Version Played: Xbox 360 – Current CEX Price: £1

There’s a really fine line to be walked with satire and parody, particularly when you’re aping the very conventions of whatever target it is you’re aiming your comedic sights on. I’ve seen numerous video games come unstuck when trying to satirise other games or genres, by not just commenting on their targets – but by inadvertently becoming guilty of the very things they’re accusing other games of.

Case in point – Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. For the most part, it’s a brilliant send-up of 80s low budget sci-fi with some absolutely genius touches, both subtle and overt. There’s a moment during the frankly insulting tutorial, which is long, drawn out and takes way too long trying to be clever, in which the main character – voiced by cult movie legend Michael Biehn – complains that he ‘fucking hates tutorials’ – and yes, it’s a knowing, somewhat meta moment, but it’s one that occurs during a section that becomes exactly what it’s parodying: a boring, pointless tutorial. It tries to be funny, but ends up exasperating.

The same can be said of Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, which has a lot of clever ideas and an intriguing premise, but drowns everything in so much commentary on other games that you can’t help but notice its own failings. It’s a shame, because the idea of a game character, faded from obscurity, given another shot at the spotlight in a ‘modern’ (at the time, at least) game, is really promising.

The opening cutscene is pretty great, to be honest – showing Matt’s rise and fall over his years appearing in many different video games. There’s a lot of really smart references here and Will Arnett’s voiceover as Matt Hazard, the cynical, Duke Nukem-esque badass, is great.

However, the premise is never fully exploited (how great would it have been to actually play through Matt’s video game history?), as we’re dropped into a relatively standard 3rd person cover shooter with little to distinguish it from other, similar games, aside from the parody elements, along with the fact that the game itself takes place within a video game, with the lack of gore – given that the enemies are video game characters (very meta!) – being a not unwelcome change from the norm.

The writing and specific game references (outside of moments such as Matt Hazard expressing frustration about boring warehouse levels during a boring warehouse level, for example) do at least stay strong throughout, as does the voice acting –  provided by the aforementioned Will Arnett and the always excellent Neil Patrick Harris (as Matt Hazard’s nemesis). Visuals and audio are pretty decent too – and have aged well. It’s just a shame that the game itself is such an unadventurous, vanilla experience, with tedious level design and uninteresting enemies.

The golden question though – is it worth a try at current Bargain Bin prices? Here’s the thing: the beauty of the Bargain Bin is that games can absolutely get a second chance when they’re priced at next to nothing, and despite Eat Lead playing it safe in gameplay terms, it’s clear that it does shine in other areas – and you could certainly do a lot worse for £1. There are definitely some chuckles to be had at the references and parodies you’ll come across over the course of the game and, if this is of interest to you, it seems that achievements are doled out without too much effort during play.

Worth getting hold of if you happen to find it, but – much like the washed up, past-his-prime Matt Hazard himself – I wouldn’t advise that you go out of your way to track it down.

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