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Back in mid-2019 when TripWire Interactive first announced Maneater, the twelve year old gamer inside of me rejoiced and raised his fists in the air, feeling like the planets had aligned just so I could get my hands on this so called ‘Shark RPG’. Fast forward to May 2020 and now a thirty year old gamer boots up his PS4 and fears yet another truly awful Jaws Unleashed experience, the flashbacks of Jaws Unleashed becoming too much to bare. Thankfully, before I go any further, I can state Maneater was everything the twelve year old gamer inside of me hoped for and more.
Maneater starts with a bang as the villainous Scaly Pete hunts down your adult shark and murders it, only to rip a baby bull shark from it’s belly who in turn takes Scaly Pete’s arm in retaliation. That little baby bull shark is you and after escaping the clutches of Scaly Pete, you vow vengeance. If you are much of a Jaws series fan, alarms will be going off everywhere around you because deep down, this is eerily similar to Jaws: The Revenge. Don’t let that comparison get you down though as Maneater wears it’s Jaws-esque influences on its sleeve.
Immediately, you are dropped into the Bayou Swamps as a bull shark and in no time will find yourself being attacked by crocodiles and barracudas with only survival being your goal. From there you will fend off all manners of beasts as you evolve from a baby shark into a hulking leviathan of the sea. That ability to grow from infancy into true terror is Maneater’s strongest positive. Nothing is more fulfilling and, ultimately, rewarding than going toe to toe with a huge crocodile and coming out on top only to watch your shark grow from an infant into a true predator of the waters.
Tripwire Interactive have done an extremely solid job with Maneater’s progression. As your shark grows you unlock new abilities and appearance features that turn your shark into a nightmare of the seas and all you can do is sit back, smile and enjoy the ride. It turns a simplistic RPG into a memorable experience that pushes it’s short run time as far as it can possibly go. Each encounter with a new enemy is exhilarating and the rewards for each encounter are well worth the grind which can condemn many RPG’s to the status of run of the mill.
Gameplay is as simple as it gets and it fits Maneater perfectly. You can swim fast or slow depending on your hunting approach, you can attack, you can dodge in and out of water and you can jump in and out of water for impressive killing opportunities. It is bare bones but it works really well as long as you don’t expect the same sort of complex experience as Final Fantasy or Mass Effect. A dodgy lock on system can cause some infuriating moments especially underwater as your camera becomes highly confusing at times when your shark loses sight of it’s target. It isn’t game breaking but it can become extremely annoying throughout.
Maneater also does a superb job at nailing the general vibe it’s going for. Tripwire Interactive have gone for a tongue in cheek vibe with Chris Parnell of Rick and Morty fame providing many of Maneater’s narrated laugh out loud moments. All throughout your playthrough Parnell will update you on silly, non-factual shark updates that one can’t help but smile at. Even the documentary style filmmaking approach of Scaly Pete and his Maneater TV Series nails the general vibe of Maneater’s campy, silly tone perfectly.
Another supremely solid offering from Tripwire Interactive with Maneater is the encounters with Apex Predators throughout. As you carve through humanity to get to Scaly Pete you will encounter a number of different human hunters as your infamy level rises continually. These encounters can become stale pretty quickly given how there is very little difference gameplay wise between any of the human hunters. The only difference with each human hunter is a higher level and each hunter is slightly more difficult to defeat than the last but thankfully, Tripwire Interactive have given us Apex Predators to cancel this human hunter issue out entirely.
Apex Predators are the big boss of each area you enter and can only present themselves after eliminating a number of objectives involving Maneater wildlife specific to each area. The Apex Predators can range from giant crocodiles to killer whales and each encounter is more exhilarating than the last. Truthfully, the most fun I had with Maneater was the anticipation of going into battle with the next area’s Apex Predator and they never disappoint. The last of these Apex Predators is a movie obsessive’s delight and will be sure to please many gamers hoping Maneater can live up to it’s many cinematic nods.
Unfortunately, Maneater is a slight bit too short. My playthrough with Maneater lasted just under 10 hours as I completed the main story and a large majority of the collectibles throughout. After completing my playthrough I spent a further two hours mopping up any remaining collectibles or side quests and in just under 12 hours I had a brand new, shiny platinum trophy. Once you have completed Maneater, unfortunately there is no real replay value unless you just wish to genuinely experience it all again because on a second playthrough nothing changes with the main bull shark being the only possible choice of shark and campaign. This is a slight bit disappointing as the idea of starting up another run and finding yourself in control of a baby Great White Shark would offer a completely new, exhilarating experience all over again.
In closing, Maneater is an extremely fun game and being honest, Maneater was far more of a rewarding experience than I ever imagined it could be. Tripwire Interactive have crafted a solid little RPG that will have shark fans rejoicing in the absence of our beloved Jaws franchise. Hopefully Tripwire Interactive will release more DLC content for Maneater in the future and the possibility of a new journey as a new shark type but for the time being, Maneater may actually be one of the year’s best video game surprises. Tripwire Interactive, a shark obsessed Jaws fan salutes you.