Jaws Unleashed: Hands-On Impressions

Just when you thought it was safe to head back into the water, JAWS is unleashed to terrorise the oceanic depths.

We recently had an opportunity to take a dip into the virtual seas with Majesco's, Jaws Unleashed, which is currently in development for the Xbox, PS2, and PC platforms. We took the demo of the Xbox version for a spin - and came away with some mixed feelings.

Developed by Appaloosa Interactive, the guys behind Sega's Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future for the Dreamcast & PS2 consoles, Jaws Unleashed takes players out to sea where they'll maneuver the menacing great white through the watery depths, wreaking all sorts of havoc along the way by stalking and devouring hapless prey just like in the movies.

The storyline of Jaws Unleashed is supposedly set some 30 years following the events of the original movie. After dining on the son of one of the big wig locals, Jaws finds himself in a bit of role reversal as he's being hunted down by a professional shark hunter hired to kill him. In order to prevent that from happening, players will need to successfully maneuver the giant man-eater around the ocean depths and complete a number of objectives as well as battle a number of bosses along the way.

We still managed to get a good feel for the game; taking control of the underwater carnivore, we took him through the game's expansive undersea environments, terrorizing potential prey and devouring everything in his path from various other sea life such as fish, other sharks, and dolphins (for shame!), to chewing up divers, all of which not only served to whet the voracious appetite of the giant fish, but also went a ways to replenishing his dwindling health.

The game currently controls quite well, with Jaws offering a inverse control scheme where pushing up makes him swim downward and pushing down makes him swim upward. The action buttons take care of swimming as the option to use "Shark Vision" to lock onto all potential targets and avoid underwater traps.

There were also a number of attack options ranging from a biting attack that allowed us to snap our prey up and chew them up into nice little bite sized bits by repeatedly pressing the bite button until they were completely devoured. In addition to the biting attack you can also ram stuff or perform a tail-whip attack, which is good for smashing up some of the smaller boats and piers in his path. Another one of Jaws' cool moves also had him quickly boosting up to the water's surface and leaping high up out the water and back in again. I'm sure while performing such stunts he too felt one with the dolphins.

All of these moves, while cool looking, will no doubt come in handy when venturing through the open seas and dealing with various types of enemy attacks that range from going at it with other sharks to dealing with shark hunters and their puny harpoons. But while devouring divers and the other marine life was fun for a while, it wasn't long before that particular appeal of the game started to wear off and we were left wanting more gameplay variety than what was present in the demo at the time.

Graphically, Jaws Unleashed was a slight disappointment especially for a game being released during the final hours of the Xbox's life. I didn't feel the game was anywhere near as visually impressive as Ecco the Dolphin was for the Dreamcast, and even more unsettling were some early framerate problems, but as always we expect these to be cleared up for the final release.

The undersea environments are designed well, with various types of other sea life and reefs decorating the virtual ocean. While the underwater environments were pretty free-roaming for the most part, there were areas blocked off by powerful currents preventing players from proceeding into those areas. But given some of the activity happening on the other end of those areas, they'll probably become accessible as you progress further into the game or find alternate routes into them.

The audio portion of Jaws Unleashed is coming along quite well; water splashes and underwater sounds were done nicely and the music is taken straight from the movie. A slight variation on the simplistic, yet award winning John Williams theme song played on indicating the presence of the monstrous shark, stalking and hunting his next victim during the game's opening sequence.

Jaws Unleashed is currently slated for release towards the end of the year.

Joseph Jackson
Executive Editor, Kikizo Games

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