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"It's Hazard Time!"

The year is 1983, and the world is first introduced to Matt Hazard, eight-bit video game hero with more firepower than pixels, through debut title The Adventures of Matt in Hazard Land, published by then-fledgling company Marathon Software. In the following years, Matt starred in dozens of games; some were immensely popular (such as western A Fistful of Hazard, 3D shooter Matt Hazard 3D, and 1995 spy shooter You Only Live 1,317 Times), while taking the series in new directions (such as the ill-conceived kart racer Haz-Matt Karts and the non-violent water gun game Soak'Em) was... bad, causing people to stop buying the games and hence putting Hazard out of a job.

However, the new CEO of Marathon (now called Marathon Megasoft), Wallace "Wally" Wellesley wants to bring Matt Hazard back, and he's set to star in their first Next-Gen title. The only catch is that they intend to kill him off at the end of Level 1 to introduce a new hero.

Matt... is not too happy when he learns that.

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard is a 2009 cover-based third-person shooter with more Medium Awareness and Fourth Wall breaking than you can shake a sprite at. In further defictionalization, it's been followed in 2010 by Matt Hazard: Blood Bath & Beyond, a homage to Contra.

This game contains examples of:

  • Achievement Mockery: As part of its parodic nature, video game achievements are mocked and thrown at you for arbitrary reasons in addition to the usual story-based ones.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Enemies are sometimes immune to some attacks and incredibly vulnerable to others simply because that's how their games worked.
  • An Adventurer Is You: Bill the Wizard is a high-level mage from a North American RPG...who is unfortunately mostly powerless outside his own game. Well, at the time his staff was stolen, but he regains it the end of the level. Shortly before going home. He fried a group of enemies before leaving, though.
  • Affectionate Parody: To 80's action games.
  • Abandoned Warehouse: There's even a level whose subtitle is "Another Warehouse". It is the warehouse where all the props used in the games are stored that gets ransacked by the AI to prepare for the final level.
  • The Ahnold: Sting Sniperscope.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Matt was supposed to be killed off at the end of level one in a "surprise plot twist", and replaced by Sting Sniperscope. He had none of that.
    • Every time the bad guys hack the game, you could be going through a dance club house owned by one of Matt's friends and suddenly the screen warping and audio to signify that the game is being hacked and you're fighting an entirely different set of enemies. Complete with that type of enemy having their own music, which sounds strange when you're in a mansion when you suddenly hear Western music.
  • Animated Actors: Matt has a contract in-perpetuity with the game company, so the only way for Wally to be rid of him is to kill him off in the plot of a game.
  • Bad Ass Boast: Matt gets several through the course of the game.
    Matt Hazard: (After defeating the final boss) I'm about to get the "Beat Snot Out of Wellesley With My Bare Hands" trophy/achievement.
    The trophy/achievement unlocked sound pings upon Matt finishing the ass kicking.
  • Bond Girl: Kitty Abundanza. Her name even means "a lot of... cats", like a certain other famous Bond girl. She’s also something of a Deconstruction of Bond Girls, as she is not mindlessly in love or lust with Matt and rightfully calls him out for not being faithful to her.
  • Bond One-Liner: Both the standard and the Post Modern "Insert clever death-related line here".
  • Boring, but Practical: The Hazard Pistol is your most basic weapon. That said, the enormous ammo count & plentiful chances at refills means that you can level armies with this thing (especially if you're good at headshots).
  • Bloodless Carnage: The bad guys and Matt all give up little bits of code when shot.
    • Well, it's from Matt's perspective where, while humans see blood coming out, the game shows what that blood really is in the game world.
  • Buffy Speak: "I am like your worst nightmare, except in the daytime and you're not asleep".
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • Matt is basically one for Duke Nukem with traits from the Space Marine archetype added to the mix.
    • In a meta-sense, Sting Sniperscope is an In-Universe Captain Ersatz of Matt himself, especially because in-universe Sting was supposed to be the replacement.
    • Captain Carpenter is one for Mario.
    • Master Chef is one for Master Chief.
    • Altos Tratus is one to Cloud Strife.
    • The Secret Soldiers of the Wafferthin are ones for Wolfenstein 3D enemies.
  • Catchphrase: "It's Hazard Time!" QA thinks it's pretty lame.
    • It was more of a reference to "Time to split!" from TimeSplitters Future Perfect. That and his powerups having their own catch phrases like "HAZARD SHIELD" and "MAXIMUM HAZARD".
