I love Jaws, it’s a brilliant, classic film that created the summer blockbuster. I could sit here and write an article on the making and importance of Jaws, I’m not going to because I already did that years ago. But the film’s influence can still be felt forty five years since it was released.
It’s quite surprising that Jaws hasn’t seen too many games based on the IP. There was that NES one from 1987 and Jaws Unleashed for the PS2 and Xbox from 2006 and that’s it. Bit of a shame really because Jaws opens itself up to numerous possibilities. How about a game where you play as a famed shark hunter, hired to search the seas to take out various predators, and of course Bruce himself? Jaws Unleashed had a great idea, play as the shark and cause all sorts of untold chaos. It was a good game, sadly ruined by some clumsy controls and numerous glitches.
But there have been a few games inspired by Jaws, quite a few really, mainly tappy-tap mobile games. Maneater from Tripwire Interactive is one such game, just not a crappy tappy-tap mobile game. But is it Jaws great or Jaws: The Revenge terrible… or maybe just Jaws 2 disappointing?
Taking the idea from Jaws Unleashed and having you play as the shark, Maneater is already separating itself from other open world games around right now. The game kicks off with you playing as a fully grown bull shark who crosses paths with famed shark hunter, Scaly Pete. Without spoiling the story too much, you soon find yourself in control of a baby shark. The basic idea of the game is to survive the harsh waters, grow and evolve your shark and take out Scaly Pete.
Your shark is pretty minimal at the start and to be honest, the first hour or so, I really didn’t see much appeal in the game. But once I’d played around a bit, levelled up and gained some new abilities, I soon found myself really enjoying exploring the water and chomping up fish and humans alike. Your shark is pretty nimble and that only gets better as you level up. From starting out with bare basic moves such as biting and dashing, you’ll unlock abilities like a tail whip to becoming an electric shark… seriously.
Maneater isn’t trying to be factual in any way. It’s a game with it’s basihyal firmly in it’s cheek, a basihyal is what sharks have instead of a tongue, see the reference works. The missions themselves are pretty restrictive, go here and kill ten of a certain fish, go there and kill ten humans, etc. There a really little variation in it’s mission structure. Yet, I never felt bored doing any of this because swimming and jumping around like a shark is so much fun. And yes, I did say jumping around like a shark. Maneater does let you get out of the water and your shark can manoeuvre on land pretty well too. Granted, the movements are restricted compared to being in the water, but you can hop about on land and gobble up annoying humans with relative ease. Just keep an eye on your O2 meter as you’ll soon suffocate.
Outside of the main story missions, there are license plates to discover and special landmarks to find. On top of all the open world expiration a game like this offers. The map is also a pretty decent size and split into various areas, some areas you can’t access until you grow your shark from a baby shark (do-do-do-do do-do… I have two small children) to a teen, an adult and even an elder shark. All while unlocking new abilities and skills, which themselves can be upgraded. You have four main resources in the game, proteins, fats, minerals, and rare mutagenics. Kill and eat fish/humans and earn the resources or find them in chests under the water. Then spend your resources like in-game cash to upgrade your abilities.
Those abilities will come in very handy as the game progresses too. You start in a fairly quiet area with little to no threats. Mainly full of non-threatening catfish and the like, small and easy prey for a shark pup. But as the map opens up and the game’s story continues, you’ll soon find yourself facing snapping barracudas, alligators, bigger sharks and of course, the worst of animals, humans. It’s the killing humans when an element of Maneater really comes to life. Kill fish, turtles and the like, nothing untoward happens to your shark, it is nature after all. But it’s when you start munching on humans where the game kicks things up a notch.
See, there are shark hunters out there and the more humans you kill, the more of a threat you become. So the more ‘wanted’ by the hunters you are. It all works a bit like the wanted system in other open world games such as GTA. The more human killing you’re responsible for, the more the hunters come after you. Here’s where you have a choice, swim away and hide until it all dies down or stay and fight. Dash/jump out of the water while being shot at by the hunters and take them on. Keep attacking their boats until they sink, leaving you with a floating buffet. The ‘wanted’ system is really well implemented and works brilliantly too.
It all gets a bit madcap, especially with a fully upgraded electric shark, but outside of it’s craziness, the whole thing is presented as a real world documentary TV show. They even got Chris Parnell who is the host of ‘real’ reality TV show, Maneaters vs. Sharkhunters to do the voice over. So it has a level of authenticity even though it’s stupidly OTT… a bit like real ‘reality’ TV then. And that voice over is fantastic too, from spitting out shark facts to making bad puns/jokes to even suggesting the best way to cook and eat some of the fish you hunt in the game. The presentation of Maneater is both fascinating and funny.
Now, I do have one niggle with the game, it’s the controls. For the most part, they work just fine and after a short while, you’ll be swimming, dashing and exploring the water with ease. However, a big part of the game is battling and eating to survive. There no lock on feature and you really do need one too. You can press a button to look at a potential snack or fast approaching enemy, but you can’t lock onto them. This really is an issue, especially when in the midst of a big fight with a large enemy. There is a level of strategy when it comes to the underwater fights. It’s not quite as simple as just tap your bite button and hope for the best. Your targets, both big and small will either avoid you or attack you. Given the fact you are underwater for 90% of the game, these fights can get a bit confusing as an attacking alligator swims over and behind you, by the time you’ve adjusted the camera to where it now is, it’s already taken a bite. You do have a dodge move, but this just adds to the confusion and helps you lose sight of your target quicker. If you could lock on, this would make the fights a lot more enjoyable.
But niggle aside, Maneater is a brilliant game. highly recommended. It’s not too big so you get lost around the map, nor is it too small that you find yourself with little to do and become bored. There is little variety in the main missions, but that honestly didn’t bother me much because just exploring the waters was great fun and the fluid swimming controls really do work a treat.
I just can’t wait to see what, if any DLC Tripwire Interactive has planned as I want more. I wonder if the Jaws licence would be relatively cheap now…
I just got through a review of a game called Maneater and didn’t make a single Hall & Oates reference, almost did though.