There really haven’t been that many games where players get to control a shark. And that’s a bit surprising, considering that we’ve gotten so many Sharknado movies. Jaws Unleashed for PlayStation 2 immediately comes to mind, letting you take control of the dangerous Great White. And there’s also Ubisoft’s Hungry Shark World, with some fun action in its own right. But outside of those, there really hasn’t been an opportunity to take control of these vicious creatures. Until now, that is. Tripwire Interactive, pairing up with Deep Silver, looks to take the shark genre to a whole new level with Maneater.
It’s not just a matter of devouring all the humans and sea life you can. You’re on a mission. Your goal? Overcome one of the great shark hunters out there, starting from scratch and eventually building up to become a true menace of the sea. The publisher recently invited us down to an event to dig our teeth into a near-finished build of the game.
Starting off on the right fin
As it begins, you’ll instantly take control of a superpowered shark. After swimming through some of the lower regions of the water, you’ll eventually begin to devour some underwater creatures. For instance, smaller fish and turtles become instant snacks.
But this isn’t just a matter of eating under the water. With your might, you can actually hit the surface and chow down on a few humans. Building up the right amount of speed, you can leap into the air and home in on a poor sap in a fishing boat. This really gives you a test drive of the potential of what you can become in the game.
Alas, the intro ends all too soon, with your rival capturing the shark and forcing you to start from scratch. It’s here that the story begins to come into focus, as you eventually make your way to larger waters and avenge your brethren’s nabbing.
Build your way up to shark greatness
Thus far, Tripwire is having a ball with the game’s mechanics, which go, ahem, deeper than your usual shark fare. Homing in on more helpless enemies is as simple as targeting and charging them. With a few quick-timed bites, they’ll be instant morsels. However, you can also shake the right analog stick to chew on them a little more, just for the sake of finishing them off.
Not every creature is easy pickings, however. Along your journey into different areas, you’ll come across enemies that require more work to bring down. These include enlarged catfish, alligators, and more. You’ll need to use a dodge mechanic to avoid their incoming strikes, then quickly chomp away at their energy. Eventually, you’ll be able to finish them off and continue on your bloody little way — unless you have to contend with a group of them. In that case, you’ll need better tactics to survive.
It’s not just a matter of eating everything, however. Maneater also gives you the opportunity to tail whip. In fact, sometimes it’s encouraged, as you can knock certain things into opponents to throw them off. That gives you ample opportunity to move in for the kill with smaller targets. On top of that, however, you can also do damage to bigger objects, like boats. Hit one enough times and everyone ends up diving into the water, setting up your latest feast.
The hunter becomes the hunted
Along with underwater prey, Maneater also requires you to deal with bounty hunting groups. These usually include sharpshooters that attempt to target you beneath the waves. Fortunately, you can use your defensive tactics to dodge their shots and then strike back accordingly, with a few well-timed chomps. The mechanics only take seconds to get used to, and then you’ll keep dining on people as if you were breaking away from a vegan diet.
One other aspect to Maneater that gives it charm is the ability to customize your shark with Evolutions. As the game goes on, you can unlock other goods to give them a more distinctive look. This includes shark armor (Hey, if horses can have armor, so can sharks.) that gives you a more dynamic look. It’s colorful, too. Ever see a shark covered in green granite-like substance? In this game, you certainly will.
On top of the progression system and fun gameplay, Maneater also packs a fun presentation. The game is open-world, letting you explore objectives however you see fit. You don’t always have to stay on mission, as you can pick a fight with other creatures and see how well you fare. Objectives are easily marked on the map, so you can see where you’re going once you are ready to continue.
A bloody good-looking game
Also, the level design is great thus far. There are seven different areas to explore in all, each with their fair share of niblets and secrets. We only saw a couple thus far, but the stark differences between each one are entertaining. For instance, when visiting swamp land, the water has an unclean, murky style to it. Meanwhile, in a nearby sea park, it’s much clearer, making it much simpler to target your prey.
In addition, Maneater also gets a boost from comedian Chris Parnell of Rick and Morty and 30 Rock fame. He narrates the game, providing a smooth voiceover even when things get absolutely chaotic on screen. Hearing his delivery of humorous shark facts never gets old, even when you’re targeted by humans and sea creatures alike. He adds a dynamic that you just don’t see in a game like this. Take that, Jaws Unleashed.
Whoa, here he comes
There’s still so much of Maneater that we haven’t seen yet, but it has the potential to become king of the sea. Its concept is wacky, yet done well enough (thus far) to hook players. That, and the ability to “evolve” your shark into a much greater creature is phenomenal. The ways you can grow and become a stronger predator are really something — and just the right edge you need to take on any given shark hunter.
We’ll see how well this game “just keeps swimming” when Maneater debuts on May 22. Those interested in learning more about this zesty shark meal can check it out on Epic Games Store, as well as in the trailer below.
Disclosure: Tripwire Interactive provided travel accommodations for this preview.