

Hazard says some funny one-liners during gameplay, and local co-op is enjoyable. There is no option to play co-op in Xbox Live. There are old Matt Hazard game cartridges hidden in the levels that give some one a reason to replay levels, and there are some fun achievements to work towards. In short, is an enjoyable XBLA title for any fan of classic side-scrolling action.

Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Strong Language, Violence. This game can also be found on: PSN.

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