"But once you get past its beauty, once you stop admiring and start playing, the problems come. Jaws was a movie about a shark that ate people in the 70’s. Jaws: Unleashed is a game about a shark that eats people in the modern day, targets chemical plants, destroys oil platforms, and sinks ships by hurling torpedoes at them, making him the shark equivalent of Captain Planet."
Jaws Unleashed could’ve been like Ecco the Dolphin, if Ecco was an unstoppable evolutionary miracle with an insatiable craving for human flesh. The waters of Amity Island never looked more delicious; as vast and as spacious as you’d expect the ocean to be, but not without detail. People walk the docks, set up on the beach, skim around on their jet skis and sail on their boats, going about their island routine. It’s an active world, but the world beneath it is alive in a different sense. The sunlight comes through in glimmers, faintly illuminating a world of silent terrors, of hammerhead sharks and killer whales, where seals play and schools of fish dart in unison, where trenches and sunken ships decorate the floor. Only the humans lack in detail, and that changes when they’re ripped open and their intestines spew out. Everything you’d expect to see is there.
But once you get past its beauty, once you stop admiring and start playing, the problems come. Jaws was a movie about a shark that ate people in the 70’s. Jaws: Unleashed is a game about a shark that eats people in the modern day, targets chemical plants, destroys oil platforms, and sinks ships by hurling torpedoes at them, making him the shark equivalent of Captain Planet.
The concept couldn’t have been simpler, and they still messed it up.
Unleashed does have its good moments, and these moments come when Jaws is being true to his ravenous nature. Eating humans as they flounder about on the beach. Eating humans as they skim the water on skis. Wrecking docks, knocking humans into the water, and then eating the unlucky ones who couldn’t make it to land in time. Eating dolphins, eating seals, eating other sharks, and biting killer whales in half so you can eat the resulting pieces. Why? There’s no why; that’s just what Jaws does. Swim, eat, and make little sharks.
Playing as a shark serial killer would get old after a while, especially since the prey only have a handful of ways to voice their utter terror; they yell ‘we’re never going to make it’ ad nauseum even when they’re safe on dry land, and every diver you yank into the bloody abyss bellows the same scream. Mindless murder would get repetitive, no doubt. But of all the conceivable ways to spice up a shark’s daily life - taking a ship apart bite by bite, getting ganged up by a trio of mutant makos, slaughtering an entire pod of killer whales, that sort of thing - the objectives here are among the dumbest.
Why would the White Death go up against a gigantic undersea meat grinder? Why would it spit oil drums at a chemical plant’s leaking pipe, hoping to start a chain reaction and obliterate the place? Movie-games are known for taking steps beyond their source material, but Unleashed takes one step too many, and only slivers of the original’s spirit remain. Tearing Shamu into pieces is something Jaws would do. Demolishing an aquarium from the inside is about his speed. But he wouldn’t demolish the aquarium by using keycards to open doors, Shamu wouldn’t circle the pool in an infinite loop while his tail got nibbled off and Jaws would never, never, destroy an ocean liner with his ‘Screw Attack’.
Even if the moronic missions weren’t moronic, they’d require control to complete, and that’s not always available; Jaws is twenty-five feet long, weighs five tons, and he moves like it. It’s not so bad in open water, but whenever the game puts you in tight spaces – which it loves to do – the troubles glare. Turning around requires all the skills of parallel parking. He’ll get stuck in corners or between pylons, and it’ll take minutes to get him out, if it’s even possible. Seeing as, being a shark and all, Jaws will drown if he stops moving for twenty seconds, this can be a serious problem. Of course, it’s no trouble at all if you quit the mission and go back to free swim. Which I always do.
If Jaws the movie never existed, Jaws: Unleashed might’ve been a decent game. Playing an aquatic eco-terrorist would’ve still been silly, but less so. It would’ve been a lush, unique game, only hampered by clumsy controls. But Jaws does exists, and this game is mostly unfaithful to it. If you can get past that, good for you. You might enjoy the game when you’re not stuck in pier, staring at Jaws’ ass. But, for those expecting a videogame worthy of the movie it came from, Jaws Unleashed is a deep disappointment.
Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies…
Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain…
For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston…
And so nevermore shall we see you again…
Staff review by Zack Little (July 21, 2006)
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