Maneater was a game I never knew I wanted. Tripwire has broken the open world mold by trading out humans for vicious sea animals, and is one of the most unique and creative games we saw at E3 2019. I knew I was excited for Maneater after the initial reveal trailer, so I was pretty stoked when Tripwire invited us to check it out in a behind-closed-doors session.
Maneater is comically good fun, and immediately the style of the game bombards players with Chris Parnell at the helm of the game’s narration. Chris Parnell is an SNL staple, and his voice should be immediately recognizable by most players. But how can the team keep players engaged in this shark-filled world?
Well, Maneater is a self-proclaimed shaRkPG. The game takes some serious cues from Grand Theft Auto, which the developers recognize, but doesn’t really play anything like it. At the outset, players will take control of a young bull shark in the middle of an episode of “Shark Hunters vs. Maneaters.” It’s a smart setup to get ready to indulge your most violent shark-y fantasies, especially when the baby bull shark is taken from its mother.
As players progress through the game, they’ll need to eat prey to earn materials to upgrade their shark, and while there are skill and “equipment” trees, the real meat of the upgrades will come in the form of evolutions. Really, the shark doesn’t evolve, but gets bigger and bigger as it goes through its life-cycle.
There’s even end-game evolutions for players to earn. One of the rarer materials players will find are called “Mutagen-X.” These allow for some unique, more stylized evolutions for our bull shark, and we even got a glimpse at a shark covered in scales, and an electrified shark. These were even more over the top than the base shark and abilities we saw in the demo, but should provide some unique gameplay experiences later in the game.
There are seven zones for players to explore, and each will have a unique setting. One has players navigating the shark through a shallow area near a big city covered in neon lights. Other notable areas include a bayou and the deep ocean.
The combat here seems to be one of the biggest draws, and is just as over-the-top and ridiculous as the premise behind Maneater. The shark is able to take bite sized chunks out of prey and humans, and can even grab a swimmer, breach, and then whip it with its tail at another enemy. The more chaos the shark causes, the more notoriety he gains, which is where the Grand Theft Auto resemblance steps in.
Once a level of notoriety hits, bounty hunters will begin looking for you. The names of these bounty hunters are just as absurd as the main protagonist, Scaly Pete, and players will be fighting off Two-Ton Shirley before you know it.
A majority of the demo was spent battling enemies, which begin at low levels with enemies shooting down into the water with weapons, and ended with multiple boats converging on the shark’s location and dropping depth charges into the water. Players can attack the boat directly, or even jump out onto the boat to drag enemies into the depths. It’s brutal, it’s bloody, and it looks like a ton of fun.
Hell, the shark can even jump out onto the beach to attack unaware sunbathers as the chaos ensues. There’s obviously an exploration element here too, with a big open world. Each area has its own apex predator lurking in the depths. As players eat these predators’ food supply, they eventually come out to play.
We even got a sneak peek at these enemies, which are rather intimidating. The one we saw during the demo was a large alligator, but we saw some concept art of a brutal looking barracuda and a hulking sperm whale. These are fights I’m really looking forward to, and are generally the highlight of my experiences in games like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
The big open world also hides a lot of secrets, as the devs guided the shark into an area where the mafia could be seen dumping bodies into the water. Some of these secrets might be hidden by the game’s day/night cycle, so players should expect to look everywhere to track down all these easter eggs.
We don’t have a lot of info about a release date for Maneater, but we’ve been assured that it will arrive sometime before E3 2020. That’s okay though, because Maneater looks like a ton of fun, and quickly became one of my favorite games of E3 2019.
Maneater launches for PC sometime before E3 2020.