The Teeth of the Sea (1978) was a driving film for the Hollywood industry at the time since it is considered by many to be the first “real” blockbuster in the history of cinema. Made by a Steven spielberg known until then only by a tiny part of the cinematographic sphere, he succeeds in a film to show all his know-how, as well in terms of story-telling, as of realization or even cheek.
Because it was necessary at the time to release with great fanfare a feature film with a shark that sketches everything that moves by saying it is an author’s film. And yet, that is what it is and that is why it marked the history of cinema and influenced the functioning of its American industry thereafter.
So why on earth is it about Teeth of the Sea? Well, quite simply for the twinkling of an eye, but also because he was surely one of the many sources of inspiration for the development of a certain Maneater that we’re talking about today.
Presented by its developers, who are reminded of Tripwire Interactive (Killing Floor 2, Chivalry II,…), as being an action-RPG in which we embody a shark swimming in a large open world, the game is necessarily ambitious in his claims.
((Maneater test performed on PC via a copy of the game provided by the publisher)
At first glance, Maneater has everything from the surprise game that comes out of who knows where to break the shack. His concept combining action and RPG in an aquatic universe in which we embody a shark in search of revenge is frankly as astonishing as attractive on paper.
However, we cannot hide that we had some apprehensions, because if the concept is original, it is also extremely puzzling as a simple misstep could stop the machine. And guess what, Maneater is surprisingly good, to the point where it has only been a bite, even if there is a bitter aftertaste in the mouth.
Tooth for tooth
Scripted, Maneater is, because like any good self-respecting RPG, we need a quest to accomplish and therefore a goal to achieve. The reason for our takeover of the shark is very simple: we seek revenge on the fisherman, or rather shark hunter, murderer of our dear and tender crunchy of mother’s males.
This is an interesting theme that echoes Moby Dick at the same time, because the hunter himself is obsessed by the search for a so-called Megalodon who killed his father, but also by certain sequels of the Teeth of the Sea which treated very awkwardly this theme of the vengeful shark.
Let things be clear, the scenario is a pretext for action, it is also included in the program Maneater, a kind of reality TV featuring the shark hunt, which is filmed above all in the tone of the ‘humor.
Besides, the voiceover of the show guides our steps when necessary and especially comments without stopping our actions, sometimes being a little too intrusive, but nevertheless remaining very funny. There is not much background to the script, and the narration is after all very classic, starting only when one reaches the few missions linked to the story which are really not numerous, but sufficient nevertheless.
The object of the game is therefore to reach maturity in order to be able to overcome our terrible adversary. Because if the prologue makes us embody mom with long teeth, we start the main adventure in a grimy bayou in the skin of a pretty little baby shark-bulldog.
Suffice to say that we are not big enough to face immediately the terror of terrors of shark hunters. Locked in our first game zone, because the progression is limited quite often by our level, we then become familiar with the gameplay and the RPG ecosystem of this Maneater.
The open world that takes on water
For baby to grow up, we need to feed ourselves and, above all, complete a few quests. Maneater’s open world is quite large and divided into eight distinct parts that make up the city of Port Clovis. At the start, only the bayou is accessible and we are asked very quickly to reach a cave in order to rest there.
There will be one like this in each area present and they serve as a HUB in which we can evolve or rest, knowing that we can even go there on a fast trip once discovered. But it is also and above all the starting point of all the narrative arc of an area since it is necessary to go there to unlock the main missions.
And you have to go through it to necessarily advance and be able to continue the story. The problem is that it is frighteningly repetitive both in the mechanics of progression and in what we are offered to do. Devouring humans, fish, stuffing ourselves with aquatic targets, as many things as we are going to do and redo not knowing what to think anymore.
So yes, the game offers many missions and additional activities to vary the pleasures, but then again, there is nothing very exciting or changing. You always have to bite a swimmer, kill fish in a row and that’s it.
The light at the end of the tunnel may have come from the Infamy gauge. As in a GTA, we have a search index in the game which increases according to our appetite. The more people we have killed, the more we will be wanted and the more we will have to sinter with increasingly tough shark hunters. Once a new level is crossed, a unique hunter will arrive at the scene of the massacre to make us bite coral. Eating it with rage brings a nice gift for our shark.
You should also know that like any good open-world, the world is full of collectibles to, you guessed it, collect. So we are entitled to the most ridiculous thing since we have to find, among other things, hidden chests in different environments.
There, the developers could have been a little more original and above all show their foresight by understanding that no one is waiting to find treasures at the bottom of the water with a fish, as intelligent as it is. Kinds of number plates are also scattered all over the place and still do not bring much, if not a few pirouettes to recover them sometimes, while the landmarks to be found are already more interesting, because are often tasty easter-eggs.
Let’s face it, the mechanics of open-world have disappointed us. Not from a visual point of view, no, the eight zones are varied, pleasing to the eye and are all different. They also offer a diverse and varied flora and fauna and are all accompanied by a unique theme. Bayous, wealthy neighborhoods and the seaside resort are some of the things you can discover. Underwater too, it is frankly successful and it is full of hidden passages and caves, moving there is a real pleasure as it is fluid.
No, the problem comes from what we are proposed to do there, because if nothing is fundamentally bad, apart from the history of the safes perhaps, it is far too repetitive to capture our interest in the small ten hours, however sufficient, that the game lasts.
This lack of ambition is detrimental to the game, as it falls into the symptom of the armored question mark map.
However, Maneater is also an RPG and in this sense, our shark can evolve and even equip itself with different objects improving a whole range of skills ranging from swimming speed, defense or our offensive power. These latter characteristics also evolve when one passes an age once a certain level of history or level has been reached.
