If 2019 was the year of The Goose, then 2020 belongs to the sharks. Man Eater, released by TripWire, does for sharks what Untitled Goose Game did for geese: making the thing you fear the protagonist, allowing the player to go crazy until it stops being fun. And while the repetitious parts get stale, there is still a lot to this game that will keep you playing.
The story plays out like a reality tv show about shark hunters, complete with its own hashtags and buzz worthy moments, all narrated by SNL alum, Chris Parnell. The main antagonist is a man named Scaly Pete who is one of the baddest shark hunters around and is responsible for killing your mama. After a quick tutorial and a cut scene or two, you’re released into the wild where you can rip and tear through anything so long as your level isn’t severely low. It was tough goings at first, having to avoid alligators until you are strong enough to face them head on. But Man Eater borrows from one of the world’s biggest MMO RPGs to help you through the tough times, granting xp and materials for nearly everything you destroy. You’ll want to spend a solid hour grinding for levels before venturing into the third area of the game. Your enemies range from simple fish to killer crocs and of course, random bounty hunters and other sharks. All of them are manageable once you gain a few levels, and once you gain enough levels the game turns into a search and destroy mission similar to Destroy All Humans.
Collectibles are plentiful between three categories: license plates, landmarks and mutagen containers. While licenses plates don’t really do much, mutagen containers will grant you the green crafting material needed to fully max out your perks. Landmarks are definitely the best collectible, offering insight on the entire locale. The best part of the game by far is Chris Parnell’s narrating. His voice comes in and out at different times, either to inform you of a factual shark/oceanic related thing, make you laugh or a little bit of both. You’ll love Parnell’s humor as he describes each stage of a shark’s life on top of a myriad of other perfectly written jokes. Truly, this game shines for its writing.
Unfortunately, this game is lacking in a few areas. And if you’re a stickler for things like repetition and combat controls, you might not like what comes next.
First and foremost, bounty hunters ain’t shit. As you progress, your “infamy” level rises, bringing a colorful cast of characters to the shores in order to hunt you. It takes zero effort to kill most of these characters since they operate exactly like the NPC hunters you face every time you feel like snacking on some humans. I tore through Pookie Pete, Candyman Curtis and Tyler Dixon within seconds of their arrival. What’s worse is these bounty hunters are given no air time on the reality show, merely a single cut scene with a distinguishing characteristic that’s supposed to paint a picture of who these people are. Honestly, it’s a let down that these special bounty hunters weren’t included in the main story following Scaly Pete.
As far as your infamy goes, it feels like it takes a lot of effort to raise your level unless you directly attack hunters. After a certain point, I started targeting hunters exclusively just to get through these “special” bounty hunters. The only reason to go through the bounty hunters at all is for the perks, which are not given away so flippantly. I made it all the way to level 11 before unlocking my first body part perk. Each perk is tied to the special bounty hunters and a mix of objectives like “collect all of the X to unlock”... which is an even bigger annoyance because each area contains collectibles that you will have to travel back for once you reach the appropriate level.
Since we’re talking about combat related stuff, let’s talk about the actual combat controls. Man Eater uses the UnReal engine, which is good, but without a locking target system and a way to auto-realign the camera angle, all you can do is click the R3 button and hope the aiming system locks onto whatever is attacking you. If you move the sticks at all once you click R3, whatever you locked onto won’t be your target and you’ll have to do it all over again. This becomes extremely annoying when faced with multiple targets. At best, all you can do is click R3 and chomp your way to freedom or simply run away and hope the horde doesn’t follow you. The combat gets easier and more absurd as your shark grows, so at least there’s that to look forward to.
Ultimately, the reason you want to play this game rests on the shoulders of Chris Parnell and your deep yearnings to be a bloodthirsty shark. It’s fun eating, fighting and destroying everything in sight, but you can not deny the pace of how repetitious things get. Regardless, I would recommend it. Not just because I’m a Chris Parnell fan but because it taps into that Goose Game spirit that puts you in the driver’s seat of something that terrifies the majority of us.
- Dann D.