JAWS Unleashed Review

By John Duong, GN Writer

The concept of Jaws Unleashed seriously sounds like some deranged developer’s attempt to crossbreed Finding Nemo with Grand Theft Auto. Set thirty years after the events of the original movie, the game takes us back to Amity Island, only this time through the eyes of a blood thirsty shark bent on wreaking havoc and destruction everywhere he goes. The game offers a large open-ended world to explore, a combination of story-based missions and sidequests, and a seemingly endless amount of objects, animals, and humans that you can sink your teeth into. Too bad the game itself isn’t as fun as it sounds. Having been under development for two years by the same team that created Ecco the Dolphin, Jaws Unleashed could’ve given us the perfect opportunity to indulge in our desire to play as one of cinema’s most infamous and feared villains. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and it’s a wonder how such a promising title could’ve fallen so short of its potential.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some fun to be had along the way. At its best, Jaws Unleashed can actually be an incredibly addicting and enjoyable experience. One particular feature that adds some depth to the game is a light RPG element that allows players to distribute experience points into different areas of growth such as power, speed, health, and accuracy. If you spend more points on power, for example, you’ll gain new attacks and be able to inflict more damage on enemies. Jaws Unleashed also manages to provide some non-linear gameplay by allowing users to freely move about the world upon completion of the first two levels which, more or less, serve as a set up for the premise. At that point, you can either continue to progress the storyline further or, just as a shark would, follow your gut instinct.

Unlike the somewhat similar Grand Theft Auto series, where guns are the weapon of choice, players are instead equipped with razor sharp teeth, a strong tail, and a skull seemingly made of steel. The only problem is Jaws, who has the turn radius of a semi-truck, can be quite a pain to control due to his massive size. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you’re attempting to attack a diver protected by a cage. Multiple attacks will be required in order to break through the metal bars and since sharks can’t swim backwards, you’ll have to repeatedly circle around in order to get into a good striking position (surprisingly, taking down a boat requires nearly the same amount of hits). The disadvantages of maneuvering Jaws also came into play during the beginning of the game, when I found myself stuck inside of a sunken shipwreck. The entrance was certainly large enough to fit through, but should you be the curious type and pursue that habit of exploring every nook and cranny, you may soon find your stomach ready to let loose the contents of yesterday’s lunch as you try to find your way out.

On top of the awkwardness of moving Jaws around, you’ll also have to deal with a very uncooperative camera that seems to bounce around every time you find yourself in a tight space. When you get too close to the surface, the camera immediately snaps above water and you’re forced to re-submerge in order to get the camera back underwater. This makes situations where you’re fighting in shallow areas very problematic. One instance where this occurs is during your first confrontation with an orca in an oceanic theme park. You’ll find yourself constantly hitting the surface unintentionally and submerging back down just in time to see an angry whale charge at you. While this does add some measure of suspense to your battles and no doubt, your friends will find it hilarious to see you jump everytime you unexpectedly run into an enemy, the overall issue of having to bob up and down to correct your view is more trouble than it’s worth.

In terms of visual quality, the game doesn’t seem to extend further beyond what Ecco the Dolphin was capable of. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, as the underwater environments are nicely varied with an abundance of exotic wildlife, but once you reach the surface, everything looks completely stale. This also is due in part to the lackluster AI of your human enemies, who all seem to enjoy throwing themselves in harms way every chance they get. Combined with terrible voice acting, it doesn’t take long before the novelty of killing people wears off and you get tired of hearing, "We’re never going to make it!" for the ump-teenth time. The game does have the license to re-use the famous theme from Jaws in-game, and it’s nice to hear it again, but it does nothing to add to the overall suspense and the brand new tracks created just for the game sound rather cheesy in comparison to the original.

It’s difficult to review a game like JAWS Unleashed without feeling a bit frustrated, because the idea shows so much promise, yet the execution is just plain terrible. You can’t expect a faithful adaptation nor can you hope for a few good hours of mindless entertainment. It’s not a bargain at a retail price of $30. It just seems like everyone loses here – even Appaloosa, who’ve spent two years developing this game.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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