The basic plot: Dangerously-stacked and impossibly-waisted “archaeologist” searches for Mjolnir, Thor’s magical hammer.
Jumps the shark when: Let’s call this one a “double-jump.” First, Lara is accused of trying to kill her own friends, and only later is it clear that some kind of “evil” Lara was responsible - an evil twin with purple hair and yellow eyes. Okay, fine, we’ll roll with that… for a while. Until ZERO explanation is given for the twin’s existence, and then she disappears from the story entirely. Unless you want pay for a vague DLC rationalization, that is.
Above: If you’re gonna raid tombs, expect some (mama) zombies
If that wasn’t horrible enough, Lara later discovers her mother is a zombie. Again, no explanation, but there’s her undead mother, lurching forward to eat her brains. And then POW, Lara puts down her own mother like a broke-legged horse.
PoP: Warrior Within
The basic plot: A burned-out hero, running from his tragic fate, journeys to a mysterious island in the hope of changing his destiny.
Jumps the shark when: You fight with a corpse-skinned vamp lady, Shadee. After a loading screen that looks like a Slipknot album cover, she enters with a six second shot of her swaying, iron-thonged keister, proving that Warrior Within is very mature. But the real nadir of the segment comes after Shadee cuts the Prince’s face, causing him to yell “bitch” in his manliest, gruffest voice, tossing aside all the wit and whimsy the first game established in with one fauxmotional expletive.
What followed were hours more of Hot Topic levels of emo-irritation -hilariously described at the time by Penny Arcade - that left fans wishing they could turn back time – specifically to the moment just before they bought the game.
Gears of War 2
The basic plot: Marcus Fenix and his team of potty-mouthed meatheads are forced to continue their fight against the subterranean invaders known as Locust. A fair amount of blood is spilled in the process.
Jumps the shark when: You discover that the enemy is using a worm the size of a cruise ship to eat through entire towns and cities. No, wait… that’s kind of cool, actually. So maybe when the worm erupts out of the ground and swallows your entire helicopter, with you in it? No… still pretty badass. How about when you run through the worm’s insides, dodging enormous teeth and cutting through arteries thicker than Cole Train? No… not quite there.
And then, when you get to navigate a dark green maze of gas-filled tunnels, choking on the stench and shooting open gooey, glistening sphincters? You know, the level that is basically <wink wink, nudge nudge> the worm’s ass?
Ah yes. That’s it. Shark jumped.
Tony Hawk Underground
The basic plot: Kid wants to skate. Kid buys Tony Hawk game. Kid finds the whole experience marred with utter bullshit that couldn’t be further from the act of skating.
Jumps the shark when: You could say Tony Hawk jumped the shark by adding a plot in the first place, but if you want to see the absolute apex of Henry Winkler’s arch, look no further than getting off your board. Whereas Manuals and Reverts were welcome additions that enhanced the overall experience, “Goin’ Boardless” turned a sizable chunk of the player-vs-environment sports game into a horrendous platformer, complete with graphical glitches and pace-shattering fetch quests. It crippled the very concept the game, like if Capcom gave everybody in Street Fighter IV a jetpack.
Worst of all, THUG’s success sent a message to Neversoft that any and all effortless innovations would be tolerable on an annual basis. So, as a ceaseless torrent of unskateable activities deluded the established gameplay (usually with some kind of celebrity or sponsor in tow) Activision rode that crest of useless affectations until fan indifference literally forced them to stop. Apparently, redemption is a $60 peripheral.
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