Jaws Unleashed Impressions
We check out the latest work-in-progress version of Appaloosa's insatiable underwater action game.
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Currently scheduled for release in February, Jaws Unleashed is an underwater action game in which you'll assume the role of a great white shark that terrorizes the inhabitants of a prosperous island. Set some 30 years after the events of the Jaws movie that inspired it, Jaws Unleashed will re-create a number of memorable events from said movie, and it will feature a marine biologist named Michael Brody (the son of Jaws Police Chief Martin Brody), who wants to capture you for research. We recently had an opportunity to check out a PlayStation 2 demo version of Jaws Unleashed during a meeting with Majesco, and we can report that, if nothing else, the game is looking far bloodier than it was when we last saw it at E3.
The first level of Jaws Unleashed that we saw during our demonstration was titled "The Angry Armada," and it had a bunch of fisherman attempting to claim the bounty on our great white's head. The shark's mission at this point, then, was to survive, not by retreating to an underground cave somewhere and waiting for the heat to cool off, but by going on the offensive and making a meal of its would-be killers. Ramming the small fishing boats invariably knocked a couple of fishermen into the water, at which point the Majesco representative playing the game took great pleasure in showing off its humorously named dismemberment engine. When you catch a piece of meat (whether it be a fisherman, a diver, or a dolphin), you'll regain a large amount of health simply by swallowing it whole. If you're not worried about maximizing your meal intakes, though, or if you're simply feeling sadistic, you can drag your prey underwater to play with it for a while.
Sharks, of course, aren't known for playing well with others, so in the course of playing with a fisherman, for example, don't be surprised if said plaything loses a limb or two. Dismembered body parts can be seen floating around in the water surrounded by clouds of blood, and the game's camera will automatically swing around 180 degrees when necessary to afford you the best possible view of whatever is in pain in your mouth. If you want to take the sadism to a whole other level, you might choose to release your aperitif while it still has a couple of limbs left so you can watch it try to swim back up to the surface to scream for help. You won't want to let too many of your victims escape with their lives, though, because regardless of your actual mission objectives, you'll constantly be tasked with satiating your hunger.
Hunger is one of the great white shark's five attributes that you'll be able to level up as you progress through the game, along with speed, power, accuracy, and defense. You'll earn the points to both level up and unlock bonus features, such as creature bios, artwork, and movie clips, by collecting items from the seabed, such as license plates, tires, and megalodon teeth. Based on what we've seen of Jaws Unleashed to date, it appears that many of the items will be hidden, thus encouraging you to explore your surroundings. Unfortunately, the underwater environment looks to be pretty featureless, for the most part, and since any points of interest that are really worth checking out are marked on your radar (along with mission objectives), it doesn't appear that exploration will be rewarded with anything other than the aforementioned items.
The only really interesting thing we got to see during our Jaws Unleashed demonstration was a wrecked submarine on the seabed during a mission titled "Predator in the Bay." The great white's first goal in this mission was to destroy three large oil platforms by ramming into them repeatedly while avoiding fire from underwater gun turrets. The mission was made somewhat easier by the fact that your "shark vision" let you clearly see the turrets' cones of vision as they looked for you. It was made easier still by the fact that you can retrieve torpedoes from the submarine in your mouth and can then (for want of a better word) "spit" them toward your targets.
Other features of note that we got to see during our time with Jaws Unleashed on this occasion included fishing nets that could only be escaped by waggling the left analog stick and the great white's stealth mode, which lets you swim just under the surface of the water. This, we're told, will be an important tactic in certain missions. We'll bring you more information on Jaws Unleashed as its release date closes in.