Developed By: Tripwire Interactive
Published By: Deep Silver
Platforms: PS4 / PC (Epic Store|Steam) / Switch (TBA) / Xbox
Reviewed On: PC
There are just too many open-world games nowadays. You have assassins, monster slayers, digital hackers as well as sleek mafias. However, no game at least in this current-gen has allowed you to play as a Shark. This latest title developed by Tripwire Interactive does just that and gives players first-hand experience how the life of a shark can be.
Shark with a Vengeance
The premise of Maneater is sorely simple. It’s so simple that it feels bare and you don’t even really need to pay too much attention what game’s story is trying to drive out. You start out playing as a fully grown adult Bull Shark which at this point acts as a mini-tutorial. Immediately after, the main mission will be given in hunting down the game’s primary antagonist, Scaly Pete.
Things start to unfold really fast as you get caught and killed by Pete. However to his surprise as he tears open the shark’s belly, there is actually a pup. Thus the real main shark appears as you will be taking control of this pup for the entirety of the game. Without a moment of rest, you’ll be immediately swimming across the vast ocean chomping every single fish that swims around your vicinity. You are tasked to keep eating, fulfilling mission requirements and other side missions to level up in order to grow to a full-fledged adult shark.
As you work your way through each section of the entire world map, you will be given a chance from time to time see how your mother’s killer is doing. Hence being a Bull Shark in this game is a no-brainer. You are to grow big and kill your mother’s killer. That is actually the entirety of the game. Speaking of which, being a shark also means that you won’t hear a single word spoken as it is an animal thus the developers have roped in American actor Chris Parnell to lend his voice for colour commentary throughout the game. Every little thing from chomping on some helpless fish or human, breaking chest boxes to attacking shark hunters, there will always be something to hear from Chris.
Not Exactly Your Ordinary Shark
The core gameplay is as simple as the story goes. You have your basic movements with a shoulder button to swim faster and a dodge button which is self-explanatory. The most used button is definitely the attack button or as I would call it ‘the chomping button’. One of the cool things about the button is that it tracks whichever target you lock-on. The chomping button really has dual utility of sorts. At a certain range, apart from biting like a crazed shark, it also allows you to close in on your target faster. Hence, it can become a button-mashing feast and can get pretty addictive.
There are 3 things to note which are rather interesting as they are connected to one another. As you progress in the game, you will start to notice everything comes into one circle because they are required to do in order to enhance the experience of the game.
Firstly, there are elements of RPG involved. There is a level system where you gain exp points by completing mission objectives, breaking signposts, finding collectibles and many others. That said, enemy fishes as well as hunters have levels attached to them. The higher they are, the more difficult it is for you to attack them head-on. However, if you do manage to defeat enemies that are higher level than you, you do gain a substantial amount of exp. Simple and rudimentary and not hard to understand.
Secondly, there is an Evolution system attached to the levelling system. You start out as a Pup and eventually as certain requirements are met, you will evolve further until you reach to become an Adult shark. The requirements are somewhat obscure as there is no way to check what you need to do in order to evolve. You have to keep progressing until you are notified that you are ready to grow.
Apart from the Evolution, your shark is capable of equipping different kinds of ‘Organs’ that have different passive bonuses. The first sonar you obtain automatically is called Advanced Sonar. As the name implies, it allows you to scan your surroundings in order to find collectibles and even special targeted enemies. As you continue to level up and evolve, you will also be granted to equip different parts which consist of Fins, Jaws and Tails just to name a few.
Each of these parts comes with different specific passive skills such as a jaw that allows you to emit electricity to stun enemies as you bite or even a tail that could shoot poisonous projectiles. Furthermore, you will gain extra bonuses if you equip them as a set as the game comes with 3 different sets which you can obtain throughout the game. In addition, you are also able to upgrade all of the sets and Organs to 5 tiers. Each of these tiers increases the bonuses which enhances their effectiveness further.
Just Keep Eating
In order to upgrade, you need Nutrients and these can be obtained in many ways which brings me the third and final point. Nutrients can be found by consuming every life-form you come across. Consuming the small fishes is a good way to farm but it is ultimately very slow. Hence the game provides few avenues for you to gain an exponential amount of Nutrients by going after Hunters. The game has a special tab that showcases a list of ten hunters which you can consume. In order to get to these Hunters, you need to increase your Infamy level. This may sound like something borrowed out of GTA but it is actually a lot simpler than it sounds.
Gaining Infamy level is simple, just keep eating the locals. There are plenty of them swimming around the beaches as well as relaxing around many places in the game. As you continue to chomp on these poor helpless people, you will attract the local authority which happens to be, Hunters. Eating them and destroying their boats increases a bar which you then attract the main boss Hunter. Defeat and consume these boss Hunters gains you Nutrients, Exp points and even new Organs and parts.
However, there is a jarring thing about these boss Hunters and I felt that this was a very big missed opportunity. It is an interesting concept which can be utilized to enhance the story even further. Nonetheless, it is very disappointing to see how these boss Hunters look like they came out of the PS2 era. Their character models are so terrible that I felt they shouldn’t have been shown in the first place. While they have interesting names to them such as Candyman Curtis and Bobbie Bojangles, they have absolutely zero personality apart from the silly intro animation that they are given. It such an absolute shame this wasn’t fleshed out.
If you are tired of Hunters then you can start taking up side missions which range from consuming a specific fish, consuming a set amount of humans, discovering landmarks and many more. If your OCD levels are above the average, completing every task on an area attracts the attention of an Apex Predator. These special fishes range from a Sperm Whale, the Great White Shark, Hammerhead and many more. Consuming them also rewards new evolutions and opening up new upgrades.
Just Not Enough Meat To It
While I did enjoy my time with the game, I have to admit the gameplay loop in this game can get boring very fast. As you progress and unlock different areas of the map, the activities that you can do are all the same. You need to find all caches boxes, break signposts, consume specific targets and consume the Apex Predator. There is no variety in them. You won’t see what you do making any mark in the entire game as you just get your upgrades and move forward.
Furthermore, the game has a story but at the same time, it does not feel like it matters. It just felt like it’s there for the sake of being there as many of the activities you do bears no weight to the overall plot the game sets up.
However, the most disappointing thing to me is how the game ends. It was a total let down for me and makes me feel my hours spent in the game went to waste. Furthermore, this game has no post-game content so there is nothing else to look forward to after completion. Another big shame for me.
What I Liked
• You get to play as a shark
• The ability to do certain things that are very shark-like is actually fun
• The ability to mix and match different evolution sets is a nice touch
• Audio representation of the sea is well done. Plays with the ambience.
• Controls are awkward at first but easy to master later on
• Game runs very smoothly even with all settings turned up max.
What I Wished Was Better
• A better story transition.
• Add more variety in missions and even some challenge type missions to break the dull gameplay loop.
• Fleshing out more character and personality to the boss Hunters.
• A better and satisfying ending
Maneater is by a certain level a refreshing game to play. It is not going to wow anyone, break any new grounds, no special memorable moments or anything of that sort. It is a plain and simple game that delivers only one thing – the ability to play as a shark, a Bull Shark to be specific. There is so much missed out opportunities that are hard to ignore. I did enjoy my time with the game but it only lasted as long as it can be.
My immediate suggestion at the very least is to wait for this game to be on a hefty sale. At the moment, you can get the game through Epic Store which comes in as $18.99 (RM82) whereas is $39.99 (RM174) for both Playstation Store and the Microsoft Store. There is also no word yet when the game will be available on Asia Playstation Store as well as for the Switch.