XBOX REVIEW: JAWS UNLEASHED

Da Da......Da Da......Dadadadadadadadada..... by Cole Smith

June 5, 2006 - Jaws Unleashed lets you experience the action from the perspective of the shark. It’s not a bad idea but if you smell something fishy don’t be surprised if the source of the odor is emanating from your game console.

I definitely have to sit on the middle of the fence on this one. Jaws Unleashed is neither great nor horrible. You could say that it’s both good and bad. It’s kind of like watching a ball game where you favorite team gets sacked. It may not be a good thing but it’s better than not watching the game at all.

Before we go any further and you don’t read to the end of the review let me get this out of the way now. If you have any interest in this game at all rent it. I can’t think of any good reason to purchase it. Having said that, it can be fun to play – but not for long. I’ve played Ecco the Dolphin but I’ve never played as a murderous great white. It’s like controlling an underwater biological tank.

It’s 30 years after the original movie and the island of Amity has returned to normal; the shark incident is nothing more than local legend. But when a new manufacturing plant sets up production in the region and begins polluting the waters, the faint strains of the two-note soundtrack can be heard, foreshadowing a dramatic role reprisal.

Bruce the shark is back and he’s pissed (He's called "Bruce" because that's what Steven Spielberg named the mechanical shark while filming the original movie) . It’s difficult to tell exactly why he’s pissed but when a 25-foot great white is on a rampage it really doesn’t matter. As Bruce, the gameplay is relatively open-ended. There are tons of things to do to fulfill your role as a giant aquatic killing machine. At times the gameplay seems like a cross between Grand Theft Auto and Ecco the Dolphin. You can go on killing sprees, chowing down on anything that moves including seals, dolphins and people. If you’re not particularly hungry you can throw them around or ram then with a nose attack. You can also take out your great white aggression on objects in the marina such as boats, docks and various personal watercraft. There is no shortage of things, people and places to interact with including some astounding boss fights featuring other demons of the deep including killer whales.

The main problem with the game, and yes there is more than one problem, is the claustrophobic camera angles that obscures whatever peripheral vision you are lucky to be afforded in a videogame. The environments are huge and you are heartily encouraged to free roam but on many occasions the camera swings to the most useless of angles. You end up with tunnel vision. If you didn’t get a good look at the environment prior to the crazy camera shifts, and you don’t have a photographic memory, you’re going to be out of luck when it comes to avoiding an object, harpoon or another potentially dangerous situation.

Another problem is that the shark can get hung up on invisible parts of objects. Since they are impossible to see, they are impossible to avoid. The best advice I can give you is to stay far away from all edges. If you get hung up, and you most likely will in more than a few instances, you will find that there are plenty of times that you are unable to free yourself. The only way out is to shut-‘er-down and start the level all over again. I call this procedure: Reload, replay, regret, repeat.

Some of the objectives can be very challenging. I’m not entirely sure if I should blame the controls or just attribute the lack of precision to the fact that you are attempting to make a three-thousand pound shark perform like a trained seal. The missions and side quests give some structure to the gameplay. There is a story but it’s, pardon the pun, pretty shallow. There are boats that you have to destroy which require that you pick up speed from a distance and ram them like a torpedo. It’s very difficult to stay your course with the controls as the shark just isn’t very maneuverable. Not to mention the limiting perspectives of the camera. With the ability to go below and above the water surface the camera doesn’t always follow when you’re close to the surface. If you get too close to the surface, the camera will try to anticipate your next move and give you an above-water perspective even though you’re still underwater. The same holds true when you are above water. There is no happy medium with the camera; the only thing you can do is try to live with it.

Jaws, or Bruce, also has the ability to swish his tail which can inflict some damage. But probably the most dramatic of his moves is his ability to jump directly onto dry land and snatch an unsuspecting victim. You have a few seconds to wriggle back into the water before you expire. This move is so ludicrous that I wouldn’t be surprised if Huckleberry Hound walked out of the bushes and began doing a narrative on shark hunting.

More ridiculous scenarios ensue when you are trapped inside a theme park. You will actually have to find ways to secure human hostages so that you can swipe them across sensors to gain access to other areas. You will also kill killer whales in an attempt to unlock other doors. Exploding barrels can be picked up in your mouth and launched at an intended target. Apparently the only things that Jaws can’t do are climb a ladder and sneak past guards wearing a disguise. That's for the sequel: Tom Clancy's Splinter Shark.

