Jaws isn't a complicated character. He's a big, hokey shark who lives in
a 36-year-old movie franchise, lurks in dark water and eats people in
gruesome ways. When translated into videogames, however, Jaws
continually winds up in ridiculous situations, pitted against evil
corporations, overconfident scuba divers and giant undersea monsters.
And the T-rated, mostly bloodless Wii version of Jaws: Ultimate Predator
may be the most ridiculous situation he's found himself in yet.
Above: Stealth and aerial attacks require you to stop an arrow on a meter, just like the real Jaws!
Where the 3DS
version of JUP is a comparatively realistic, bloody shark sim in which Jaws
chews on swimmers and fishermen, the Wii version runs in the exact opposite
direction, offering up a bizarre, linear, story-driven adventure. Instead of
just snacking on swimmers, Jaws goes head-to-head against aquatic enemies that
range from elephant seals, other sharks and (occasional) divers, to huge
undersea robots, mutant leviathans and (presumably cloned) dinosaurs. It’s
nothing on par with the open-world madness that was 2006’s Jaws Unleashed (you’ll
never, for example, have to swipe a scientist across a card reader to open a door), and it’s
disappointingly gore-free and entirely linear. But it’s nevertheless a
jaw-droppingly ridiculous game in its own right.
there, there’s an alternate universe where Jaws was turned into a Saturday-morning
cartoon. There has to be. How else can
one explain the bright, cel-shaded weirdness on display here?
Above: Here, let us give you a brief demonstration, with vaguely indignant commentary
there’s Jaws himself (Herself? Itself?), a big gray horror who the camera
follows way too closely, who attacks his foes with unlockable bite and
tail-whip combos, and whose appearance can be continually changed and upgraded
with new and tougher fins, teeth and skin textures. His attacks start out
credibly enough, as he flails at enemies and stealth-chomps divers to death,
but as you unlock more of them (with points earned from kills and by collecting
shark teeth), they’ll contort him into increasingly improbable somersaults,
twists and figure-8s. If you’re looking for a “serious” shark sim, this isn’t
attacks, by the way, are almost completely blood-free (the only red stuff in the water appears in tiny, barely perceptible bursts), and are calculated to give the
impression that he’s not actually, you know, eating his enemies (apart from schools of little angelfish, which
Jaws gulps down to refill his health). Where Jaws Unleashed set new benchmarks
for undersea gore and dismemberment, defeated enemies in Ultimate Predator
simply drift away (intact) and disappear. Even when Jaws bites down and shakes
the life out of them, the result is never anything more violent than a cloud of bubbles.
Above: This may look like blood, but don't be fooled. It's actually a camera filter brought on by eating a power-up jellyfish
Factor in a
tinny rendition of the Jaws score and the game’s nominal storyline (related in
still-image cutscenes with voiceovers), which pits Jaws against a sinister
megacorporation with vague world-domination goals and a weird vendetta against
him, and it begs the question: Just who the hell is this for? Who looked at the Jaws license and decided the best way to
adapt it would be as a bloodless, aquatic brawler? As much as we (perhaps more
than anyone else) can appreciate that the most absurd aspects of Jaws Unleashed
have been blown out into a full game, we have to wonder why Majesco didn’t just
turn this into “Discovery Channel Presents: Shark Adventure” and leave cinema’s
most iconic shark to chomp his way through more appropriately bloody people-eating sims.
doesn’t end with the bloodless combat, of course. The levels Jaws visits are a
seemingly random assortment of underwater locales that range from the Suez
Canal and the Great Barrier Reef to a flooded Egyptian temple, a sinking
research vessel and a remote mad-scientist facility filled with giant monsters
and robotic diving suits. The developers deserve some credit for filling these with
occasional secret detours and collectible fish to devour, but they’re still
simplistic, linear, and above all goofy.
Above: Jaws also has "shark sense," which makes everything green and reveals enemies, objects and lines of sight (for stealth purposes)
fights also deserve a mention. Every so often, Jaws will run afoul of something
huge, whether it’s a creepy elephant seal with giant claws, a colossal squid, a
sperm whale or a massive diving robot piloted by another, smaller diving robot
(in turn piloted by a fragile scuba diver). And that’s to say nothing of the
final confrontation, which involves a boat that hides more absurdly convenient
guns than a six-year-old boy’s dream fort. Instead of being a challenge, these
confrontations are simple, hard-to-fail quick time events in which you’ll just
swing the Wii remote and Nunchuk in the directions indicated onscreen.
makes for prettier(?) boss fights, it also underlines Ultimate Predator’s near-total
lack of challenge. There are occasional awkward stealth elements, but right up until the end, you’ll spend the game flailing away
at interchangeable groups of sharks, seals, divers, orcas and alligators, and will only
occasionally run up against something that represents a genuine threat. Given
how repetitive the action is, though, the easiness actually works in the game’s
favor, turning what might have otherwise been a miserable slog (with a few
notable-but-clumsily executed set-pieces) into a breezy romp through varied, occasionally
eerie settings as a big, mean sea-beast.
Ultimate Predator isn’t a good game by any stretch (although it’s still more
interesting than the bloodier 3DS version). It’s ugly, clumsy and buggy, and
will hugely disappoint anyone who’s just looking to play as a giant shark that
messily eats people. For all its faults, however, it’s still surprisingly
competent, and its short run-time and lack of challenge make it worth breezing
through once, for the weird spectacle alone.