  • Celebrity Voice Actor: In Eat Lead, Neil Patrick Harris plays Wallace Wellsley, against Will Arnett as Matt Hazard. Blood, Bath & Beyond lampshades the loss of the "big-name voice actors" when Matt realizes they're talking in text boxes and his voice actor is just a soundalike.
  • Color-Coded Characters:
    • One of the clues Matt points out towards deducing which QA is the real one.
    • You can tell the skill level of the Marathon Megasoft employee "player characters" in the final level by their color. Their role in the company too. Blue for all the people that didn't have a direct role in the production of the game like Marketing and Sales, Yellow for the Artists, Red for the Programmers and Pink for the Testers.
  • Combat Commentator:
    • Matt comments on his current health, switching weapons, and even that you just earned an achievement.
      Matt: (after unpausing the game) That's quite an achievement.
    • "Don't hit me. Don't hit me!" can be heard while doing the cover switch feature sometimes during a gunfight.
  • Cosmetic Award: The game viciously parodies the 360 Achievement system by giving you access to three achievements before you even encounter an enemy (10G for starting a game, 5G for pausing the game, and a whopping 60G for watching the credits from the title screen). Each achievement also comes with pithy commentary from Matt Hazard.
    • The game doesn't have a interrogation minigame, but they put the achievement for it before said minigame was never implemented. Guess what you get after beating one level.
    • Same thing happens for the "multiplayer" achievement.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Wellesley is the CEO of the company and wants revenge because he always sucked at the Matt Hazard games.
  • Crate Expectations: A wide variety, as cover items are often hacked in with their villains. Everything from futuristic rounded metal crates, to Russian military crates, to a western outhouse. You even visit a warehouse which turns out to be where they make the crates.
  • Credits Gag: At the end of the penultimate level, which is the "final" level of the new game, QA says "There's one thing I would like you to do for me... roll the end credits!" Cue laughter, freeze frame, credits... which are then halted by Wellesley who then sucks you into a game representation of the Marathon-Megasoft offices.
    • Not to mention said credits being obvious fake ones on top of that. Neil Patrick Harris' character is credited to "Doogie", and a chunk of the staff listing is simply "Code Monkeys"... followed by a listing of real monkeys.
  • Cross Player: QA.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Defied. Matt Hazard's beef is that his company intends to pull this on him. On level one. Your job is to make sure this trope doesn't happen.
  • Dirty Communists: General Neutronov.
  • Defictionalization: Blood Bath & Beyond.
  • Dual Wielding: You can get two six-shooters from cowboys and twin sub-machine guns from several enemies later.
  • Easter Egg: Relatively easy to locate, but in the mission where Matt must protect a Wizard, one company logo reads "Failboat: Shipping and Storage".
  • Enemy Chatter: Three types. You'll sometimes get enemies trying to taunt you. Sometimes, they'll give each other directions (such as providing suppression fire or flanking). And if you sneak up on a new area without making yourself obvious, some enemies will discuss other things (like how one hired gun does not want to be called a mercenary, and another mook is hoping to become a space marine one day).
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Subverted. Matt and QA only thought it was the last level. Matt leaves the game and has one last level against Megasoft to deal with.
  • Evil Twin: An evil red version of QA appears early on. When confronted by both the real and the evil version, Matt quickly tells that the red one is evil since she's done nothing but lead him into ambushes and come onto him, which the real QA would never do.
  • Expy: Two of Dexter's fembots look similar to Lara Croft and Joanna Darke.
  • Fantastic Racism: Wallace hates digital beings, to the point that he even treats the digital beings on his side as though they are slaves meant solely to obey him.
  • Fembot: Dexter has an army of Fembots. Some are based on Kitty Abundanza, some have the likeness of the female lead from the western game, and two seem to be based on Joanna Dark and Lara Croft.
  • Five-Man Band: Villainous variation.
    • The Big Bad: Wallace Wellesely, in that he’s the main villain, the leader of this evil Five-Man Band, and is the main reason for the conflict.
    • The Dragon: Sting Sniperscope, in that he’s Wallace’s most dangerous henchman to the point of effectively being Wallace’s second in command (although he seems to think that he's the hero).
    • The Brute: Altos Tratus (Altos Tratus is unaware that he's a digital being, he has no idea that he's even a villain, and thinks he's just following orders from the "Great Ones", and he's the most physically powerful being in this band, so he's therefore the muscle of this evil group).
    • The Evil Genius: Although he does not know that he's a digital being in Eat Lead, General Neutronov, in that he’s smart enough to create and operate nuclear weapons and he’s smart enough to be a military General in the first place. Also in Eat Lead, he still thinks that he's the Big Bad since he gloats about his own evil plan, thinks that he's still affiliated with the Soviet Union, and does not seem to know about Wallace either.
