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Game Review: Shark! Hunting the Great White

By Michael - 11-29-02

I don't usually purchase hunting games - I'm simply not that interested in the sport. I have no desire to climb a tree in the middle of winter to wait silently on a cold platform with a loaded gun. Wait a minute... Actually, I do, but that's not the point I'm trying to make. Hunting games are created to appeal to "outdoor sportsmen," otherwise known as "sadistic Bambi-murdering killers". I'm more along the lines of "skinny guys who are afraid to leave their apartments". The only way I'll buy a hunting game is if some sort of fantasy element, or "nerd factor" is involved.

One lonely, boring night, I did a search on AltaVista for "shark video games" just to see what I could find. I found a game called "Shark! Hunting the Great White" (by Infogrames) where you can dive underwater and chase after vicious organic killing machines of death without fear of being eaten by sharks or sexually assaulted by dolphins. After much more searching, I found a place to buy it online. I can't remember where, but it cost ten dollars, and was renamed "Great White Hunter". If I find it again, I'll get you a link to it.*

*Note: I'm not even gonna look for the link. I'm too lazy. You'll have to find it yourself.

Here's a screenshot.

Pros: "Shark!" has a surprising bit of detail for a "bargain bin" game. There are droplets of water on your mask when you go above the surface of the water, along with stereo sounds of seagulls and waves. When you dive under the water, the sound becomes muted, much like the time my parents tried to drown me in the bathtub as a toddler (to teach me a lesson).* This effect is very realistic. 

*This is a joke. Ha ha. Please don't hurt me, Mom and Dad.

Attention to lighting is impressive. Rays of sunshine pierce the water near the surface. Small underwater particles known as "fish turds" float towards your face as you swim. The water actually gets darker as you submerge. 

The only thing the programmers neglected to simulate was the increase of water pressure as you submerged. I have a remedy for this. I have discovered that if you can rig a microwave oven to operate with its door open, you'll feel some of the intense cranium-bursting pressures attributed to diving.* Alternatively, you could play the game under about twelve feet of water, but that might be too dangerous.

*Disclaimer: Don't ever do anything I suggest.

The game can be played in "career mode" where you have certain missions to complete before advancing to the next area. You choose specific harpoon guns, diving tanks, and flippers, and get on to the killing. On your first job, a pair of lemon sharks have gotten through the nets and are swimming near the shore. 

Yup, I done killed 'em good. Done shawt 'em in da head. After this mission, I moved on to progressively kill blacktips, tiger sharks, makos, hammerheads, and white sharks (Not particularly in that order). Sometimes the goal is not to kill the sharks. For example, one mission is to simply get back to your boat, while another mission requires you to recover a lost submersible robot in pitch-black water.

Sharks have always frightened me. I can't think of anything more terrifying than swimming in the ocean and seeing something approaching from below. Below, man! There's not supposed to be anything below your feet! It's not natural. Let me get to the point of this review - This game scares the living shit out of me. The combination of murky water and gurgled sound effects really adds to the tension, but there's also the fact that your heartbeat speeds up when a shark gets nearby. I play with a trainer, where I can't be harmed, and I'm still scared to death of these sharks! You can be swimming around, minding your own business, and then your heart starts beating rapidly. You turn around to see a great white heading towards you at top speed with its jaws wide open. It's all like, "BOO!", and you're all, "Man! You startled me!" Then it swallows you whole.

Note: The sharks don't really say "BOO", but that's the effect they seem to have.

Here's another screenshot.

"Shark!" features secret areas in many of the maps, where you can find special items to aid you in your suicidal shark-hunting career. I found a special advanced harpoon gun on a dead diver one time. "Well, he won't be needing this anymore," I thought to myself as I casually looted his decayed floating corpse.

Cons: Just like in real life, you can't see shit underwater. You spend a lot of time spinning around in circles, blindly searching for a shark that just swam by. This isn't really a gripe. It adds to the realism.

The game control is a bit sluggish compared to games like Quake and Half-Life, but hey - you're underwater, what do you expect? Once again, this isn't a gripe, I'm just used to running around at 80 mph with a rocket launcher, that's all.

This game could have been truly remarkable if they simply used better shark models. The environments are realistic enough, the sound effects are quite impressive. The sharks look great from far away, mostly because they are behind a thick layer of fog/murky water. Swimming animations seem pretty realistic. Some of the sharks look quite phony when they open their mouths, however. Their eyes don't roll back, and their jaws don't do that creepy unhinging thing where their teeth go forward (like in real life on the Discovery channel).

The game's collision detection isn't perfect. If you are eaten by a shark, it kind of goes through you, and you can see the inside of its mesh. If you follow certain fish, you can end up seeing inside their tails (Their tails magically go right through your face).

Here's a personal gripe, which may not prove to be a problem for many players. When I played this game, I tried to kill everything in sight - Dolphins, harmless whale sharks, gentle groupers, small schools of fish. "Shark!" just won't let me destroy these peaceful creatures of the deep. I just sit there shooting at them with my harpoon gun, and they either stare at me or keep swimming. When a game lacks interactivity, it lacks depth. When will game makers realize that gamers must destroy all objects in their paths? 

I had difficulty obtaining screen shots for this review, because Shark!'s game engine disables the Print Screen key. I had to pull a few fancy alt-tab maneuvers, but it threw my timing off. So the screenshots suck. That's what I'm saying.

There isn't too much replay value once you beat the game, but I have a very short attention span anyway. I'm all about uninstalling.


Shark! is not graphically impressive by today's standards, but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad game. As a matter of fact, I liked it. That's why I reviewed it, I guess. If you find it in a bargain bin anywhere, and you have ten dollars to spare, you might want to pick it up. Or you could get some pizza or cheese steak at the food court. It's your call.

My rating: Three cows and a pig.


*I apologize for all of the asterisks in this review.





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