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Game Info:

Maneater
Developed By: Tripwire Interactive
Published By: Tripwire Interactive, Deep Silver
Released: May 22, 2020
Available On: Playstation 4, Windows, Switch, Xbox One
Genre: Action, Role-Playing
ESRB Rating: M for Mature: Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Mild Language
Number of Players: single player
Price: $39.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you, Deep Silver, for sending us a review code!

Humanity has always had a fascination with sharks; the bloodthirsty carnivorous fish either mesmerize or terrify people. There is a constant torrent of shark-related media released such as the long-running Shark Week event on television, the equally terrifying (although in a different way) Baby Shark song, or the classic movie/novel, Jaws. Video games are no exception to portraying sharks but in terms of actually playing as one is something rarely explored.

This is where Maneater comes in, an action RPG (or SkaRkPG as the developers like to dub it) where instead of hunting sharks, YOU are the shark. As far as I know, outside of video game adaptations of Jaws, this is the first game of its caliber that the player character is a shark. There are smaller games where you play as a shark but of course, most of them either act as a small distraction on a phone or flash website or are just plain bad games, Tripwire Interactive is the one company daring enough to give us what we’ve been asking for decades.

Maneater is of the 3D open-world variety that starts with an interesting tutorial. You’re an adult Bull Shark and the game slowly explains the mechanics. After getting used to the controls, you’re now tasked with killing a bunch of humans on the beach. Of course, since humankind isn’t so understanding of sharks committing slaughter, they send out hunters to take out the menace. After taking care of the hunters, the shark is then captured by Scaly Pete, a veteran shark hunter, and star of the reality series, Maneater. And then… you die.

Well, I guess that was a pretty quick game—or it would have been, but not only is the Bull Shark a female shark, it's also a mama! Scaly Pete guts the pregnant shark and rips the female baby right out of the body all while taunting and boasting about how good he is, marking the baby shark in anticipation of when he later hunts it as it gets older. Karma is quick to bite back, however, as the baby shark bites off Scaly Pete's hand and escapes into the bayou!

The true game begins here as a baby Bull Shark. Now the opportunity to explore the various bodies of water is open. For my playthrough, I stuck with the default controller setup. Left stick moves your shark, while the left bumper is to tailwhip which can either be used as a secondary attack to knock away objects or animals locked in your jaws, and the left trigger is to lunge forwards. The right stick acts as your camera control, click and it lets you lock-on to certain targets, and moving the right stick rapidly has the shark thrash around anything in your mouth. It is a little awkward at first as you can accidentally thrash, and consume something you were attempting to hold on to, and the lock-on system works unlike any action game as it only puts them in vision instead of having the camera constantly pan on the specific enemy. This also leads to missing out on attacks. The right trigger is to bite and holding the trigger down lets you sink your teeth into anything smaller than you, and the right bumper is to evade attacks. The face buttons (X, Y, A, and B) are to submerge, activate your evolution trait (which you get later in the game), jumpi out of the water, and use sonar to briefly map things in your vision respectively. The D-pad acts as a shortcut to your map and objective menus. In terms of keyboard usage, any key can be remapped to your liking but there are only three layout options for the controller users.

Maneater
Highlights:

Strong Points: Progression is great; beautiful set pieces; you get to play as a shark, and the shark feels powerful and menacing 
Weak Points: Repetitive, especially in its mission structure; lock-on system is pretty bad; tying the thrashing mechanic to the same control as the camera movement is a strange choice; ends before you know it as the pacing accelerates quickly in the later half
Moral Warnings: Ridiculously violent with blood everywhere and limbs being ripped off; some mild language such as "a*s" can be heard from the hunters; although most stronger language is self-censored, there are a few swears in Cajun French that get by such as ‘p*c k*e toi’ and ‘m*rde’ which more or less translates to ‘f**k you” and ‘sh*t’; drugs are mentioned in dialogue such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana; some crude humor such as referring to a vagina as a “little man in a canoe”; some statues based on mythological gods can be seen in the overworld;  some human characters can be seen in swimwear

Five evolution levels for the shark exist and they go from baby, teen, adult, elder, and mega, ranging from levels 1 through 30. Gaining levels is easy as it only consists of killing other wildlife, completing story/side missions, and collecting the various crates, signs, and license plates scattered throughout the world. Doing all of the above also grants you protein, fat, minerals, and mutagen in which you spend on upgrades that are either earned from increasing your infamy rank (which consist of killing humans and then killing the special hunters that come after you), eliminating the apex predator of the area, discovering all the landmarks in a section, or other miscellaneous actions. The upgrades are a means to spice up the gameplay. Although Maneater starts semi-realistically, once body part upgrades are obtained, all sense of realism is thrown out the window as the shark can now emit poisonous gas, electrocute enemies, or become a spiraling torpedo made out of exterior bone appendages.

Sharks might be the most well-known predators of the sea, but they are not the only predators. You’ll face against alligators, other sharks, and predatory fish, and even whales and they are all incredibly hostile towards you. Humans are another enemy to watch out for but are not hostile towards you unless you attack first. Humans are by far the most dangerous enemies as they are highly aggressive when agitated, have boats and weapons that do a lot of damage, and the only way for them to stop is to evade them long enough or if they take your dead carcass with them. Humans are also the most fun to fight as they test your skills. Seeing the shark fly through the air and dispatch the humans is a sight to behold.