    • Femme Fatale: She’s very feminine and she tries to trick Matt into a false sense of security by flirting with him.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: You don't actually see them, but there is an organization called "SVGA" that seems to act as a police force. A character is arrested by them at the end.
  • Grandfather Paradox: In a weird way, because actual Time Travel isn't used. The plot of Blood Bath & Beyond involves General Nutronov breaking into the archive computer and kidnapping Matt's 8-bit self in order to kill him and therefore preventing the current Matt Hazard from ever existing. The 8-bit Matt is technically from the present, but is still Matt's past self. Confused yet?
  • Hollywood Healing: If Matt goes long enough without being hit, he's back to full health. He obviously learns to love cover.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Both averted and justified. You can only hold two guns, but when you switch the gun explicitly de-rezzes with the other one forming in Matt's hand.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: In the last level, because of the constant failure of the AI, Wellesly sics the entire company on you, having them load up game avatars which have the same abilities you do (such as regenerating health and ability to switch weapons). Some of them are gamers, but a lot of them shout things like "Which button is it to do the cover thing!?"
  • I Am Not Shazam:invoked Parodied. According to the official backstory, the character of Matt Hazard first appeared in The Adventures of Matt in Hazard Land (pictured at the top) and later the character's official name became "Matt Hazard".
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: "Wussy", "Damn This Is Hard", and "Fuck That Shit" in Blood Bath and Beyond.
  • Indecisive Parody: While it remains a parody throughout, in the later stages the game can't seem to decide if it's a parody of Video Games or a parody of generic action movies. ...Can't it be both?
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Wallace is basically Neil Patrick Harris with a goatee.
  • Interface Screw: At one point you're forced to do the same segment of a boss fight twice in a row, because the bad guys temporarily hack your checkpoint system.
  • Jive Turkey: Sunny Tang, the first boss of Eat Lead is one of these, which is lampshaded by Matt. He encompasses about every other blaxploitation stereotype as well.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In abundance.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Plenty. Also overlaps with Captain Ersatz.
  • Medium Awareness: He complains about long-winded text, complicated mission objectives, being unable to jump, tutorials, and text boxes with ellipses. But he does like the cover-to-cover system.
  • Motive Rant: When asked why he can't just archive Matt, Wally screams it's because he could beat every game as a kid except the Matt Hazard games.
  • Nerf Arm: The water guns from Soak 'Em. Subverted, in that they're the only weapons that can take out enemies from Soak 'Em in one headshot. Also, in a Shout-Out to Zombies Ate My Neighbors, they're surprisingly effective against zombies.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: After the credits for Blood, Bath & Beyond, Matt stands at the moon mounted laser and remarks "Well, it's not like we're going to get to make a sequel..." and proceeds to fire the laser at the Earth, thus destroying the Marathon Megasoft archives and fulfilling Neutronov's objective anyway.
  • Nintendo Hard: Blood Bath and Beyond is a homage to Contra and Metal Slug.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: The game has two separate loading screens before getting to the title screen. At some points the game exclaims that if the loading is so long the level must be good.
    • Plus, Mass Effect 's eloadvators are parodied. At one point you're stuck waiting for an elevator to reach it's destination... If you fiddle with the controls during this time Matt tells you off by saying "If your time was so valuable, you wouldn't be playing a game".
  • Loading Screen: The "additional information" type is parodied. Although they occasionally give actual gameplay advice, most of the time they include lines like "If you are having trouble interrogating enemies, it's because there's no interrogation feature" and "Tip: A small amount of money given, usually in response to high quality service".
  • Old Shame: invoked Matt's ill-advised water-gun and kart racing games.
  • One-Hit Kill: Matt's melee attacks can kill certain baddies in one shot, and send them flying through the air.
  • One Hitpoint Wonder: Fuck That Shit difficulty in Blood Bath and Beyond turns Matt into one.
  • Painting the Medium: So very much. The stereotypical RPG prettyboy boss speaks in text boxes and is turn based, and the player can disrupt his Cure animation by shooting the health out of the air.
  • Parody Names / Captain Ersatz / Bland-Name Product: "Master Chef" from "Crown of Light", "You Only Live 1317 Times", "Captain Carpenter", "Penultimate Illusion", "Maul of Mourning", "Soak'em", "Conflict of the Deities"...
  • Postmodernism: A fictional game character learns he's planned for termination so that a company head can introduce his own character, and he rebels against the company.
  • Power-Up: "MAXIMUM HAZARD!"
  • Punny Name: "Altos Tratus" is a type of cloud.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Time to get the "Beat The Snot Out Of Wellesley" Achievement!
