Saul Marau dives in to Tripwire Interactive's new Chomp em up to see if it can make it to the top of the food chain or if it is destined to be a bottom dweller.
Maneater follows the story of a young Bull shark pup as it takes revenge on a shark hunter called Swampy Pete. The tutorial starts off with you in control of the mother shark in an area called Crawfish Bay and teaches you the nuances of being at the top of the food chain until you are caught by the legendary Shark hunter for catching and killing its mother, discovering you in the process, he then marks you and throws you back into the water so he can identify and catch you later but not before you leave your mark. The games story is delivered in the form of a documentary crew following about Swampy Pete for their latest new series.
The game features eight distinct areas from the swampy area of Fawtick Bayou with its Alligators and Muskellunges (largest American relative of the Pike) to the Gulf which is a large open ocean area filled with various Sharks, Orcas and Sperm Whales. Each area is filled with various side missions which only unlock when the main quest takes you to that area and collectibles which are available as soon as you have access to the area. Access to some of the areas are locked behind destroyable walls and vents which are only open when you reach a certain size. The size of your shark is largely dependent on your level with the cap being 30. One of the levels is unlocked as you progress through the story. I feel that it would have been nice to have some areas locked behind gates that you have to use certain upgrades to get through e.g. an electric switch that you need use an electric pulse to open or more puzzle solving. There are three gates that can be opened by (Tail Whipping (throwing) an enemy in to the switch.
The game has an Infamy system where the more of a nuisance to the local populace you are...the game starts sending Hunters after you which arrive on boats. If you take out enough of these boats to fill the Infamy Meter a unique shark hunter is sent after you, defeat them for an increasing reward of nutrients and new parts to evolve your shark.
There are 3 different types of side missions, revenge where you have to kill a certain number of humans in an area. Hunts give you a specific target for you to kill or destroy this can be an animal or boat and is usually a few levels higher and has a different skin to the normal animals in the area. Population Control tasks you with killing a certain number of a specific animal in an area, completing these reveals the areas Apex Predator. A much harder and larger version of a regular enemy found in that area. Each area has a specific apex predator with the exception of Crawfish Bay these range from Rosie Fawtick Bayous Alligator to a White Sperm Whale (an obvious Moby Dick Reference) found in the Gulf area. The others I will leave as a surprise for you.
There are 3 different types of collectibles; Landmarks, Nutrient Caches and Licence Plates. Landmarks are based on various pop culture references, for example there is a pineapple under the sea in the Gulf area, there are also Cthulhu references and even a crashed UFO. The Narrator gives a few lines of dialogue for each one found. Nutrient Caches are Chests that give the player various amounts of the nutrients used to evolve your shark. Licence Plates are usually located in harder to reach areas usually out of the water and most of them involve strategic jumping to reach. All of these give a large reward for completing the set in each area. Usually it's a large amount of nutrients. But sometimes it's a new part for your shark.
There are four different nutrients to gather, Protein (Red), Fat (Yellow), Minerals (Blue) and Mutagens (Green). Proteins are usually found in predators and humans. Fats are found in Prey animals. Minerals are found within sea turtles and Mutagens are found in albino animals. Some animals give a mixture of two or more of the nutrients when they are eaten. All of them are awarded in various amounts for completing quests or finding the Caches as mentioned earlier.
Your shark has 8 slots for upgrading your shark with various parts, these are Jaws, Head, Fin, Body, Tail and 3 organ slots. The organ slots allow you to equip various miscellaneous upgrades that can-do things such as improve your sonar senses, to giving you an extra amount of a certain resource whenever you collect it by feeding. The other 5 slots belong to one of 3 sets at launch these are Bio-electric which give a stun effect, Shadow gives a Poison effect and Bone which gives bonuses to attacking Boats. These sets are awarded for doing various things such as working your way through the infamy system, finding all landmarks in an area and killing an Apex Predator. Each part can be upgraded through various tiers of which there are 5 which increases the bonuses provided. These can be costly and the higher tier upgrades need Mutagen as well as another of the nutrients. Each set also has a set bonus for equipping more items of the same set.
Maneater doesn't take itself too seriously which is what a game like this requires as it adds to the fun and whilst not a massive game, it can be completed in under 30 hours without rushing through. I feel that it would have been repetitive too if it was a longer game and as such, I think its worth getting especially with the lack of new AAA titles that have been released so far this year as these would have caused many people to overlook this title.