Story missions are divided into chapters. There are a lot of them and they progress and flow quickly and nearly seamlessly. Although the problem with story missions, and missions in general, is that they can get on the repetitive side. A huge chunk of them simply consists of swimming in one area and then eating a bunch of animals or humans. Then after doing this enough times, you hunt down specific targets of predators—special variants that are labeled “Hunted” and are typically a higher level. After you take down enough of these targets, you now have to take out the apex predator, which is higher leveled and more aggressive than their Hunted counterparts. Once the chapter is over, you get to see how Scaly Pete is doing.

The approach of showing Scaly Pete is interesting because as Maneater in the game’s universe is a reality TV series, it portrays itself as such. Scaly Pete is of course the main antagonist, and he ends up being a decent one at that too. You learn as much about him as you do the playable Bull Shark. Pete might be a crazy individual, and it's no surprise that you know from the beginning that he is going to die, you learn that Pete is simply a flawed human being like the rest of us and you somewhat sympathize with him. In contrast, while playing as the Bull Shark, some parts are portrayed in a documentary-like manner with a narrator commenting on the shark’s actions, mostly when she finds the various collectibles or landmarks around the area.

In the graphics department, even though Maneater does not have amazing graphical fidelity outside of the playable Bull Shark, it more than makes up for it in the scenery. The set pieces are great to look at, and each area looks distinctly different from each other. The starting area, the bayou, is green and murky, just like a real marsh. This extends to the other areas such as the more residential areas that are simply fantastic to look at at night. The cities in the background light up and are pure eye candy as well as the shark dens that are decorated and lit up similarly. When the shark obtains upgrades and achieves new evolution levels, it shows on the shark as she becomes larger with each stage, and the upgrades when upgraded become more and more detailed with each tier unlocked. The music and sound, however, doesn’t stand out that much. It’s mostly just generic thriller music that wouldn’t be out of place in a shark film. It fits the setting, but that’s all it's meant to do.

Maneater
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 70%
Gameplay 13/20
Graphics 8/10
Sound 6/10
Stability 4/5
Controls 4/5

Morality Score - 60%
Violence 1/10
Language 3/10
Sexual Content 7.5/10
Occult/Supernatural 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 8.5/10

Tripwire Interactive is a company that's only been around for 14 years. I’ve played many of their games throughout the years and one thing that is notable about each of their products is that each of their game series is very violent, with the developers at points even using the violent nature of their games as a marketing point. Maneater is no exception to this rule. The violence is pretty insane, with the bodies of water being filled with blood and limbs easily being torn off. Humans scream in pain and agony as they are being consumed by the shark and damaged wildlife at times swim away in fear as they are missing body parts. In terms of language, pretty much all of it comes from Scaly Pete, but a few mild ones such as "a*s" come from the generic hunter enemies. Most of it is censored to keep up with the TV show setting, but as a few cutscenes do not take place during the show, a few swears do get by. However, most of it is in Cajun French, being ‘p*c k*e toi’ and ‘m*rde’ respectively, which more or less translates to ‘f**k you” and ‘sh*t. When finding certain landmarks, the narrator will reference drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. A few statues of mythological gods act as landmarks with the commentator mentioning that people worship the deity. Crude humor is to be expected, with the most notable quote being that a man referred to a vagina as “a little man in a canoe”. And of course, with Maneater taking place near various bodies of water, there are bound to be people seen in their swimwear such as two pieces.

I get why shark games aren’t made as often as other types of games. There is only so much that one can do with sharks without going in a completely unrealistic manner. Maneater is a video game with plenty of flaws, but I will admit that I am forgiving of most of them as the gameplay loop is fun and rewarding. The sense of progression is wonderful and seeing the shark physically change as the game goes on is something very few do well with their characters, let alone correctly. The controls aren’t the best and take some time getting used to but playing as a shark feels good. Maneater is an entry to the action RPG genre that is best played in short bursts as the repetitive nature may get to people if played for an extended amount of time, especially since it ends before you know it, as it only took me just under 9 hours to complete it and the majority of the sidequests. A variety of missions would make the gameplay flow better such as having one mission that you have to take out specific human targets while avoiding the constantly hostile hunters. Then that mission can directly lead to a mission where you hide from the humans, but find yourself in a hostile shark den and have to fight your way out.

Now with its insanely violent nature, language, and crude humor this isn’t an entry for everyone. People who aren’t fans of gratuitous violence should possibly stay as far away as possible. Its asking price of $40 may seem like too much for anyone who isn’t a shark enthusiast and the only reason to come back is to collect on what you missed, but if you have the option to rent it or are willing to wait until it drops down to below $30, I would recommend checking it out. If a Maneater 2 (or DLC) is ever made, I’d love to see them go completely off the deep end. Have us fight the terrors that lurk below like giant squids. Maybe have something like Cthulhu be the main antagonist. Your shark can already turn into electricity so it's not a completely outlandish idea.

About the Author

Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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