  • Press X to Not Die: Some boss fights are presented as Quick Time Events, including one in the first level that ends after one button, and another is simply repeatedly bashing Dexter's head into the side of a car.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: The Big Bad's plan basically boils down to killing somebody just because he cannot beat a series of video games.
  • Rage Against the Author: The entire plot is basically this, as well as Rage Against The Authored.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: As mentioned above, the game testers, the in-story elite mooks in the final stage, wear pink body armor on their avatars.
  • Recurring Boss: Sting Sniperscope, who Matt fights three times. Fittingly, the achievements each time you beat him get more and more exhausted by he fact that he won’t stay dead.
  • Reference Overdosed
  • Retroactive Legacy: An entire backstory of games that never actually existed.
  • Reality Warper: As the program into which QA and the villains are hacking is the game you're currently playing, reality is warped quite often. At one point, sandbags and other military regalia are "hacked" into the middle of a casino as cover for a group of Russian soldiers; at another, an entire room is replaced with the main street out of a western.
  • Self-Deprecation: In Blood Bath and Beyond, Matt complains that he doesn't have a voice anymore, QA explains it's because the last game didn't sell very well. There's also a joke about said game being "now available in bargain bins everywhere!"
  • Shout-Out: The name of the Government Agency of Fiction, SVGA, stands for "Super Video Graphics Array" (a common graphics technology of the late 1980s and early 1990s). The downloadable side-scrolling sequel has extended (most of level) homages to Team Fortress 2, Mirror's Edge, Portal, BioShock, and Super Mario Bros..
  • A Space Marine Is You: Several of his enemies are Space Marines. Matt Hazard himself is a pastiche of the character type, right down to being bald.
  • Standard FPS Guns: Played with; you encounter the usual SMGs and assault rifles, and Matt's signature weapon is his highly marketable "Hazard Pistol". You also get plasma weapons and, oh yes, water guns. Each enemy group carries different Standard FPS Guns, so you're forced to keep switching guns; as if you find yourself surrounded by Cowboys they aren't going to drop AK-47 ammo.
  • Sniping Mission: There's a level where you have to protect a de-powered CRPG hero, using the front half of arcade sniper game cabinets.
  • Spot the Imposter: as mentioned above in Evil Twin, subverted immediately: The evil QA tries to trick Matt in a standard "I'm the real one!" situation, but Matt already guessed she was an impostor anyway.
  • Super-Strength: Matt is able to easily defeat fully-armored enemies with his bare hands. Said armor is heavily resistant to Matt’s firearms. There is no other explanation for why he is able to do this. Also counts as a rare in-universe example of Gameplay Story Segregation, as his’s super-strength comes from the mere fact that he’s a self-aware video game protagonist.
  • Take That!: Anyone familiar with Duke Nukem and his development history (particularly its then-recent issues) will find the backstory extremely familiar.
    • When Matt finds an advertisement for "Duke Winter", done in the style of the cover art of Duke Nukem 3D and saying "Coming soonish". QA even gets a dig in when Matt asks about said ad.
    • The JRPG boss battle, which mocks every JRPG cliche possible - androgyny, silence, question marks for names, turn-based attacks, and so on.
  • Take Cover!: Pretty standard cover mechanic, although it has a neat cover-to-cover mechanic which Matt explicitly comments on.
  • The Stinger: The end credits for Eat Lead are followed by a short scene of Wellesley reduced to working for his father, surrounded by advertising for the latest Matt Hazard game. Blood, Bath & Beyond has Matt lamenting that they probably wouldn't get to make a sequel anyway, and proceeding to shoot the Earth with Neutronov's planet destroying laser.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The Secret Soldiers of the Wafferthin, sprite-based enemies from an old FPS who are immune to melee attacks (they didn't exist in 1993) and take cover by turning edge on and becoming a vertical line.
  • Title Drop: Wally is shown holding an in-universe copy of Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard during The Stinger.
  • Troperiffic: The game gleefully throws many different cliche enemy groups (cowboys, Russian terrorists, space marines...) and Matt Hazard himself, despite being a Medium Aware Fourth Wall breaking character, is still very much a "Shoot Everything That Moves" hero, and takes personal pleasure in well-aimed headshots and big guns.
  • Videogame Objectives: Parodied early on when Matt complains in response to a Long List of mission objectives, so QA changes it to "Kill everything that moves". Later mission objectives include "Follow Sting Sniperscope into the obvious trap" and "Hey, weren't you the star of the Matt and Dexter games? Your place sucks compared to this!"
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: QA, a Playful Hacker who is trying to save Matt from certain plot twist doom.