It is hard to believe that a true ‘Jaws’ or shark game has never really existed in a fashion that springs to mind instantly when talking about this genre. The ability to attack any creature in the sea as well as humans on land. Maneater claims to be that game, so can it sink its teeth into the annuls of history, or bite off more than it can chew?
The simple answer is; a bit of both. Thankfully more on the positive side than not. The premise is simple, but the developer went the extra mile and wrapped this shark ‘simulator’ with a narrative based around a cable TV show, aptly name ‘Maneater’
You are introduced to the lead fisherman ‘Scaly Pete’ who is a shark hunter. He catches a shark and upon gutting it discovers the shark was pregnant with a live pup that he grasps and purposely scars so he can recognise it when it reaches adulthood in order to satisfy his sport of shark catching. The shark pup doesn’t take lightly to this and dismembers his right arm and jumps onto the see, with its first meal being human flesh.
Obviously a game like this doesn’t need an origin story, but it does and it adds a lot of hidden depth throughout the story mode. As the shark you progress by eating and getting bigger and the simultaneous arc of both the growing up of the shark and the fisherman with his son happen in parallel and ultimately collide multiple times in the story.
You can choose how you evolve the shark by attaching upgrades to it. The bigger you get and the more ‘infamy’ you attain and eliminate famous hunters you unlock more of these. They range from stronger teeth to an extended sonar ability that allows you to locate secret objects and food crates. All the abilities can be changed at any time and upgraded further.
Eating is the main feature of this game. Simply press ‘R2’ when the auto-lockon target appears on a creature and the shark will chomp and dash towards it. Larger prey will take multiple bites and you can hold some in your mouth and thrash around with the right analog stick to weaken them. You can dodge with ‘R1’, ‘L1’ swipes your tail and ‘L2’ gives you a boost of speed. Mastering these is the basis of the game.
You start off small, so practically everything is out to get you, and you will soon start to hate the alligators in the first section. But luckily the game doesn’t limit you too much in all of the 7 main areas of the game. Yes you will need to grow to access some of them and I did find myself over levelling by accident as it wasn’t clear to me to raise my ‘infamy’ level to progress the story mode as well as the localised missions. This made it a lot easier to level up and also beat the annoying ‘Apex’ predators along the way.
One of the biggest criticisms I have for this title is the repetitive nature of the single player missions. in each area they are the same. Consume humans, defeat a high level creature, eat a certain amount of a specific species of an aquatic animal. Considering the amount of time you press the R2 trigger to eat, it gets a bit obnoxious in the latter part of the game. Thankfully the bigger you get, the less upgrades you need and the less you’ll need to eat. You also get faster and can jump higher. This leads to being able to get the hundreds of collectibles and stay out of water longer. All of which really harm the frame-rate to single digits. Also the draw in rate of the surroundings lead into ‘pop’in’ textures and 3D models of humans, creatures and objects in the sea.
With all this being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed the game, the challenge level is spot on and the way you control the shark is almost perfect. Yes there are lots of small niggles, but the overall package is solid. It took me around 13 hours to do everything and platinum this game and if you are eager to play a ‘Jaws’ game, this is the best one ever made despite its flaws.
- Replay Value