Best known for shooters like Red Orchestra and Killing Floor, Tripwire Interactive have thrown quite the curveball with their latest game. A ‘ShaRkPG’ in which you play a vengeful shark prowling the gulf coast, Maneater is a downright daft idea that grew to become a fully fledged video game.
You actually start the game playing as the protagonist’s mother, but it isn’t long before mummy shark gets captured and killed by humans who cast her young pup into the sea, unaware of the havoc they’re about to unleash on the surrounding beaches and bayous.
And so starts this bizarre yet fairly basic open world romp n’ chomp. Maneater won’t blow your favourite RPGs out of the water, but it’s still somewhat entertaining even if there are some gnarly teething issues.
Right off the bat you’re free to go just about anywhere you want, with the game splitting its map into several regions. However, your progress is tied to a mission log packed with a series of objectives that will chart your aquatic campaign of terror. From gnawing on catfish to massacring entire beach parties, each successful mission will unlock resources and experience points.
This is where those RPG elements seep in. Instead of decking your character out with a greatsword and chainmail, you’ll enhance various body parts with “Evolutions” which can then be upgraded further. For example, you can equip bone teeth to inflict more thrashing damaging or a bio electrified set of gnashers that stun targets. No, electric teeth don’t make an ounce of sense, but then that’s not really the point.
The way you handle the shark, navigating waters, and engage in combat isn’t what we’d call fluid, though it gets the job done. A soft lock will hover over nearby humans, marine life, and other targets, allowing you to home in with your basic attack, but when facing off against bounty hunters or other apex predators you’ll need to throw in some well-timed evasions as well as tailspin stuns and other abilities you unlock.
Sadly, there isn’t much variety to be had once you’ve played those first couple of hours. Maneater’s mission log soon feels more like a shopping list and you’ll be aiming to cross each item off the list as quickly as possible. The real hook here is watching your shark grow from an orphaned pup into a relentless killer, though it’s a journey that feels padded out, even before thinking about side missions and the glut of collectables.
While it doesn’t have that AAA polish, Maneater at least tries to layer on some character. The game is presented in the style of a “Deadliest Catch” type documentary, narrated by Chris Parnell (30 Rock, Rick and Morty) to inject some humour, but with mixed results. You’ll at least enjoy the various factoids he drops in as you meander between missions, leaving a bloody trail behind you.