There have been attempts to bring the magic of the 1975 Steven Spielberg film “JAWS” to the video game world, but clearly those efforts failed to capture the drama inherent in the movie. With Appaloosa Interactive’s 2006 release, “JAWS Unleashed” however, we see a much more fully-realized portrait of what that landmark Hollywood creation instilled in audiences worldwide. Of course, instead of being a helpless human that’s just waiting for an enormous fin to pop up out of the water as a sign of impending doom, you actually assume the role of the scary, megalithic shark. Nevertheless, it was a very unique idea that’s remains rather distinctive, even though the game seems to be promoting the idea that the humans are in fact the villains here.
Story-wise, we find ourselves once again at Amity Island, a place that’s poised for growth in terms of both population and industry. Naturally, all of this activity alerts everyone’s favorite great white shark who’s apparently just itching for a taste of human hamburger, as it were. As you might expect, it takes a CEO’s progeny falling victim to the beast to grab their attention, whereupon a devious shark hunter is hired to track down and kill you (the ineffably named “Cruz Raddock”). Don’t think for a second that the threats end there though, because Michael Brody, of Jaws 4 fame, is also looking for you.
The bizarre story aside, JAWS Unleashed is actually a fairly decent-looking arcade-ish title, even by today’s standards. It’s mostly underwater 3D dynamics here, with the ability to rise up out of the water (as per the films) and inflict damage on various things like boats, docks, etc. While underwater you’ll encounter a variety of other aquatic life too, which you can often consume. However, it’s perhaps most fun to seek out and destroy human-related installations, be forewarned, they will fight back.
JAWS Unleashed doesn’t simply throw you out into deep waters without any direction of course, there is a built-in tutorial that will show you the ropes. Once you’re well into the game however the need to upgrade and refine your battle tactics will become apparent. Interestingly enough, while there are a dedicated set of levels as well as a storyline to be completed, there’s also a free-roaming mode which is a very nice addition. For all intents and purposes your goal is to simply eat other creatures; luckily you have a number of powers like boost, sonar, and various attacks you can use. Whether you’re head-butting boats or whipping your tail around to swat enemies, it’s pretty fun to watch how your opponents react to the horror of finding themselves on the receiving end of a great white shark’s fury. Naturally, as you progress a number of other abilities such as the corkscrew and body bomb will become available, which allows you to become more violent as well as strategic in your overall approach.
To say that JAWS Unleashed is a different sort of game is an understatement. As a retro title, it’s certainly very unique and stands as one of the more slightly strange (and weirdly violent) PS2 titles in the console’s library.