Over 20 years ago, the original Jaws movie, and its ruddy great shark, ravaged Amity Island. Fast forward to the present day and a new mayor, in cooperation with the Enviro-Plus Corporation, has transformed Amity into an economic boom town, complete with tourist attractions galore, beautiful beaches, and a state-of-the-art underwater lab for studying marine life. Nice.
Too nice... what this situation needs is another tummy-rumblingly hungry, man-eating great white shark. It really does. Jaws Unleashed places you in the role of the shark -yes! - for a free-roaming sandbox game full of random destruction and people to eat. It's like an evil alternative to Sega's old Ecco the Dolphin series, the biggest difference being that Ecco the Dolphin was at least playable.
This is the kind of game where the camera seems to have been constructed by your enemies, hoping that it will help them destroy you. It's also a game that allows you to control an enormous shark, which does not lend itself to precise, easy movement control. You absorb stray attacks from virtually every corner of the sea kingdom and there isn't a thing you can do about it.
You begin life as a happy and free shark, roaming the waters off the coast of Amity. After you wreck a few piers, sink several boats, and eat the son of Enviro-Plus' CEO during the tutorial, they capture you and slap you in an underwater study pen. You break out in the first level, and after that it's pretty much you against Amity's finest, as well as any number of smaller sharks that come and have a go. You can select story missions if you want, or simply roam the ocean eating people and causing property damage.
If this is the kind of thing that sounds like fun to you, then by all means, take a look. Jaws Unleashed is conceptually very good, but it falls down on the execution. Yes, you can rend, devour, destroy and maim, but everything is much harder than it should be. Harpoon-wielding divers can be bitten or beaten to within an inch of their lives with your tail, but unless you take several much-needed seconds to finish the job - to continue to devour them or chase them a fair distance and ensure that they're dead - they will shake off your attack and continue firing. This occurs while several other divers are throwing harpoons or firing guns at you, or a shiver of smaller sharks is taking an interest (before you ask, we've checked it... the term for a collective of sharks is shiver!).
Give Jawsy boy a bit of a break! You are not so much the meanest and largest predator in the sea, but a magnet to all manner of violence, which, in turn, means you will die much more frequently than a great white should or could.
Occasionally you'll be asked to leap out of the water and snack on someone's head. This may work, but it's just as likely you'll get stuck on some feature of the environment for 10 seconds and promptly suffocate, causing all around to laugh heartily at the spectacle of a shark not merely beaching itself, but launching itself like a torpedo in order to do so. The makers seem intent on killing you at every turn. The buggers.
But really it's all about the camera. You have the option of first-person view in Jaws Unleashed, which isn't much use in a game based around bitey, melee combat.
So you spend most of the gameplay using the third-person camera, which is 100 per cent unreliable. In a game where you're controlling a shark - the tank of the underwater world- the camera needs to be solidly on your side, not against you. You'll often be forced to attack something you can barely see, or something that's sitting invisibly off to the right somewhere. It's even less fun than it sounds.