Shark Effect

So this screenshot got spat out of Rockstar’s PR machine recently:

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This specific collection of varying shades of blue, white and grey pixels has managed to illicit more hype in me about Grand Theft Auto V than any of their trailers or previous screenshots have to date. I was sold before; I’m probably going to a midnight launch now.

Why does this excite me so much? The answer is threefold: first, this is a strong indication that the ambient ecosystem of animals that was pioneered in Red Dead Redemption is making a return. That aspect of RDR was one of my favorite parts of the game; roaming around New Austin and taking potshots at armadillos from horseback was an absolute delight. I can’t wait to barrel up the side of Mt. Chilliad in an ATV, blasting hawks out of the air with a Tec9.

Secondly, this screenshot (as well as this other one) is indicative of how deep (rim shot) the developers are going with the undersea exploration angle of GTAV. Aside from outer space, extremely detailed underwater areas are pretty much the last unconquered open world frontier for Rockstar (unless you count San Andreas’s barren sandy wastes occasionally punctuated by oyster collectables, which I certainly don’t) (Also, how fucking cool would Grand Theft Space Shuttle be?). It is going to be an absolute delight to see what they do.

Finally, and most importantly, this screenshot is the only confirmation I needed that GTAV is going to be pretty damn good. Shocking, I know; a Grand Theft Auto game is going to be good. But I’m going to go so far as to say that Grand Theft Auto V is going to be the highest scoring Metacritic game of all time, perhaps even being the first title to hit the “100” mark and stay there. Hell, if my hypothesis is correct, they’re going to have to make an exception to the rules and allow GTAV to score higher than 100 points. Why, do you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked me that, hypothetical straw person I created so as to affect having a conversation with the people reading this blog post. See, there’s this phenomenon I’ve noticed in gaming recently, a little trend I like to call…


No, not this.
No, not this.

Shark Effect stipulates this: if a game in a series of games has sharks in it (be it in the form of actual enemies, iconography of or otherwise, just so long as the shark is not a playable character), it is automatically better than the other titles in the series, as far as review scores go. Furthermore, if multiple games in a series include sharks, the best-scoring game is going to be the one with a greater emphasis and utilization of sharks.

Take, for instance, the Far Cry series.

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Not including the various and sundry shitty spinoff titles, the lowest rated title in the main three games is Far Cry 2, with an average Metacritic score of 85. The highest is Far Cry 3, with an average Metascore of 90. Far Cry 1 is in the middle at 89, one jot below FC3. Why the disparity? Sure, one might argue that Far Cry 2 was bogged down by respawning enemies and repetitive “go there, do this” mission types, but it’s obvious to me that the real reason for these lackluster scores was FC2’s distinct lack of aquatic predators. Certainly, having a shark in the middle of the African savannah does not make a whole lot of sense, but the facts stand: FC1 had a cameo from a shark and FC3 introduced sharks as enemies, not to mention the inclusion of shark symbolism in one of the talent trees. The review scores speak for themselves.

Here’s Shark Effect’s numerical breakdown, for several still-running series (thus, no Ecco the Dolphin, etc.). The scores given are averages of the Metascores across all platforms (with the exception of Crysis, whose scores do not encompass the console releases of either main title).

One series not included in this breakdown is the Tomb Raider franchise, which is an exception to the Shark Effect rule; Underworld included sharks, but scored lower than its predecessors. I believe this is less due to Shark Effect not holding up and more due to some franchises being just too staid and broken even for sharks to save.

Far Cry

Far Cry 2 – 85 – No sharks

Far Cry – 89 – A shark

Far Cry 3 – 90 – Lots of sharks

Overall change between highest and lowest: 5 points

Just Cause

Just Cause – 72.25 – No sharks

Just Cause 2 – 82.66666 – Part of a shark

Overall change between highest and lowest: 10.416666 points


Crysis 2 – 86 – No sharks

Crysis – 91 – Lots of sharks

Overall change between highest and lowest: 5 points.

(Warhead is an exception to this rule, with a Metascore of 84 with sharks. However, since the utilization of sharks was identical to Crysis’s, this drop off can be attributed to other causes. No shark innovation, no score improvement)

Batman: Arkham (Insert Title)

Batman: Arkham Asylum – 91.333 – No sharks

Batman: Arkham City – 93.666 – A shark

Overall change between highest and lowest: 2.333 points.

Spec Ops

Spec Ops: Ranger Elite – 48 – No sharks

Spec Ops: The Line – 76.333 – A painting of a shark

Overall change between highest and lowest: 28.333 points.

This is the most drastic example of improvement, and thus an obvious outlier; it is not included in the final average.

Average Shark Effect Score Improvement:

5.69 points.

Now, I’m fairly certain Grand Theft Auto V is not going to improve on its predecessor by 6 points, placing it four points off the meter. That’s just crazy talk. It will most probably end up at about 102, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Metacritic is probably not going to completely rework their scoring policies in order to give GTAV its rightfully deserved number, so it will have to settle for a lowly 100. Ah well.

All joking aside, Grand Theft Auto V has sharks in it. A lot of games that have sharks in them are pretty damn good. Ergo, Grand Theft Auto V is going to be pretty damn good and I’m fucking pumped. Spring 2013 cannot come soon enough.

Also, hey! I wrote two blog posts in the same week! That’s fancy.

Happy New Year, everybody.