Review: Maneater Serves Up Underwater Fun and Adventure
Tripwire’s new shark-focused action RPG delivers a solid, yet comical bite.
In a world dominated by games featuring humans hunting big game animals and ocean life, Tripwire Interactive has swapped those roles for the prey to become the hunter in the newly released role-playing game, Maneater. Released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC platforms last week, with a Nintendo Switch release possibly later this year, the open world game involves players assuming the role of a baby bull shark that is disfigured by the fisherman who killed its mother.
When you first start out, you are the pregnant mother bull shark. You get some fun challenges, like eating humans, outrunning bounty hunters, and flipping boats, before ultimately being caught by Scaly Pete. Sadly, you are killed, but he pulls out the baby for you to assume the role of and tosses you into the water to fend for yourself against the dangers of the sea.
As you maneuver your way through bodies of water while completeing challenges, the goal is to level your shark up through the five stages currently available. You begin your journey, mentioned above, as a vulnerable pup shark, disfigured from the knife blade of Scaly Pete. By completing each area's challenges and eating copious amounts of fish, turtles, and a variety of other goodies on the ocean floor, you can evolve up to a teen (level 4), adult (level 10), elder (level 20), and finally a mega shark (level 30).
Sounds simple right? Not so fast. Along the way, you need to be ware of apex predators, which will not hesitate to make you their next meal. Alligators, crocodiles, barracuda, and more are all ready to strike and kill you at a moment's notice. Everything is assigned a level, which you can see before you decide if you wish to attack or not. I learned my lesson after some trial and error. When you are a measly level 2 bull shark pup, you really do want to avoid the level 8 alligators.
As a fairly novice game player, I was eager to try this one out. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to be Jaws, attacking and eating beachgoers, or munching on humans riding inflatable unicorn floaties? The game first garnered attention after being announced back in June 2018, with a trailer premiering at the E3 expo that year. Inspired by such titles as Deus Ex, Dishonored, and, not surprisingly, Jaws Unleashed, Maneater incorporates fairly realistic graphics and designs with comical, “out of this world” gameplay, actions, and stunts.
Yes, stunts. Your shark will need to develop these acrobatic jumping skills in order to reach out-of-water license plates, which make up some of the challenges. Let me tell you; it takes practice to catapult your shark out of the water high enough to reach the spinning plates. As you evolve, the speed and size of the shark will help in these cases.
The first thing I noticed while playing is the ease of the controls. I’m playing on the Xbox One and didn’t find it necessary to change the button layout to complete any shark moves or special commands. The gameplay is smooth and I have not experienced any crashes or major issues like that.
As you begin playing, you are in a bayou, where the atmosphere changes rather quickly. You may be swimming around in the day, but then it will switch to sunset, night, and sunrise again. At night, it can be difficult to see underwater. I suppose you have the option of adjusting your game lighting, but since the shark is equipped with sonar abilities, which you can evolve, I didn’t change the settings. By engaging the sonar, it will brighten up underwater and also mark out all food and enemies easier for the shark to see. I noticed that during the darker times of gameplay, it was actually easier to remain under the water, as opposed to breaching the surface and trying to get around in the dark.
Each area has a grotto that is pretty much a sanctuary/starting point for your shark. You will also need to be in the grotto to evolve your specific body evolutions. As you complete challenges and level up, you get new evolutions. Tripwire has included an easy way to get back to your sanctuary regardless of where you are on the map. Open your map feature, move the cursor to the grotto, and hit the "X" button (Xbox One) to be teleported back to the grotto. Once there, you can spend coins earned to improve your abilities.
Throughout the map are also grates that your shark needs to break through to continue exploring. These grates require different levels. I discovered that I pretty much would swim around, eat everything I could, and kept challenging myself against higher level predators to level up more quickly so that I could finally break through said grates that required teen or adult. An additional challenge is that some areas require elder level, even after you’ve completed all the challenges in that area. So, basically, once you have left that area, you can backtrack at a higher level in order to break through those grates to finish exploring where you couldn’t beforehand. This adds some much-enjoyed replayability.
The game auto saves as you are playing, so no need to worry about that. There are two ways I’ve discovered so far that your shark can die. First, by predators killing you, and second, by suffocating. That’s right. If your shark is out of water for too long, you will be alerted by a shrinking blue bar that you are going to suffocate. Kind of the opposite of how most games give you that underwater.
How can you suffocate while swimming, you may wonder? As you are in the first area, the Bayou, it is very easy to find yourself on land. At times, the marshy areas and water are almost indistinguishable, leading you to be swimming at high speeds only to abruptly hit land and fly further back onto the grass. However, by hitting your chomp and jump buttons simultaneously, you can retreat back into the water before you die. Admittedly, yes, I did suffocate my shark a few times. Needless to say, some four letter words were uttered during my time playing.
The sound effects are kept to a minimum as you are swimming through the water. You do hear the alligators if you happen to swim too close to one, or it strikes at you. If you are attacked and dying, the screen darkens and you will hear a faint heartbeat. As you eat something, the screen lightens up and your health meter fills up again. I discovered early on, as I was taking on the alligators, that it's best to make sure a nice food supply was close by. As my health became low, I would swim away, eat some fish, and then come back striking even harder.
Speaking of which, make sure to make good use of the shark’s tail in combat. You can whip it and hit your attacker with great force to shove them back, allowing you to then turn around and take a bite out of them. If you are able to chomp down on certain fish, the thrash option, indicated by a pair of shark teeth, will appear on the screen. By quickly moving the right stick on your controller, you can thrash the prey around and shred it to pieces, at which time you want to make sure to gobble up for extra health points.
I have to include mention that the voice-overs by Chris Parnell are one comical highlight of the game. As you are playing, he adds informative sound bites about wildlife, sharks, fish, etc., as well as amusing end lines if you are, in fact, killed by alligators.
As I continue to play, I notice that some actions are easier as a higher level shark. I'm still making my way through the full 100% completion of the game, but I already find it much easier to kill fish, and especially the gators. Additionally, the leaping out of the air to get quest items and breaking grates come much easier as you progress as well. The game has a nice flow to it.
This is a fun and comical game that invites you to sit back and have a good time. There are plenty of additional content pieces and challenges for a completionist to enjoy. Otherwise, this is just plain fun to play.
Although I haven't experienced any myself, some players are discovering various bugs and glitches as they go through the game. However, these issues are bound to be sorted out by the developer after a patch or two, so it's best to just enjoy the mindless slaughter and not get too hung up on them.
Overall, I am really enjoying my time with this game. As a once-diehard World of Warcraft player, this title and its RPG elements remind me of those times, as the consistent, occasionally boring, grinding is necessary if you want to level faster to obtain the evolutions. I’m looking forward to discovering more and exploring all of the plates and other options my bull shark will have at its disposal. Have you been playing Maneater? If you have any tricks or tips to share, do so below down in the comments.
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