STAFF REVIEW of Jaws Unleashed (Xbox)

Sunday, June 11, 2006.
by Adam Rivard

Jaws Unleashed Box art No matter how hard developers try, they can?t make the adventures of fish enjoyable, except perhaps Ecco the dolphin back in the day. Indicating the fact that aquatic creatures serve two purposes, to die and be delicious. There?s one underwater force, however, that has yet to be reckoned with. Here?s a clue it?s the second biggest reason people stay out of the water besides a fear of others laughing at their freakishly hairy chest. That?s right, after almost two decades since his last film and video game, Jaws makes a return in the oddly titled Jaws: Unleashed. Sharks wear leashes? Anyway let?s just put it this way, this game is about a giant shark that eats people only after he laboriously searches for a key card to open a door. Giving players control of a shark and asking them to do anything but cause destruction would be as stupid as giving players control of Superman and making them fly through rings. Oh wait, someone did that too.

Now this game had potential because unlike the previous videogame versions of Jaws, which, oddly enough, focused on destroying the killer shark, Unleashed allows you to finally take control of the film legend. Your objective? Dig those sharp, sharp teeth into anything that bleeds. It sounds a lot better in theory but when you actually play the game, well lets just say it?s not what its cracked up to be.

To be fair, the first couple missions of the game are the worst. Sadly, it's these missions of the game that set the tone for the rest of the game, which obviously isn't a very positive one. Mission structure is only the beginnings of countless issues to pour from this game. Credit is due for opening the game up to let players pick their missions around the tortured island of Amity. This is a free-roaming title after the opening moments. Sadly, figuring out what it is you're supposed to be doing is futile. Mission directions are vague, and many solutions illogical (like finding a keycard when you're a man-eating 25-foot shark) or impossible to decipher.

While a game like Jaws could easily subsist on two buttons (?swim? and ?bite?), the controls in Jaws: Unleashed are fairly complex. Besides the previously mentioned staples of shark life, there?s also a chargeable tail swipe, a lock on button, enhanced chewing controls (eww?) and shark vision, or as I have affectionately dubbed it, ?bullet time for fish?. Shark vision, in theory, is supposed to enhance targeting of potential victims, allowing for limb-specific lock-on. Another problem is the !&%$@#* camera system that feels like it's controlling itself. Divers, other fish, and various other hazards are nearly impossible to see on a regular basis. This makes Jaws sluggishness more apparent as life is sapped with little idea as to why. You'll be able to curb that somewhat as you can level up Jaws with points, and earn new moves you'll rarely use.

Making it worst are countless glitches and game crashing bugs. It's not that the movie gave an accurate depiction of a great white shark, but sending the players onto land to perform objectives is flat out stupid. These brief trips onto the world of humans are nearly impossible since it's so easy to get stuck on objects. During the review process, I seen Jaws get his head plunged deep inside a solid rock, have spasms when caught on the wall of a ship containing a bonus power-up, had the game freeze entirely, or end up stuck on land to suffocate.

The plot is lifted from the films in various ways. The ever tormented Brody's make an appearance, this time with Michael, the oldest of the kids. The mayor is once again dumb enough to believe the shark isn't a threat, and yet again, an attempt is made to capture it alive (because they apparently think that turned out ok in Jaws 3).

The lack of variation in enemies in the game is a bit disappointing. There are really only three types of enemies- fish, turtles, and humans- particularly scuba divers. Apparently, there?s only one surf shop in the area near Jaws? hideout, because every human character model looked exactly the same. As fun as it is to thrash about a poor swimmer in Jaws? massive choppers, the lack of enemy variety could get tedious mighty fast. Another danger of boring players in this game could come from the lack of environmental variety.

Even with a total lack of original story, abysmal camera, and hilariously funny (until you have to do them) missions, it is fun to be shark. There are a number of gruesome ways to dismember people, from shredding them, to chomping on them, down to tail whipping them to death. Blood is completely over-the-top, while the repetitive screams add to the drama.
That's the only highlight, and even this becomes an aggravating test of your endurance for awful games. Jaws Unleashed is on par with its classic and memorably terrible 1987 NES counterpart. The only thing going for Unleashed as opposed to the 8-bit rendition is that you finally control the shark.

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.2 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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