Maneater Hands-On – An aquatic agent of chaos

Posted on March 4, 2020

Much like 2019’s Goose from Untitled Goose Game, 2020 looks to have a new gaming agent of chaos. At least, that’s definitely what my preview of the upcoming Maneater, a game that sees you wrecking havoc as a shark, seemed to put on.

I’ll admit I was a bit nervous when I first learnt of Maneater at last year’s Game Awards.It could’ve easily been a gimmick game looking to make a buck off the ‘x animal or activity’ simulator genre. Maneater really doesn’t look like it will be though, and will instead be a fun sandbox game to unleash some hell.

My one hour demo of the game showed me some nice variety of areas and gameplay mechanics on offer. I was first released into some underground sewage pipes in the depth of an ocean. Swimming through, I was chomping away at some fish far smaller than I, while headbutting those that’ll be a harder and bigger bite to swallow. My shark then charged through a barricade at the end of the pipe tunnels and I was suddenly out in a far bigger environment. I swam by a sunken ship that was riddled with overgrown barnacles and coral, winding rock formations and more. It felt like I was in this gigantic aquarium, all for me to explore at my leisure.

Raise some hell underwater

I’m now in a beach area. Naturally, I decide I’m going to raise some hell.  I take out a couple on a pedal boat, a group of people on a unicorn pool floaty, and even chomp down a few speed boats. I grab turtles with my teeth and launch them at other fish with a swift, powerful swipe of my tail. Suddenly, even the fish around me are weapons, launching them with voracity like shurikens. Then, I’ve garnered the attention of a shark hunter by the name of Scaly Pete. This time, he’s on a boat far bigger than I. A spear is fired at me, I’m captured and whisked away.

Next cutscene, this same boat pulls up in a Bayou area. Our hero hangs cruelly strung up, barely alive. Scaly Pete gores the shark, ripping a teenage shark from its stomach. Then, the offspring fights back. It gets a neat chunk off of one of Pete’s arms and then escapes into the swamp. Make no mistake, Maneater is a revenge story. I swim off, now controlling the teen spawn. I’ll be back for you soon, Scaly Pete.

“Make no mistake, Maneater is a revenge story.”

“Eat, evolve and Explore,” are the key gameplay mechanic promises of Maneater. Eating I’ve already nailed, obviously, but evolving is another story. It’s plain as day that to pass through certain areas, or take on larger foes, I need my shark to be bigger.

Thankfully, I can do so by earning various points in different trees to earn different perks and body mods and even just simply to grow. Earning these points is simple and will be achieved by me undergoing missions. This can look like nabbing some collectibles, eliminating a school of fish, or even taking down an alligator the same size as I. All the tasks I’m faced with in Maneater feel like I’m working towards something bigger and more important than my teenage shark’s brain can understand for now. It’s surprisingly deep.

Exploring on the other hand helps make missions not feel tedious and like busy work. There’s seven different large regions for you to explore in Maneater. They’re all interconnected and loop back to each other. What this means is that with a stronger, thicker skin, I can charge through a barrier, granting access to a new area. I can move between and revisit these areas, and even visit a safe hub known as a grotto. This underwater hole served as a place for fast travel and even a place to trigger an actual physical evolution. With this, exploration greatly plays into the game’s progression.

I only got a small bite sized chunk of what Maneater has to offer, but man has it got me excited. The game’s more charming, deep and interesting than it has any right to be. Hell, it even has me rooting against the humans. Eat them all!

Maneater releases on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on May 22, 2020, with the Nintendo Switch release to follow at a later date. Will you be making the deep plunge?