Shark Attack Deathmatch

Oh yea, this one will cause controversy.  No, not the fact that you’re killing realistic-looking depictions of the majestic and noble great white shark.  Personally, I don’t get why that’s such a big deal.  It’s not like someone is going to be motivated by playing this game and arm him or her self to go shark hunting like they’re fucking Brody or something.  The world doesn’t work that way, unless you’re one of those people who desperately needs to find proper medication.  The fanatical types will note that Super Mario Bros. didn’t breed a generation of children who ran around stomping turtles to death.  And where is this outrage when games depict dinosaurs being killed?  What’s the difference between that and killing deer in a hunting simulator?  Dinosaurs used to be animals, right?  And according to some people, that was just 4,000 years ago!

In all seriousness, I don't consider myself an animal-rights aficionado, but I'm agast at the Shark Fin Soup industry.  You should really see this documentary by Gordon Ramsey on it.  It's on YouTube, and I've linked to it here.  Just click the picture.

In all seriousness, I don’t consider myself an animal-rights aficionado, but I’m disgusted by the Shark Fin Soup industry. You should really see this documentary by Gordon Ramsey on it. It’s on YouTube, and I’ve linked to it here. Just click the picture.

No, the real controversy is going to be about how much I liked Shark Attack Deathmatch.  Because I really did.  Opinion on it is fairly split, with some calling it good fun, and others calling it a steamy shit mountain.  I lean towards the good fun crowd, on account of actually having fun playing it.  But I could certainly see why so many people would call it Mount Crapmore.

It’s a weird idea: a slow, more methodical first-person-shooter set underwater.  And with sharks.  But killing the sharks is not the focus.  The idea is to kill the other scuba divers.  You’re armed with a spear gun and a knife to do this.  You’re given a decent-sized arena to fight in, but there are no boundary markers and I sometimes would swim out-of-bounds.  When you do, the game goes ape shit and demands you return to the play field, with a big arrow pointing you in the correct direction.  This was probably not a the best idea.  I would think having actual walls there would be preferable.  Like you’re in a giant lake.  A lake with great white sharks.  Okay, so it wouldn’t be authentic, but come, we’re in a video game where you can refill your health by picking up a giant red cross.  I think realism was thrown out the door at that moment.

You can't shoot the eels or turtles that float around.  They only seem to be there to cause the occasional (actually quite rare) frame-rate hiccup.  They should have been put there to give you powers or something.  Maybe for the sequel.

You can’t shoot the eels or turtles that float around. They only seem to be there to cause the occasional (actually quite rare) frame-rate hiccup. They should have been put there to give you powers or something. Maybe for the sequel.

I think most of the hate for Shark Attack Deathmatch comes from those who stick exclusively to the demo.  Without getting to play the game online, you’re really missing out.  The single player Survival modes are pretty lame.  One of them involves zombie sharks, although I’m not sure what difference it made besides making them look scabbier.  If it’s not the single player mode, it’s the aiming of the spear gun.  I admit, I hated it at first too.  There’s a learning curve to it, and you can’t possibly get it down pat in the amount of time the demo gives you.  I’ll admit, even after a couple of hours of playtime, the aiming was never that good.  Even if you adjust the sensitivity, at best it can be described as barely satisfactory.  I found I did best when I centered my aim with the cross hairs and then switched to views with the left trigger.  Cumbersome?  Yea, but it was the only way I could seem to shoot accurately.

Of course, the one thing everyone says that’s nice about Shark Attack Deathmatch are the graphics are seriously stunning.  And yes, while you have to pull the old “good for an XBLIG” card, it looks really, really good.  For an XBLIG.  Easily the best looking first-person shooter on the platform, with nothing coming close.  And the audio cues are well done too, with a Jaws-like “daaa daaa DAAA” whenever a shark draws near you.  Of course, the sharks really aren’t the focus of the game.  They’re more like window dressing, if window dressing was sentient and out to kill you for no reason.  You can even turn off the sharks when setting up an online game, although I didn’t find anyone willing to do it.  The only way I could use the sharks was to feed myself to them if I was in danger of dying, thus depriving an opponent of a point.

I enjoyed most of the matches I played of Shark Attack, but there are tons of little annoyances.  Spawning is horrible.  I’ve spawned and died in less than five seconds because an angry shark was pissed off that I had blinked into existence on their watch.  Or there was one time where I spawned literally between two guys who were having a knife fight.  In the couple of hours I played, there were nearly a dozen instances of the “you’re alive again, you’re dead  again” spawning.  Brian once came back to life right in the path of an oncoming spear someone else had already fired.  Hilarious if it’s not you, but fucking annoying as hell when you’re on the receiving end of it.  To defend yourself, you can run for it, or you can drop a flash grenade.  The problem with this is it takes so fucking long to activate that by time you’ve removed it from your holster, pulled the pin, and dropped it, you’re probably either dead or dying, and all lined up in the sights of whatever is trying to end you.

"Running out of air?  Don't worry, in a few seconds you'll have a fresh set of gills, and perhaps a blowhole in your back too!"

“Running out of air? Don’t worry, in a few seconds you’ll have a fresh set of gills, and perhaps a blowhole in your back too!”

Aggravations aside, Shark Attack Deathmatch is really fun.  And unlike a lot of games with online multiplayer, it has a full community.  I never once had a problem getting a full slate of players into a match.  Typically, if someone quit, there would be someone there to replace them in just a few seconds.  It didn’t matter if it was 11PM on Sunday or 4AM on Christmas morning.  Someone was always there.  Sure, it’s a totally different beast than your typical shooter, but that’s part of the charm.  I don’t really want to play a poor-man’s version of Goldeneye or Doom.  I want to try something original, and Shark Attack Deathmatch is that.  When I played with friends, we all had a hooting and hollering good time.  And hey, Sharks!  Who doesn’t love sharks?  It gives new meaning to the phrase “hanging out with chums.”

xboxboxartIGC_ApprovedShark Attack Deathmatch was developed by Lighthouse Games Studio

80 Microsoft Points noted that when you die from a shark, it says “you were murdered by sharks.”  I don’t think what Sharks do is technically murder, unless they’re killing us for shits and giggles.  Dolphins do that, not Sharks in the making of this review. 

Shark Attack Deathmatch is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  See which games it put a scuba tank in the mouth of before shooting them with a harpoon. 

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