Hands-on with Maneater – Jaws the Shark
Maneater is the kind of game so far up my alley, it’s practically poking out the other side. Dubbed a ‘SharkPG’ by PR at the event I attended, Maneater is a wild idea and one I’m surprised hasn’t been explored before. You play as a Bull Shark, seeking revenge on a shark hunter who caught and killed your mother.
Imagine if Bambi was an apex predator, with rows of razor-sharp teeth and bloodlust.
It’s part Tokyo Jungle, part Dark Souls, part JAWS and a whole lot of fun. What other game lets you take control of one of the most powerful and deadly creatures on earth, eat people and listen to narration by Chris Parnell?
I’ve played about an hour from the beginning of Maneater. You begin in control of a fully-grown, all-powerful Bull Shark living off the coast of what looks like Miami. By giving you access to an adult shark right at the beginning, the developers are giving you something to aspire to. Because it’s not long before all your power is taken away.
As the adult Bull Shark, your objectives are to terrorise the bay by killing beachgoers. You can do this in a number of ways, but as a shark, eating people is obviously the fastest, easiest and bloodiest.
As you go about your business, which is killing, Maneater introduces you to its controls which include hitting RT to bite and eat prey, waggling the right stick to thrash your prey and stun them, LB to tailwhip and knifing. Knifing allows you to swim to the surface but remain underwater so only your fin is showing. It’s used as a way to create terror and intimidation among the human NPCs.
Given Maneater is a video game, some liberties have been taken. Tailwhip is a good example. Others include your shark being able to leap from the water and holding prey in your mouth and launching them at a target with tailwhip. Just suspend your disbelief, you’re a freaking shark for christ’s sake.
Once you’ve eaten enough beachgoers to trigger a panic (I’d have thought one would be enough), shark hunters enter the water to take you out. From here you learn about shark to boat combat, smashing into boats to deal damage, leaping from the water to chomp enemies from the deck and trying to survive the onslaught.
Of the hour I spent with Maneater, this section was by far the most intense, hectic and action-packed. Divers will attempt to spear you, while men on the boats will fire at you, ram you and try to kill you by any means.
Once that threat is dealt with, Scaly Pete, the star of the in-game shark based reality show (think River Monsters) arrives and quickly captures you. Once on board his boat, he guts you and removes a baby shark which promptly bites his hand off. Throwing it into the swamp, you regain control, only now, you’re an infant, without any abilities, size or power.
This is where Maneater truly begins.
As a baby shark, your goals are to eat, grow and survive. To do so, you need to find prey and in the swamp, there are plenty of fish to eat. By eating them and other types of creatures you earn protein, fat, minerals and mutagenics.
Each of these four resources are needed to upgrade and improve your shark. As a baby shark, I was only able to upgrade my sonar, which adds details and information to the HUD. We were told though, over time, you can add bone armour and the ability to spend more time on land, amongst others.
While you start in one region, you eventually open up the world map and gain access to a whole range of areas with different prey, different threats and different things to do. Maneater coaches you along the way with missions and objectives, however, there is a huge amount of freedom in how you play and what you do. This was one of the most refreshing things I found when playing Maneater. I could simply swim around, eating fish and accumulating resources and I was still having a great time.
In addition, each map includes collectibles, enemies and an Apex Predator which will only appear after you’ve sufficiently depleted its main food source. For a game about surviving as a shark, there sure is a lot to do, a lot to see and heaps of gamification.
One of my favourite things about Maneater is the entire game plays out as though you’re watching a shark doco. As you play and uncover new things, Chris Parnell will be constantly narrating, explaining what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what it all means.
And it’s hilarious.
It really lends some dodgy, ‘I can’t believe this is a show’ faux seriousness to an already absurd concept.
Playing Maneater, aside from the power fantasy of being a shark and the hilariousness of listening to Chris Parnell prattle on with dubious shark facts, is actually great in and of itself.
Controlling your shark feels awesome. You can feel the weight and the power of the adult shark yet, the infant feels small, weak and fragile. It’s a great balancing act which Blindside Interactive has pulled off. From what I’ve seen, you’re never so powerful you needn’t worry about anything, nor are you ever so weak you’ll struggle to survive.
You’re a shark and playing as a shark feels good.
Maneater is only a couple of months away and from what I’ve seen, it’s a game to keep your eye on. Playing an entire RPG from the perspective of a shark is exactly the kind of idea which makes videogames the amazing medium they are.
What makes it better still is the developers seem to have truly turned the idea of a ‘SharkPG’ into something which actually works. I only had one hour with Maneater but I’ve not been able to get it out of my head since.
What could be better than mauling a giant alligator to death as a Bull Shark half its size? Not much by my reckoning.
Maneater is coming to PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One. The PC, PS4 and Xbox One release date is May 22, 2020. Switch will come later.