Xbox Review: Jaws Unleashed

One of the numerous games stuck in "development hell" for years, Jaws Unleashed finally makes it into a barely finished (and "finished" depends on your personal definition) $30 release published by Majesco. It's a game that seems to have the right pieces in place, like developer Appaloosa Interactive who crafted the memorable Ecco the Dolphin games. It also has a giant shark that eats people.

Unfortunately, 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.

To be fair, that's only one mission in the game. Sadly, it's also the first one after a brief training session. That immediately sets the tone for this mess, which obviously isn't a 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.

Assuming you can figure out the objectives, you'll then need to contend with an abysmal 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 that harder 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, we've 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).

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.

(* out of *****)

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