Maneater hands-on preview: Chomping at the bit

TripWire's upcoming open-world RPG puts players in the role of a shark with an appetite. Ecco the Dolphin this is not.

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The circle of life is more than just an award-winning Disney song by Elton John, it’s also a cruel fact of nature. Things are born and they either grow up and adapt to survive or they become a meal for something further up the food chain. This vicious fact is an ever-present feature in TripWire’s upcoming open-world RPG in which you play as a shark with an appetite that hasn’t been seen in a video game since Pac-Man. Recently, I was fortunate enough to be one of a handful of reporters to get some hands-on time with a PS4 work-in-progress build of Maneater ahead of its launch.

Watch out, boy or this shark will chew you up in Maneater
Watch out, boy or this shark will chew you up in Maneater

In Maneater players take on the role of a bull shark that has been viciously ripped from its mother’s womb by the world famous shark hunter, Scaly Pete. He has a popular TV show that provides much of the narrative for the game itself since sharks don’t talk or have an internal monologue of any sort. It’s sort of like an interactive episode of Deadliest Catch. While Scaly Pete and his hunters provide Maneater’s antagonists, the actual narration is handled by SNL alumni and 30 Rock’s own Dr. Spaceman himself, Chris Parnell. Throughout the game Parnell’s voice will guide players on their quest to get revenge on Scaly Pete for killing Mommy Shark.

After a brief stint as your OP mama, players will start off story mode as a young pup with very little in the ways of offense or defense. As you eat lesser prey though, you’ll gain nutrients that will help you unlock new abilities and gather XP that will help you level up and grow from a tiny little Baby Shark all the way into a full-fledged badass like your mama. Players will be able to chomp down on other creatures, push them away with a whip of their tail, or charge them full on with a bum rush. Players may also be able to use other creatures of the deep to their advantage, like using a sword fish as a spear. And those are just the basic attacks.

As players evolve their shark they’ll gain access to physical and internal organ traits that can do some really fancy stuff. Perhaps one player will augment their shark to be tougher and add things like external bone plates, while another may add bioelectric EVO capable of stunning nearby enemies and prey, or maybe some would rather add a shadow EVO trait that gives their shark vampiric powers. Players can also unlock unique boosts and abilities like extra breathing out of water time, or attack power increases, by taking out apex predators in certain territories or taking out unique bounty hunters.

Maneater’s adventures will take place over seven unique regions that include swampy everglades, toxic waste dumps, sea world-like theme parks, and beaches sprawling with delicious, tasty human treats. There will be plenty of collectables, side quests, and hidden areas for players to discover in each area. In order to progress through the story, players will have to draw out a bounty hunter boss and make a meal out of them before taking on Scaly Pete himself.

I had been very interested in seeing exactly what Maneater was all about when I got my first look at it two years ago at E3. Now that I’ve actually played the game, I’m pleased to say that my interest has only grown. It’s just such a unique idea and the execution is feeling clever and well thought out. However, it’s hard to say just how long Maneater will keep players captivated when it launches, but considering I barely got my fin above the water as far as the game’s content is concerned, I’m optimistic for the full launch. Right now, Maneater is set to release on May 22 for the Xbox One, PC, PS4 and will be coming to the Nintendo Switch at a later date. Until then, keep an eye out for things moving in the water.

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

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