Cards on the table. This is the most awesome bad game we’ve had in the office in ages. Everything you might want to do as Jaws is here, from bellyflopping lone jet-ski riders to launching yourself onto a beach and thrashing your 30-foot mass towards delicious onshore humans. We didn’t even think it was possible for a game that encourages the devouring of entire pods of dolphins to be bad. Somehow, we were wrong.
On the plus side, it’s a quick heartbreak rather than a gradual disappointment: things go wrong the second you feel how Jaws handles. For the biggest, bulkiest nightmare below sea level, he can outpace anything, fish or boat. And he steers with the nervous agility of a goldfish. He twists and zips and nips (and clips) around, and the only time you lose the feeling of unnatural speed is when you blast through something narrow and get stuck. Worse, all this makes precise maneuvering impossible. Deadly predators tend to be pretty good at striking their prey, and don’t barrel past their target and have to come around for another pass. And then another. But you will.
Jaws getting a few invisible outboard motors might have been forgivable if the world was a more interactive place. Instead, you bounce off walls and ships like a balloon - unless you attack (bite, tail whip, ram or body slam), whereupon boats slowly sink and everything else shatters into nothingness. Human AI is similarly binary, with people either pottering about happily or screaming the same two soundbites over and over as they run in a random direction. Worse, that switch doesn’t always get flipped. Haul yourself onto the right beach or similarly inaccessible area and a variety of invulnerable humans won’t mind the scarred shark that just threw itself next to them.
Just as real sharks need to keep moving or they die, Unleashed is always pushing you urgently forwards. Maintenance of your hunger and health meters involves ceaseless munching of anything and everything you find and you always seem to have an objective flashing up in your face. Defeat the giant squid! Destroy the oil refinery! Drag the swimmer over to the yellow buoy! Despite having a huge island to swim around, you never feel free.
The good part of all this is, the game is very rarely boring. What’s happening onscreen is always dumb, sometimes infuriating and often crap, but there’s always something happening. You’re always being distracted, whether it’s by your hunger, a collectable number plate or a cage diver who’s totally asking for it. It’s safe, but you won’t want to go back into the water.