The conception of the annual summer blockbuster was back in June 1975, when the original Jaws movie was released. So in effect we have Jaws to blame for the deluge of licensed pap that finds its way into our consoles every summer. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Madagascar and Fantastic Four last year; Monster House, The Da Vinci Code, Under the Hedge and X-Men III this year. Thanks, Spielberg.
Jaws Unleashed can’t really be considered amongst that lot, however, as it originally started out as Sole Predator, until Majesco decided that it would sell better with the famed Jaws logo attached. Developers Appaloosa certainly aren’t unfamiliar with underwater adventures either, having created Ecco the Dolphin on Dreamcast for Sega in the past.
After a brief tutorial that teaches how to boost, bite, drag people underwater, tail whip and activate shark senses, you find yourself imprisoned by hunters and taken to an aquarium to be put on show. Yeah, like a ferocious great white shark is going to stand for that. Once the glass has been smashed, the aquarium floods and the tanks outside – and ergo a chance of escape – can be reached. Once back in the wild you’re free to roam around the coast of Amity Island, picking up challenges and story-based missions as you please.
A game with a shark as the lead role was always going to be limited, but Appaloosa have done everything they could to keep things varied. Oil rigs have to be destroyed with explosive barrels, tankers dumping toxic waste demolished and electrified fishing nets deactivated. The challenges meanwhile include eating lifeguards before they swim back to shore, and destroying boats in set time limits. There are also 45 car license plates to find, although annoyingly you have to re-collect any you’ve recently gathered if you fail the mission you’re on.
The graphics are surprisingly good – Jaws himself looks lifelike and moves in a very natural fashion – while the water effects, explosions and destructible environments are decent. When attacking humans it’s possible to target individual body parts; biting a hole in the bottom of a boat to make it sink, then gobbling up the survivors as they float on the surface is oddly satisfying. Ripping a dolphin into two then spitting the remains onto a packed beach is always amusing too.
Yet once you’ve broken a few piers, terrorized tourists for a while and explored most of the environments – which include a forest canal and an industrial area – you’ve pretty much seen everything that Jaws Unleashed has to offer. It’s still the best ‘shark game’ ever though. Expect perhaps for Armed and Dangerous, which featured a gun that actually fired sharks. We think it was called ‘The Shark Gun’.