There’s a fascination with sharks that most people have that begins early and never leaves. Dangerous and majestic, they elicit a full body thrill that’s hard to resist unless you have a functioning sense of self-preservation. But who does in 2019 anyway? With Maneater, Tripwire Interactive let their game devs take this fascination and lifetime of watching shark documentaries and turn it into a videogame.
In Maneater you play as a shark with a vendetta against a hunter, Scaley Pete, who scarred you as a pup. The game is presented as a reality show Maneater vs. Shark Hunter’s with Chris Parnell doing a documentary style voiceover of the action as the shark grows from pup to megalodon size. In a hands-off demo at E3, I saw some of the gameplay and as ridiculous as the premise sounds, the game looks really solid and fun.
Billed as a Grand Theft Auto meets Jaws-style game Maneater definitely gets brutal both under the water and at the surface. The game is divided into seven regions each one with an apex predator that comes out when you eat too much of their food, from a baby barracuda when you’re a pup to a mega sperm whale. On the surface, you can terrorize beachgoers and gain notoriety bringing out bounty hunters who will come in waves until you defeat all of them and forcing the human population to retreat from the water.
Despite all the attacking, there’s also an Abyssrium style exploration aspect to the game as well. Navigating underwater and exploring each region is a huge part of the game. There is a full day/night cycle where both aquatic and human activity change to correspond. Your shark has evolution spots and you can find pieces to unlock different evolutions like serrated teeth and bone armour as well as grottos where you can mix and match evolutions you’ve found so your customizations aren’t locked. Once all 7 regions have been completed (and presumably the reality show ends) a deep ocean endgame region is unlocked with more to explore.
There are lots of moves you can do as a shark, tail swipes and biting of course but also grabbing something in your mouth and whipshotting it into a projectile and dodging in mid-air. While the devs did not work with scientists and obviously not everything is based in science (sharks don’t actively target humans! Or evolve electromagnetic tails!) a lot of research went into making Maneater’s underwater biomes as accurate as possible and quite a number of the team are lifelong shark/aquatic life fans with lots of knowledge with people jumping at the chance to work on this game because they were just that passionate about it.
Its likely Maneater will draw some criticism for the brutal nature of the shark protagonist, but even in the brief gameplay we saw at E3 it’s clear this isn’t meant to portray how sharks truly are, from Parnell’s dry commentary to the over the top bounty hunters to the megalodon size. Just as there are ridiculous shark week “documentaries” so there can be ridiculous shark games.
No release date has been announced yet the team is sure it’ll be out before E3 2020. There is currently no info on expected gameplay or pricing but just from the brief look Maneater looks like a game you can really sink into outside just the main story. Currently only announced for PC but here’s hoping it comes to consoles as well!