Games like Maneater are my jam – absurd ideas that no triple-A studio would touch. Who has ever done a shark role play? So when Tripwire Interactive announced it at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2018, the idea caught my attention.
Not only do I dig unique RPGs, but I also love Sealife. Sharks fascinate and terrify me (like an 8 year old child at Universal Studios, my fear of jaws almost made me climb on the people in the row in front of my family), and I have read and watched everything for a long time I can about them. Prehistoric returns have survived hundreds of millions of years of evolution and upheaval. The great extinction events did not kill them.
But humanity can. Many species of sharks are endangered due to overfishing (sharks are caught in nets and discarded), finning, the encroachment and destruction of the environment, and our fear of these creatures. How is this relevant to an opinion on a shark RPG? Well, it was all on my mind when I played Maneater, which debuts today on PC (Epic Games Store exclusive for now), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Maneater is absurd and silly fun. He has a lot of humor, and Tripwire and Blindside Interactive (the studio that sold the idea to Tripwire) have released a game that engages your curiosity as well as your funny bone. Environments and creatures show special attention to their designs and appearances.
Tripwire tells the story through the lens of Maneater, a reality show following the famous shark hunter Scaly Pete. As you become infamy while you feast on the best fish and fish in the Gulf of Mexico, you come across Pete. These interactions take a dark turn, sending poor Pete on the path of Captain Ahab and Quint de Jaws. The result is a most unexpected outcome between man and beast … and a relic of the Second World War.
I played on PC (Tripwire recommends a joystick, but I found the commands more reactive with a mouse and keyboard configuration), and in 20 hours, I found a game that made me smile from the start at the end. But you have to buy the joke to get the most out of it.
What you will like
It’s completely absurd
Maneater is funny and doesn’t take himself seriously. Your mission is to eat mafia members, and underwater, you swim alongside their victims with concrete shoes. Many quest names are word games (like “Hungry, Hungry for Hobos”). You collect license plates that can be in strange places, like the deck on the third floor of a yacht or on the performance stage inside an abandoned SeaWorld-style park. You also visit monuments, signs that indicate hilarious areas. In the gulf you will find large statues and Greek buildings. Someone, it seems, has decided to build an open-air museum … underwater. One of the shark hunters chasing you is a mafia queen with a speedboat supercar. You will also find shrines with older elementary ailments.
Yet nothing is as absurd as playing a shark that mutates and eats everything in sight. As you grow and devour the victims (whether they are top predators like Rosie the Alligator or shark hunters like Mama Maybelle), you get mutations. One gives you bio-electric fins, which stun and damage prey (or humans). The jaws and bony plates help you cross boats, fishing boats and Coast Guard skiffs. You can also upgrade them with resources you get from eating fish, turtles, boxes of nutrients (“shark loot”) and people.
As I write this, my shark has bony jaws, armor and fins, with a bioelectric head. The mutations increased his swimming speed, his digestion (so he gets more resources from what he eats), sonar and health. At this point, the shark looks more like a beast from The Abyss in a Dungeons & Dragons pound of monster that it does an earth predator.
The surroundings offer many places to hide from hunters while you feast on humans, and a few made me laugh. Of course, you can hang out in a sewer pipe or find a hard-to-reach cay while your enemies are shooting at you, or you can dive into the pool of a McMansion or hang 10 in a… skate park.
Everything is cheesy, and even the stupid and easy laughter made me smile.
I think that’s what it’s like to be a shark?
Exploring is cool. The shark can slide through the water, and clicking with the mouse to cheat with your jaws seems natural (and cooler than just pressing a button on a controller). You can explore several different environments – a bayou, a garbage dump like a toxic lake, a planned community around the most natural environment of sharks (a golf course), bays and the gulf. They are caves everywhere for the exploration and development of sewage systems with tasty fish and “shark spoils” (containers of nutrients and mutagens). And as you get older, you find that going back to older areas is a good idea if you want to.
Nice variety of animals
Grouper, catfish, muskellunge, mahi-mahi, king mackerel, seals, turtles, sharks, alligators – everything you would expect to find in these waters other than rays (which I miss). Fish do more than help you grow – think of them as health potions every time you fight a gator or hunter and need to heal a little. Eating is life and it gives you life.
And even when you are an elder shark, crammed into turtle shells and human blood, the sea still challenges you. Watch out for orcas and sperm whales. They can turn you into lunch even when you’ve moved to the gills.