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Jaws Unleashed

Score: 67%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Appaloosa Interactive
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Mission-Based Driving

Graphics & Sound:

Jaws Unleashed is likely to elicit one of two responses; you’ll either hate it for all of its technical and gameplay issues, or you’ll love it for its fun factor and mindless fun. While I found it hard to overlook the game’s many, many bugs and issues, I still found myself heading back to the waters countless times just to… well, eat things and cause as much destruction as I possibly could.

Presentation is one of the game’s stronger aspects. Most of the graphical detail shows up on the shark, making it one of the better looking and animated sharks I’ve seen in a game. Underwater environments look just as good, though the frame rate absolutely tanks when too many objects are on the screen. Above water, things aren’t as bright. Humans are blocky and the environments are less than appealing. There are also a number of sloppy animations that look really unpolished when compared to the shark’s animations.

With the exception of the “Star Wars” fanfare, “Jaws” (the movie) features one of the most widely known movie scores ever. Jaws Unleashed, however, contains a score that is cheesy to the point that it is outright forgettable. Yes, you still have familiar strains from the original soundtrack, but the orchestration isn’t the original and it really shows. Outside the music, there isn’t much here except for really bad voice acting and generic sounds.


Gameplay:

Jaws Unleashed could be described as Grand Theft Auto, only instead of playing as a up-and-coming crime lord you’re a shark (a.k.a. Bruce) in people-infested waters. While the game has a set mission structure, it is the free-roaming aspects that really make you want to keep playing.

The story takes place 30 years after the first movie. Everyone has forgotten about the giant shark problem and peace has returned to the waterways surrounding Amity. At least, that’s until a huge corporation moves into the area and disturbs the marine life – causing yet another big shark to show up and pick up where the original left off. While the game doesn’t necessarily draw from direct events from any of the movies (though there are more than a few nods to the series), the plot is largely the same – big shark terrorizes local populace. In other words, your goal is to cause as much terror as possible, whether that means attacking oil refineries or the Coast Guard, or taking a trip to Sea World and making a snack of its star attraction.

Side quests also pop up from time to time, and include finding hidden items or timed races. The more entertaining of these missions are, of course, the ones that have you terrorizing the hapless citizens of Amity Island. For example, one mission has you stealthily sneaking up on a diver as he looks at coral reefs. However, a majority of the missions are flat out silly. One mission has Bruce stuck in a lab with the objective of getting through a door. Rather than simply ramming his way through (as he would in the movie), he instead needs to find a scientist, snatch him in his mouth and bring him to a panel where he can slide his keycard. Then there are missions where Bruce becomes a land shark (“Knock, knock…”) and can waddle around on land for a few minutes in search of victims…


Difficulty:

Really, it is the numerous technical issues that kill Jaws Unleashed and make it a more challenging game. Missions themselves aren’t too much hard, though you’ll dedicate much of your time to fighting with the nagging technical issues rather than various sea life and humans. One of the key problems is the camera, which never seems to want to cooperate. Even though you can adjust the camera style in the Options menu, it never wants to do what you’d like it to do. There’s a real tendency for the camera to either get stuck on some random element of the environment or find the worst possible playing angle. This becomes even worse when inside small areas or when surfacing.

Other issues include getting stuck in random areas of the environment, forcing a reload, or mission objects failing to spawn, again requiring a reload. These problems become especially irritating after you’ve just completed a long series of missions or are about to complete one. There are also times where the game will randomly crash for no reason other than to have you turn off the machine and restart. At one point, the bugs became so problematic that I simply swore off missions altogether and instead decided to focus on making my own fun – and really, that’s where the game’s real strength lies.


Game Mechanics:

Bruce (the shark) has a nice selection of moves that he can use during missions. His primary weapon is, obviously, his tooth-filled mouth, though he can also use a variety of other moves like a tail whip, ram, and out-of-water jumping grabs. As you complete missions, you’ll earn experience points that unlock other, more advanced moves like one-hit bite kills and corkscrew attacks. None of these moves are particularly complicated to pull off (well, theoretically anyway – the technical side of the controls do tend to muck up things), though you will likely find yourself sticking to a handful of moves as you go through the game.

Much like the movie it is based on, Jaws Unleashed is a fun game despite its numerous glitches and problems. If you can find it cheap, Jaws Unleashed is a fun purchase for those who just want to go around causing chaos and have money to burn. Otherwise, skip it or wait until it hits the bargin bin.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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