When I first caught word of Tripwire Interactive’s plans to tackle an action-rpg where the player takes on the role of a shark, I was intrigued, and eager to see how it could unfold. It seemed like an ambitious approach, but certainly caught my interest. There are only a handful of games in existence that allow the player to take control of this fierce predator, but really lack with any means of customizing. After swimming and chewing my way through this new, chaotic, bloody, hilarious, quick-paced underwater (and sometimes above water) adventure, I think it’s safe to say that Tripwire did a great job delivering something fresh for gamers to take a bite out of.
Maneater is an open world third-person action game that puts you in the role of a bull shark hellbent on revenge. Let that sink in. There’s a ridiculous amounts of blood and a lot of limbs flying around the entire time. While the premise does have a dark tone, the game itself is over the top and downright funny. Within the opening minutes of the game, Scaly Pete is introduced; a fisherman who is the star of the reality show, ‘Shark Hunters’. Pete is also responsible for the death of our protagonists mother, which sets the game’s main goal in motion. Starting out as a young shark, it’s time to find ways to become stronger and hunt him down. The narrating, reigned by actor/comedian Chris Parnell, was a nice little surprise once I figured out where I had heard the voice before.
Maneater has all the common traits most RPG’s carry. A traditional leveling system is implemented right from the start. Gaining experience comes fairly easy, as almost anything you do in the game will allow you to obtain it. Each new area of the map has a grotto, which serves as a fast travel location, as well as a safe haven where you can upgrade your killing machine. The variety of evolutions you unlock during your playthrough are the real highlight of this game, and are what truly make it unique. Shield your shark in a detailed and intimidating bone exoskeleton, or equip him with a set of razor sharp Bio-Electric teeth; whichever you choose has its perks. Each ability can be upgraded through a tier system. It gives the player a bit of a class building aspect. Organs can be upgraded as well, each coming with their own stat boosts.
Aside from the main storyline, the underwater world of Port Clovis is riddled with tons of activities to keep the player busy. Funny landmarks were enjoyable to discover, with each having some little backstory to it. Repetitive and daunting filler missions are frequent, but they don’t take long to complete thankfully. Most of them do reward you with new abilities as well, so you almost need to complete them. ‘Apex Predators’ are the games vision of bosses, which you encounter as story progression goes on. I found these battles quite underwhelming, and really didn’t have much difficulty defeating any of them.
If you get bored of eating everything in sight (which is highly unlikely), you can also search for items and cache boxes scattered through the seabeds that contain experience and materials needed to upgrade. Bounty hunters also pose a threat, bringing on waves of boats armed with shark hunters and weapons.
The controls are easy to learn, and quite basic. Equipped with your jaws as a weapon, a dodge ability, and a tail swipe to stagger enemies. You will heavily rely on upgrades to aid you as you encounter higher level enemies. It’s possible to trap some enemies in your bite too, allowing you shake them and tear them to pieces. The only issue I found with the combat was the camera itself. Enemies can escape your line of sight rather quickly, leaving an open window for incoming damage. A target ‘lock’ option is available, but given the pace of the action, it really didn’t help much. Nothing worse than only having a bite or two left to defeat another predator, and have them swim out of sight to kill you.
From murky, alligator infested swamps, to populated beach side resorts, there is an impressive amount of detail added to each region you unlock. Innocent bystanders are all over the place and it’s an absolute blast to wreak havoc on them. See those people on the golf course? Launch your shark on to the putting green and make them your dinner. Fishing boats and luxury yachts blocking your view of the city skylines and amusement rides in the distance? May as well take them out too. The sandbox aspect of the game was well thought out, giving you freedom to interact with almost everything you come across. Slight performance drops were presented when the screen was congested with enemies, but nothing that made the game unplayable.
I had a lot of fun playing Maneater. It had me laughing from start to end, never taking itself too seriously. It’s a fresh concept brought to the table, or in this case, the seabed, and it works great. Whether you want to explore at your own leisure to take in the sights, or tackle some of the provided challenges, a solid amount of content is delivered with this one. I didn’t spend much time focusing on the side quests, but there is a healthy amount of them for players to complete if they choose to. Repetitive missions and sometimes aggravating camera angles were just small fish in this large sea of chaos. Maneater is well worth sinking your teeth into.