Originally posted on September 19, 2020
Sharks! They’re one of the sea’s most fierce and deadly predators. They’re also a hockey team which manages to disappoint me year after year. But rarely do they get to be called the protagonist in a video game. That’s where Maneater, the latest project from Killing Floor developer Tripwire Interactive comes in. Yes, that’s right, Maneater places you in the, well, fins of a shark hellbent on revenge against the man who killed your shark mamma.
Maneater doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a ridiculous take on a revenge story told from two perspectives. The game starts with a shark being hunted by a shark hunter named Scaly Pete. After capturing the shark, Pete notices the shark is pregnant, rips the baby shark out and toss it back into sea, marking it so he may one day hunt it. The shark attacks him, ripping his arm off in the process and the shark swims off. That’s where the player then begins their RPG journey.
Again, yes, you heard me correct. Maneater is an RPG (dubbed a SHARKPG by Tripwire). As you swim around Port Clovis hunting prey both bigger and smaller than you, you earn XP leveling up your shark. Everything you attack in the game also gives you some crafting points in the form of protein, fat, mineral, and mutagen. You use those to upgrade the evolutions, which is gear you can equip to your shark. These enable her to add shock damage to bites, do more damage to boats, and even take less damage.
The evolutions allow you to mix and match gear to your liking. Giving you an advantage over other predators, or allowing you to attack human hunters with more efficiency. Although the game hands out gear fairly slow, and you won’t be getting a full set until deep in the game. It would have been nice to get a greater variety of items for each slot earlier in the game.
Maneater is a checklist game, it doesn’t try to hide it, and it isn’t a bad thing. Each area is roughly the same in what it wants you to do. Hunt down specific prey, either multiple smaller ones, or a larger predator. Level up, and gather some collectables. The collectables aren’t necessary, but if you want the evolutions, you want to collect everything. Maneater isn’t doing anything new with the open world (or in this case open water) genre, but there’s something about swimming around and chomping down on some license plates over and over again.
Even if gameplay in Maneater isn’t revolutionary, the game is still enjoyable to play, thanks in part to the story.
The faux-reality presentation of Maneater is akin to something like Deadliest Catch on the Discovery Channel, and it nails it. All of the small details you’d expect from a current day reality show are present in the games cutscenes. A hashtag will popup when Scaly Pete says something in a silly way in the corner. The Port Clovis Channel logo in the bottom right, then being replaced with the Maneater logo with a message telling the viewer new episodes air on Sunday. If you’ve ever seen anything on Discovery over the last few years, it’s an unmistakable style and the game found a great way to parody it.
The presentation is also helped by the narration of Chris Parnell, who not only does the VO for the cutscenes on the show, but also the entire game as you swim around. Parnell has lines for nearly everything you do in the game, attacking humans, seeing landmarks, entering the grotto. Some are unique to the situation, and others are more broad lines. Although for some of the collectables, you’ll hear some of the same few lines throughout your playthrough. The game is funny, and Parnell’s delivery helps. Who would have thought a comedian delivering funny lines would work?
By the end of my eleven hour playthrough, getting 100% progress, I can confidently say I enjoyed my time with the game. But there are slow aspects to the game. Collectables are the same within zones, and are busy work, but seeing the number go up made my shark brain feel good. The infamy rank, which raises as you attack hunter boats, is a tedious mashing of the attack button as you chomp boat after boat to draw out the ranks leader. It’s optional past a certain point, but it’s an oddly long grind throughout.
Maneater is a mostly by-the-numbers open world game. But playing as a shark is unique, and it’s incredibly fun to swim around Port Clovis’ varied zones. While the majority of the game will be chomping fish, fighting predators, collecting landmarks, caches, and license plates. It helps flesh it out by adding a humorous narration throughout the entire playthrough. Did I mention you play as a shark?