Jaws is a great movie, undoubtedly, one of the all-time classics.
And while it’s had a spate of video game tie-ins – Jaws Unleashed, undoubtedly, the best of the bunch – none of them have ever really hit the mark.
Turns out, all Universal needed to do was get the team at Tripwire Interactive involved and they’d get what they’ve always wanted.
Maneater is violent, no doubt about that. It’s a game that really focuses on the predatory instincts of the queen of the oceans, and that includes tearing both sea life and human life to shreds.
One might even say it’s Ecco the Dolphin for adults.
And that’s an interesting point because, for me, I’ve not really enjoyed exploring the murky underwater depths in a game this much since the charming 1992 Genesis adventure. Wow, I really need a new Ecco game…
Anyway, I really feel like game developers don’t explore the sea very much nowadays. They only tend to let the player go so far before characters start choking to death, so most of the time you’re just skimming the surface.
Here, though, it’s an open-under world. You’ll get to see the effects toxicity is having on waves. The disregard humankind has for creatures of the deep by depositing their trash in the water. You’ll see what grows at the bottom of the ocean and fully explore treacherous caverns that spiral down into the unknown.
But despite that, a lot of Maneater’s activity kind of stops short of going too far down as objectives regularly necessitate you to chomp at humans resting on a beach, fight off hunters in their speed boats, and make light snacks of catfish and turtles.
In so eating creatures, fulfilling objectives, and discovering secrets, you’ll level up your shark. And in true RPG fashion, can upgrade your abilities and equip things to your fintastic figure. Some of the end-game stuff is glorious!
Maneater makes you start at the bottom, though. Sure, you’ll get a taste for playing as a full-grown shark at the beginning, demolishing and munching through everything in sight. But pretty soon you’re bottom of the food chain.
That means alligators can make mincemeat of you, continuing to rule the roost of the swampy undercurrents. You won’t feel Shark-like right at the beginning but fortunately, as you level, so you grow to a teenage – and eventually adult. Then the carnage really begins.
And that’s something I really love about Maneater. The sense of progress feels like RPGs of old. Creatures you initially struggled with eventually won’t stand a chance against your massive jaws. You’ll ‘outgrow’ areas as you continue to eat and upgrade, and that definitely comes with a sense of satisfaction.
Maneater can be a bit repetitive, though. There’s only so much eating that can be done in one sitting before you’re left looking for a bit of more substance. The creature’s appetite may be insatiable, but yours is unlikely to be.
There is a core premise, of course, taking down a hitlist of hunters to prove your supreme dominance, and there’s a bunch of collectables to find in each area, but ultimately it all comes down to consuming something, with some witty repartee to commentate on the action. It all starts to feel a bit like an American version of Blue Planet at times.
But it’s a game that’s very enjoyable for what it is and the core gameplay flows and works marvellously. Maneater is a game I will happily dive in and out of when I just want to switch off for a few hours. And it’s also a game I’m liable to want to complete 100%. Which is a surprisingly rare feat in this day and age.
Maneater was a real genuine surprise for me. I guess it kind of leans into that long debated scientific anecdote – that we might know more about space than we do our own shores. It seems baffling, perhaps improbable, but Maneater is a game I had no knowledge of, yet it’s a title I’m grateful I’ve spent time exploring and playing.
Plus it feels good playing as a shark for once. Sharks are amazing creatures, even if this game proves they’re also damn scary!
Maneater is out now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Played on Xbox One
Code provided by Koch Media