Quite improbable on paper, it must be admitted that it works rather well in practice. An experience system is present and each level gain brings us closer to our goal of becoming the ultimate predator. The fact is that by accomplishing certain quests, we also gain objects that we graft onto our fins, our tail or even our head.
This also brings various improvements such as being more effective against boats or against underwater threats and, in addition, it completely changes our shark visually. There are certainly only three different skin themes, but that’s it already.
Especially since there is also a whole system of improvements for these objects, but also for the passive capacities that we develop for our organs. These range from sonar to a boost of certain primary abilities, including the ability to gain more improvement elements than glean by devouring the small menu, opening chests or completing missions. There are four different elements, each of which can be used to improve specific areas of our shark.
The only downside in all of this, finally, is that we can evolve a lot, but then much too fast and then roll on the game with disconcerting ease. Not even 35% of the story, we were already level 25, only 5 small units at most. The fault of the side quests and our taste to do everything, see everything and therefore quickly glean from experience. The sonar does not help since it is a real radar that locates all the interesting things nearby, and if we miss it visually, no worries, the question mark map is there to guide us .
Crunches who can
Spread the word, Maneater is nothing like a “live my shark life” simulation, but much more delirious Sharknado-type movies, without pushing the plug too far. It’s absurd indeed, but consistent in view of his universe.
For example, we can jump out of the water at an incredible height and even enjoy a double jump or even use special abilities that are unlocked via the object grafted to our tail. We can even evolve and eat human beings on dry land for a few seconds and move about there while hopping, enough splitting for the moment.
The gameplay is remarkably fluid. It’s easy to get started with, everything is clear and we hardly ever struggle during our underwater walks. The fights are on the whole successful and require to combine techniques and speed of action. We can dodge, bite, stunt by tailing and blocking our prey between our teeth to chew it and shake it in all directions just to hurt it very much, and there is even dismemberment as well for fish than humans.
Honestly, we had a blast taking ourselves for the famous white shark of the Dents de la Mer by turning around our prey to emerge at the last moment and make a bite out of it while she tanned on her Flemish buoy pink. It’s fun and dynamic, we can sometimes no longer stop our murderous frenzy because we get to like it.
Besides, harmless NPCs are much more cannon fodder than anything else. They take a long time to react, some even trying to swim away from us while they were basic on dry land. Their reactions are very strange sometimes, but in the end, we don’t care a bit, since they are only there to entertain us and appease our appetite. There are hunters who are dangerous and often attack us on several boats, and even underwater via divers.
And if our confrontations with them give rise to some epic moments, it is often more a big mess than anything else. Whether you choose to sink their boats or try to bite them in mid-flight, it often ends in a beautiful visual maze.
Especially when the index of infamy reaches a certain milestone and we are shot from the boats with all kinds of weapons, the divers are having fun at the same time and we are thrown into plus submarine bombs. At some point, boats will even have electric shields that will grab our life bar if we get too close.
Isn’t it beautiful my shark?
A little technical tour is essential, because if we can not judge the console versions, on PC, we have not encountered any major bug, except the few usual bitter collisions. Technically, the game did not fail us and remained extremely fluid in ultra from start to finish. Admittedly, it is not a visual monster either, the engine sometimes takes on water and displays some textures from another age, fortunately while the artistic catches up with everything.
As for our hero with an imposing jaw, this is very great art. The shark is magnificent, even if it is fitted with a skin making it electric or wearing bone armor. These animations are detailed and fluid, you can even see its gills moving to the rhythm of its breaths. Add a nice, deadly look and you get the most “amazing” shark in video games.
Also, we must highlight the quality of modeling of all the marine fauna, Tripwire having accomplished a real work on this point, as well as on the animations and the behavior of the main “fish” present. An alligator will not react like a Mako for example, and will not attack in the same way. On the other hand, we remain more reserved vis-à-vis humans, fairly summary for the time being.
The seabed is teeming with details, objects, vestiges of all kinds and abundant flora, ranging from the grubby algae of the Bayou to the pretty colorful corals of the underwater caves. On earth we remain on the same scheme, but without the small aquatic filter also synonymous with misery for an engine which dates a little yes, but the attention to detail is always present and the created world perspires life. Besides, a day / night cycle is present and defined what is happening before our eyes, there will be fewer tourists, fewer swimmers and perhaps a little more isolated groups at night for example.
Particular care has been given to the different decorations and the artistic proposal is very successful, but also varied. Each zone has a story to tell and beyond the voiceover which brings us some information on the lore, the narration is above all visual. A small success on that side, more so than on the other side, there are some translation errors at the level of French subtitles.
We regret at the same time too discreet musical themes, which contrasts with the sound effects, especially underwater, frankly not bad at all. The visual and auditory atmosphere is present underwater and this is to be credited to Tripwire.
Maneater is both disappointing and successful. It crashes completely on its mechanics linked to the open-world, but it catches up on other things, like its RPG mechanics or its gameplay of remarkable fluidity. There are a few black dots that mar the experience, but the game is fun, enjoyable and ultimately very funny. Tripwire also offers us a real little discovery trip in various varied and flattering environments for the retina.
So yes, the game is far from perfect, but the ten hours that we spent on it proved to be very pleasant, even if we would have liked a little more variety in the activities offered, but also did not not see some. The chests to be found still remain across our throat. However, without being a Dent de la Mer, because rather versed in absurdity and humor, Maneater is an original experience that has enough teeth to convince.
For the sake of transparency, we would like to inform you that the screenshots do absolutely no justice to the game. It is much more beautiful when it is running and we do not know where the gap between what we had in front of us and made it capture.