Tripwire Interactive, Blindside Interactive, and Deep Silver bring us Maneater. an open world (well water) action roleplaying in which you take on the role of a Bull Shark. The game is currently available on Windows, Xbox, and PS4 with a Switch version coming soon. An Xbox code was provided by Deep Silver.

Stalking humans from below is sadistically satisfying.

The game wastes no time in living up to its name as you breach the water and tear the human menace limb from limb. This is when we are introduced to the game’s antagonist Scaley Pete (Although I kept calling him Stinky Pete by mistake, #DisneyGeek) and bayou is he antagonising. 

Scaley/Stinky Pete captures Mama Shark and guts her, only to find ‘You’ the Baby Shark (Apologies if that blasted song is now in your head). After slashing you so that he can recognise you in future, you turn the tables on this Momma murdering Cajun and chomp off his forearm before escaping back into the swap. I’ll quickly add that Pete is voiced by Carlo Mestroni who delivers a cajun accent that’s dripping with equal measures of charm and menace. 

Now, you’re off down the long road of survival determined to grow big and strong, evolving along the way so you can exact saw-toothed revenge on ol’ Pete. 

Maneater frames it’s story within a reality documentary tv show called ‘Maneaters vs Sharkhunters’ who’s host is voiced by the fantastic Chris Parnell. Parnell brings a splendid mix of levity and gravity, actual shark facts are delivered during gameplay more like fun trivia as opposed to a lecture and at times hilarious and snide comments are delivered with the same tone. Over 90 separate lines of dialogue were recorded for when you devour a human.  

Right, so to be perfectly clear this is more of a pet peeve in general rather than being aimed squarely at Man-eater but as the game also does it, I’ve decided to bring it up briefly. I can’t think of a more accurate term than ‘Power Previews’ in opening levels. What I mean by this is that as the game starts you’re a total badass, at the height of your powers, only to have them stripped from you at the next level so that your character has a sense of progression. While I understand that these ‘Power Previews’ exist to entice the player into regaining said skills they often undermine any sense of achievement to me, as I don’t feel as if I’ve leveled up to a badass, merely reacquired skills I’ve already experienced. 

This is more forgivable in Man-eater as I’m not so much losing skills (for instance the start of the original Assassins Creed) but I’m an entirely new character so it reduces the peeve level somewhat. 

Maneater begins in earnest once your tiny shark is free to roam the bayou. This is where you’re introduced to the main bite of the gameplay. The game world is divided into areas that you can only access once you are big and strong enough to bash your way through the metal grates blocking your path. The areas aren’t huge but their layout is such that you feel naturally hemmed in based on the great environmental design rather than a limit with the game itself. 

Missions are dotted around the world map and for the most part they are what you’d expect from an open-world game, the usual find all the collectibles, which in Maneater take the form of car license plates or caches of chemicals and nutrients. The meat (no, these shark puns will not be stopping) of the missions however involve chomping your way through as much wildlife as possible.

They are gonna need a bigger boat.

Completing missions rewards you with XP and the aforementioned nutrients and chemicals. XP as you’d expect controls your level and how big your shark grows, while the chemicals and nutrients let you upgrade the myriad of evolutions you’ll earn through the game. They could be bone plating or electromagnetic teeth that electrocute pray as you tear into their flesh. 

Each evolution offers a distinct gameplay advantage be that stunning the foe or boosting your health, this is where the RPG element comes in and there’s a surprising amount of depth to the system. Each evolution also comes with cosmetic changes, my shark is currently covered into blue-tipped fins and upon leaping out for the water and pressing the dodge button my shark is suddenly wreathed in lightning as he vanishes only to have his silhouette reappear as he crashes back beneath the waves. 

Being an open-world game you of course have things you can do when you aren’t on missions, this is where I’ve and the most fun playing Maneater. Swimming around and basically becoming a terror akin to Bruce (points if you understand that reference), but belly-flopping pedal boats, head butting jet skis or stalking the shallows attracts attention, redneck hunter attention.

While Scaley Pete is the game’s main antagonist and ‘in-game’ is the world’s most famous shark hunter, hence him being the focus of Maneater but he’s not the only hunter in town. As you chomp chomp chomp your way around your threat level rises and hunters will appear and attempt to kill you, each threat level has a named mini-boss who’ll appear for you to sink your teething into. Devouring the mini-boss will unlock a new evolution for your shark which is great as let’s face it, we don’t need to be encouraged to go on an aquatic murder spree. 

 The animations of devouring the prey, be it human or wildlife are fantastically exaggerated and accompanied by glorious chomping sound effects, in fact so fantastic are all the animations of your saw-toothed killing machine that I thought it deserves special mention. You can actually feel the strength of your tooth filled body as it cuts a path through the water. Also Man-eater wouldn’t be what it is without the sound design. Being underwater and breaking the surface feel like two entirely separate worlds. The almost lack of atmospheric sound while at the surface compared to the comforting white noise of being submerged results in being underwater feeling like a refuge from the savage humans above. 

Maneater has been a wonderful experience and a brilliant surprise, while it’s not a AAA release it’s also doesn’t fall within what I’d consider an indie budget, at the time of writing Maneater is £35 digitally. Before playing the game I’d of been unsure if I were willing to risk that amount of cash on an unproven franchise, but take it from me, Maneater is worth every penny. 

I also feel that Tripwire Interactive deserves a huge amount of credit for clearly making the game they wanted to make and not attempt to ape the current trends of the gaming landscape. Maneater is a unique experience that has been entertaining from the get-go, even the struggle to survive infancy was rewarding. I will be putting many more hours into the game which isn’t always the case once I finish a review, but then how many games let me forge an aquatic death-machine into a Megalodon?