Jaws is a darn good looking shark and many of the underwater environments are good looking as well. But this should be expected since the developers are responsible for Ecco the Dolphin. There is a good amount of detail on land but there are also some really bad graphics that make the humans look like buoys or decoys. It’s so frustrating it makes you just want to take them in your mouth, shake your head violently and go “Argggghhhh….!”

I’m all for something different, but the fact that the developers don’t even attempt to acknowledge that their tongue is planted firmly in their cheeks makes me think that they expect us to take this game seriously. There’s not enough mind-altering chemicals on the planet to make that a reality. Taking this game seriously is akin to committing intellectual suicide. I can’t even believe that this game is tied into the Jaws license. I won’t say that the game drags the license down into the depths, but it barely treads water with it. Maybe in Jaws 2 we can just hunt the shark – with Huckleberry Hound.

Features:

  • Players take control of Jaws the Great White Shark with themes and locations from the original JAWS universe.
  • More than 10 meticulously detailed, destructible environments, each with unique themes and intense action.
  • Unleash real-time damage on intelligent enemies, vehicles and structures.
  • Perform a variety of stunning underwater, surface and air attacks via a user friendly combat system.
  • Dismemberment engine provides 25+ points of disconnection allowing for game characters and objects to be torn apart piece by piece.
  • Follow story based missions or choose to freely roam the island and its surroundings causing havoc.
  • Encounter multiple side missions/challenges including timed destruction, stealth, chase and others.
  • Face fearsome arena bosses including killer whales, powerful boats and more.
  • See your victims before they know you’re coming and target lock on enemies from afar with Shark Vision.
  • Created by Appaloosa Interactive, developer of the Award-Winning Ecco the Dolphin series.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Jaws Unleashed (Xbox)
3.3
Graphics
Bruce looks good. He’s big, angry and lifelike. If only anything else in the game were believable.
2.4
Control
As good as Bruce looks and as fluid as he moves it’s like trying to steer a remote controlled racer with boxing gloves on.
3.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There are some good sound effects and of course the music is classic.
2.0
Play Value
If you get any replay out of this game at all you are in all likelihood a masochist.
2.9
Overall Rating - Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
Preview by Devin D.

"Do you like fish? Well, he likes you too..." Nearly 30 years after the original motion picture Jaws was released in theaters, the great white killer makes its triumphant return, this time to the small screen.

Appaloosa, better known for their Ecco the Dolphin series, return to the deep blue with "Jaws Unleashed". For those who remember the 1987 version of "Jaws" from LJN Ltd, worry not, this isn't the same boat chase. Instead of searching for Jaws in the immortal ship, The Orca, players take on the role of Jaws itself. You will have the power to use Jaws' 3,000 teeth to consume, well just about anything.

The coolest and most alluring aspect of this game is the possibility of endless amounts of violence. After all, Jaws has a strict diet, anything it can get its teeth locked onto. To recreate the mortal destruction that the shark exhibited in the movies, Appaloosa created a custom dismemberment engine that feature up to 64 dismemberment points. Tasty humans aren't the only things Jaws can get a hold of. Pretty much every object or obstacle can be destroyed. Just like the humans, the objects in game (such as boats, docks, harbors and subs) all have multiple break points, allowing to you cause damage to any part of an object. You can wreak as much havoc as you can with underwater attacks, ocean surface attacks, or you can even use Jaws' power to launch him up into the air for jumping attacks.

Luckily this isn't just a bite 'em up shark game branded with the Jaws license. The game takes place 30 years after the first movie and includes some of its themes and locales. Characters from the film are said to have been included. There is no set goal when taking on the role of the deadly fish. The game gives you about 20 missions, which range from time trials to destruct-a-thons. It is said that Appaloosa also included boss battles.

Visually "Jaws Unleashed" looks pretty good. The background of the free roaming world come into perspective the closer you get to them. The Jaws model and skins look very dead on, while the people and vehicles look like that of the "Grand Theft Auto" series. A difficult task for game artists to recreate is realistic water. Games like "FarCry" have achieved this feat however, and Jaws can be added to the list. Being out into the deep ocean, the water is reflective on the surface and crystal clear when underwater. Light even grows darker the deeper you go.

If you aren't afraid of the water, watch out for this game's August 16th, 2005 release.

System: Xbox (shown), PS2
Dev: Appaloosa
Pub: Majesco
Release: May 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best