Rising from the depths to rip you limb from limb, Maneater, Tripwire Interactives’ latest IP has been described as GTA with sharks.
It is a very poor description, there were no cars to steal and no weapons to shoot and despite trying for several hours to find a strip club there were none!
Stupid complaints aside Maneater is a well built, if formulaic, and often confusing RPG. The game begins and you (brain: ahh SHARK CARDS, it is like GTA!) are a full size female Bullshark swimming in the vast blue.
After chomping down on some humans Scaley Pete and his idiot protégé Luke Leblanc arrive to put a stop to your killing spree.
Presented like a reality TV show the voice acting is exceptionally good. Scaley Pete is a stereotypical reality star with a hard to understand accent and a body modeled on Jorge Kahwagi I think. For those of you unfamiliar with that reference I think Google will be your friend here.
After catching you Scaley Pete pulls a pup from your corpse and cuts its fins so that he can recognize it in the future. Swiveling the infant Bullshark takes Scaley Pete’s right arm off and darts into the water.
You then take over as the pup and begin your growth in the murky waters of the Bayou. The Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas) was a great choice for the main character. They can swim between saltwater and freshwater and can get pretty big. There was once a female Bull Shark that was over 8ft in length and estimated to be around 390lbs caught off of Florida Keys by a research organization however, in the game, you will eventually become a LOT larger.
Cutscenes are clips from the in-game TV show Maneaters vs. Sharkhunters with narration throughout provided by Chris Parnell, probably better known as Dr. Leo Spaceman from 30 Rock. The narration is fantastic, funny, and adaptive to the situation it never feels like you are listening to the same few lines regardless of what you are doing.
The presentation, graphics, and sound are first class and will help the game to score well despite the routine gameplay. Here were my thoughts after the first 30 minutes of gameplay.
Game: “Go here, kill 10 mackerel”
Game: “now go here, eat 10 humans”,
Game: “now swim here and fight an alligator”,
Game: “now go here and eat,”
Me: “let me guess, 10 mackerel”?
Game: “No, you already did that, I won’t get you to do that again”,
Me: “Oh OK what then”?
Game: “eat 10 catfish”
Game: “Swim here and eat 10 Mackerel”
Me: “You said I wouldn’t do that again”!
Game “Yes, but this time they are in a cave”
When I say formulaic I mean nearly every box has been ticked. Map with POIs, Free-roaming with some type of barrier to stop progression until you level up, level-ups, new abilities based on level, increasing threat level based on your skills and actions, fast travel, etc.
The complaints don’t stop there either, the controls can be wildly confusing especially as the camera is so close. It means most boss battles end in wildly spinning button smashing affairs that require as much luck as skill.
Despite my protestations, I have to say that, I am really enjoying Maneater. For specifically those reasons that you would think I shouldn’t like it.
The formula for this format exists for a reason, its really good fun, and the fights, are never a foregone conclusion BECAUSE the camera is spinney and wild.
Swimming through the rubbish-strewn water feels really good, your shark cuts swiftly in any direction and the movements look perfect. The non-human characters are realistically modeled, you can see that there is a Mako ahead based on the outline for example and scars appear from your fights with larger prey and the boss battles you take part in.
There are a lot of other creatures to fight and eat in Maneater too. So far I have seen/eaten Parrot Fish, Catfish, Muskies, Barracuda, Alligators, Swordfish, Marlin, Seals, Turtles, Orcas, Great Whites, Hammerheads, Makos, Sperm Whales, King Mackerel, Groupers, did I already say Groupers? Look, there are a lot of creatures to eat your way through and they are all really well modeled. I almost caught a bat or some other flying thing but I was busy fighting a Mako so I’m not sure if that’s possible yet.
The freedom to move in any direction, complete tasks as and when you see fit, and the progression remind me of the early Assassin’s Creed games. Repetitive tasks that are ultimately as fun as hell but the collect-em-up style of gameplay also feels like Far Cry titles of late. I could draw comparisons to a few Ubisoft titles actually and if I was to play this without knowing who made it I could believe this was from their stable.
Progression is the watchword too as you will need to find all these landmarks and chests if you want to progress. If you eat too many humans, (its called Maneater but you can eat women too, feminism yay!) you will attract boats full of bounty hunters all trying to kill you with Harpoons, rifles, and dynamite. Kill enough of these guys and you will attract a Boss Hunter.
The first of these bosses were definitely drawing inspiration from a Swamp People regular Willie Edwards and I think the “inspiration” for many of these characters comes directly from TV and Film. Scaley Pete himself appears to be the love child of Troy Landry (Swamp People) and the incredible Robert Shaws’ performance as Captain Quint from Jaws.
When you have killed a boss hunter or found all the landmarks in an area you can unlock extra abilities to equip like electroshock teeth or fins, you might get stronger teeth that are better for attacking boats or adrenaline surges or extra health or armour. This is very much a “just five more minutes” style of game that will eat up hours of your time before you know it.
Eating everything in sight allows you to grow, this progression takes you from a relatively weak pup through to a hulking mass of teeth and anger, growing larger with each stage you will also increase your lung capacity, for when you just have to nip onto an island to eat a few people or increases your health and allows you to jump further out of the water to reach those pesky humans on bridges.
The comparison to GTA isn’t totally unfounded. There are times when you want to get away from the fight and the hunters are looking for you, a searching bar slowly depletes and when it does the hunters give up looking for you. It’s akin to the star system in GTA and the more naughty things you do the more infamy you garner so more hunters will come after you.
Maneater is a really great title and more importantly, it’s lots of fun. Looking at and comparing it to formulaic titles with disdain will mean you miss out on a wonderfully enjoyable game that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
I will say it again, there is a reason that Ubisoft creates games in this format, there is a reason that Tripwire has copied and stuck to it too. It works, its mindless escapism, and ultimately, games should be all about that. Creating experiences that take us away from reality and give us the freedom to act and experience what we never could in real life.
Maneater does that particularly well and I for one will be playing it for some time to come.
Like a 45 year old single woman, Watch out boy, shes a Maneater!
A truly great game that will give you hours of pleasure and is one for the completionists out there with time (and people) to kill