You’re going to need a bigger boat as we take a look at the unique Shark themed action-RPG that is, Maneater, on the Xbox One.
First teased at E3 in 2018, Maneater is a single player, action-RPG, developed and published by Tripwire Interactive whose previous titles include Chivalry 2 and Killing Floor. In Maneater, you take the form of one of, arguably, the most ferocious and iconic creatures on this planet, the terrifying bull shark!
You start your journey as just a small shark pup, in Fawtick Bayou, after being dumped overboard like mere fish chum by the infamous shark hunter, Scaly Pete. Following a short tutorial, the main opening cut scene shows Scaly Pete capturing your mother, after she went on a bit of a human eating rampage. Scaly Pete brutally guts your mother and finds you inside her womb. Before he throws you overboard, this grizzled fisherman makes sure you have something to remember him by, slashing your fin with his blade but don’t worry you returned the favour by chomping off his arm, ouch! This intro cut scene sets up a classic revenge story arch nicely.
The story in Maneater is spread out across 7 large and varied locations all based around the Gulf Coast, you’ll explore through swamps, industrial sewage and beautifully clear ocean waters all in search of prey to make you bigger, stronger and more unstoppable.
The campaigns story and cutscenes are delivered under the guise of a reality TV show called, you guessed it, Maneater. The narration is provided by Chris Parnell who you’ll instantly recognise if you’re a fan of shows like Rick & Morty or Saturday Night Live. The involvement of big-name stars in video games can be the sign of a developer trying to cover up for lacklustre gameplay or simply trying to cash in on current trends. I feel this partnership is neither of the above and instead just enhances the experience. The humour in Maneater offsets the often-gory action pretty well, showing the game doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is important with such a niche subject matter. I should also mention this game is rated PEGI 18 or Mature if you’re a gamer in the US.
The gameplay in Maneater consists mainly of exploration, combat and resource collecting. As you swim around the various environments, you’ll devour smaller prey like catfish and turtles which will provide you with one of three different resources. These resources are used to upgrade your sharks’ evolutions and abilities but more about those features in a little while.
The combat element of this game is entertaining and also challenging, it’s important to pick your battles wisely, especially when you’re only a small pup because there’s plenty of creatures lurking in the waterways that want to prove you are merely a small fish in a big pond.
Each area features apex predators, these are basically high-level, hostile creatures, that require a fair amount of persistence and skill to overcome. You’ll need to evade their incoming attacks and time your strikes just right in order to whittle down their health. Just make sure they don’t get their jaws around you or you’ll soon be nothing more than fish food!
The alligators that you will encounter in the starting area are numerous and deadly, especially when you are in your infancy, if they get you in one of their iconic death rolls you’ll be very lucky to get out alive!
If you do get feasted on by one of your fishy foes you’ll spawn back at the closest grotto, this is basically your sharks safe haven where you can save the game and equip your unlocked abilities or evolutions. The game does allow you to fast travel to these locations too which is always a nice time saving feature.
As you complete missions, devour foes and discover sunken caches you’ll earn XP which will increase your level and your sharks stats, remember this is an RPG after all. With each level you’ll get closer to unlocking new abilities, for example the bio-electric teeth evolution which, once equipped, releases an electrical charge each time you bite, this has the chance to stun nearby enemies, a very shocking ability.
Another really useful ability that you will unlock early on is sonar, this allows you to ‘ping’ your surrounding area and see items of interest more easily.
Talking of items or interest there’s two main collectables in Maneater, they come in the form of license plates which are scattered in various hard to reach places meaning you’ll need to use all your sharks agility to get to them, including leaping on to the land. Just don’t stay out of the water too long!
The other type of collectable you’ll be searching for in Maneater are tourist landmarks, these can be found throughout the map, each with their own humorous back story and style. The addition of these collectables gives the gameplay some variation which is important as otherwise, I feel, the constant combat could get a little stale.
I think one of the most entertaining things about this game has to be hunting down and devouring the humans, I mean it is called Maneater after all! Knifing through the surface of the water with your fin in the classic Jaws style, knocking the unsuspecting humans off their boats or inflatables, then ripping them apart beneath the waves it’s all great fun.
However, cause too many human fatalities and you’ll experience the Maneater bounty system, which is comparable to the police rating in games like GTA. Hunters with harpoons and guns will pursue you on their skiffs and jet skis and if that doesn’t work, they’ll even send the coast guard after you.
Much like in Grand Theft Auto though, if you lay low and stay out of trouble for long enough these hunters will soon give up and head back to shore.
The graphics in Maneater are detailed and atmospheric, the lighting from the surface when you’re submerged is very pretty, you almost forget your swimming through hostile waters. The environments are as interesting and varied above the waves as they are below, featuring sunken ships, derelict animal parks and neon illuminated caves to name just a few.
I do question the replay value of Maneater, I’m not sure there’s a huge amount you’d need or want to do once the roughly 10 hour story campaign is complete. Having said that I’m also not sure if this is one of those games where you look for replayability. It feels more like one of those games you enjoy for the quirky style and story once through.
Overall, I think Maneater is a unique and entertaining single player experience, it won’t be for everyone but if you’re looking for some razor toothed, Jaws inspired mayhem then you’re sure to have a JAW-esome time in Maneater.