Maneater, the upcoming shark-centric action-RPG from Tripwire Interactive, looks to be an incredibly fun time, judging by the PAX East 2020 demo. For those who missed the Game Awards trailer or who are otherwise unfamiliar with the game, in Maneater, you play as an ever-evolving shark, dead set on revenge against the hunter who ripped you from your mother’s womb and scarred you as a baby.
With scenes evoking reality shows like The Deadliest Catch and documentary-style narration from Chris Parnell (Rick and Morty, Archer, Saturday Night Live), Maneater has a wonderful sense of humor in its narrative to serve as a companion to the game’s over-the-top approach to action.
In my demo, I began with a tutorial guiding me through some underwater pipes that opened up into a populated bay. En route to open waters, I was taught some of the essentials. Notably, chomping down with a single button prompt alone will suffice taking out some of the smaller creatures the game has to offer but for larger creatures, it’s only the beginning. While chomping down, your shark can also wiggle the joystick to thrash about, doing more damage, and one of my favorite moves saw my shark violently batting my prey into the distance with a swat of my tail fin. And of course, as it customary for a shark, you can swim quickly – or knife – the water’s surface with your dorsal fin in view, threatening the humans you might be about to devour. But why stop there when you could also launch yourself into the air (or on land or onto a boat filled with hunters)? In the full game, you’ll even be able to level up and evolve new abilities to cause your mayhem.
Once I had learned the basics, I set out to complete the objectives before me. First, I was challenged to eat ten beachgoers so I knifed toward the abundance of targets highlighted for me as if I was in Jaws, humming the theme in my head and everything. I came upon a trio of people on an inflatable raft first, launched myself into the air and slammed down upon them, throwing them into the chaos of the water. Disoriented and flailing underwater, they made for easy picking as I chomped down on them one by one. I then swam into a little beachy cove and picked off a few lone swimmers before smacking one into another inflatable raft and devouring its passengers. For my final kill, I wanted to test my shark limits so I headed straight for land and launched myself onto the beach. Everyone fled in panic but I was able to hop one or two more times and eat up my tenth kill before flopping my way back to the sea.
Word of my reign of terror spread as my final objective was laid before me: a trio of shark hunters had arrived on their boats and I, of course, needed to destroy them all. I set my sights on the nearest boat and repeated my earlier tactic of jumping onto the ship. These boats were a bit sturdier though and would require a few hits to destroy. Flailing around managed to knock a couple of the hunters into the water but they also had their laser sights set upon me so I had to dash around and dodge their shots. My favorite tactic for handling these hunters was a three-fold attack of chomping, thrashing, and then flinging them into one of their friends just before they could get a shot off on me. With the hunters addressed a couple more times ramming or jumping onto the boats were usually enough to blow them up. Rinse and repeat two more times, with Chris Parnell’s dry commentary narrating my actions, and my objective was complete, triggering a cutscene that detailed the plot set up in the introduction: a Deadliest Catch-type shark hunter managed to capture me, and cut the baby from my belly and scarred its back, before it bit off his hand and escaped out into the sea. That’s who we’ll be playing and evolving in the main thrust of the game: a shark with a score to settle.
These early impressions left me feeling like Maneater could capture that open-world sandbox feel of a Grand Theft Auto where I’ll easily deviate from the story to just go nuts reigning terror in my own little version of Amity Island. I can’t wait to see how the final game feels when it launches May 22 on the Epic Games Store, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One (with a Nintendo Switch version sometime later).