Sharks have had a bad rap for years. Between Jaws, Deep Blue Sea (RIP Samuel L Jackson), and Shark Week, these apex oceanic predators have long been maligned as mindless killing machines. But in Maneater from Tripwire Interactive players will finally set the record straight... by cutting a bloody, televised swath of death and destruction across America's 50th most beloved state.
Maneater is John Wick if Keanu Reeves had gotten whacked and his dog had to embark on a bloody campaign of retribution instead. You play as an ever-evolving bull shark pup with an axe to grind against a local celebrity big game hunter who goes by Scaly Pete. Pete, that surly cajun SOB, caught and gutted your mother while you were being born, killing her, disfiguring you, and thereby earning him a righteous chomping. Of course, Pete has his own qualms about the situation, primarily the fact that you tore off his hand on your way out of the womb and then promptly ate it as you escaped. Whatever, that dude's a jerk.
From the moment the prologue ends, your eventual showdown with Scaly Pete is set. But how well-prepared you arrive at your inevitable loggerhead is an entirely different matter. Maneater mixes the open world environments of GTA with light action RPG elements from Far Cry.
Players start as a newly-born bull shark who must survive the brackish waters of seven explorable Southeastern American delta regions. The initial stages of the game are rather sedate, with a focus on generally snacking on anything smaller than yourself. By predating on smaller animals like catfish and turtles, the player can quickly build up their shark's strength, collect valuable resources for levelling, and gain necessary XP.
Once you bulk up, level up, and evolve sufficiently, you'll be able to expand your hunting range further, eventually overlapping your territory with competing predators like muskogee, alligators -- even orcas. And then eating them.
Once your shark reaches adolescence you'll be able to accept various missions -- fighting off other apex predators, for example, or hunting a specific number of prey species to keep their population in check (yes that especially includes humans) -- in order to accelerate your XP gains.
If the prescribed missions aren't your thing, you can also just tool around looking for trouble. The game offers a number of optional tasks, goals, discoverable checkpoints, hidden resource boxes, and other secrets for players to find. And as soon as your shark hits its adolescent stage, the entire game map opens for exploration.
Your shark will also gain new powers as it eats its way through the seas, including developing a Thresher Shark-like tail whip; a sturdy casing of protective bone armor, or increasingly sensitive sonar skills. Hell yes your shark does sonar.
During my playthrough at a hands-on event in San Francisco last week, my shark's feeding frenzies eventually attracted unwanted attention from the local human population who invariably called out multiple waves of shark hunters (and eventually Coast Guard units) in an effort to end my reign of terror. It was not unlike the police response to earning infamy stars in GTA.
The difference being that, unlike GTA, Maneter has a set number of enemy waves to survive and if players can actually chomp, ram, tail-whip and thrash their way through those opponents, they'll afford themselves the opportunity to face off against one of ten local shark hunter bosses. Ingest all of those fishermen and you'll get a shot at Scaly Pete himself.
The game itself is fairly short -- around 8 - 10 hours for the primary quest alone and about 16 hours if you complete all of the optional missions, according to the developers. Maneater will be available for PS4, XBox One, and at the Epic Game Store for $39.99 on May 22nd, with a version for the Switch arriving at an undisclosed later date.