Maneater: Truth Quest Review — I Want to Believe
Where Maneater is akin to a 10-hour SharkWeek documentary, its Truth Quest DLC seeks to be Ancient Aliens or Monster Quest. While such a comparison isn't exactly in vogue, I know, Truth Quest is so entangled in the net of conspiracy and "What if?" culture that it's an unavoidable comparison, especially for anyone keen on those series.
But where those shows are mostly docile explorations of the unknown and don't often venture into the dangerous conspiratorial depths, Truth Quest gladly swims mouth first into the tangled web of Q.
It's hard to argue that Maneater's irreverent and quirky base game is escapist fun and what we called "a sharky good time" when we reviewed it last year, but that sense of a jolly, good time wanes early in Truth Quest. At least narratively, this DLC ultimately flounders because of its unwavering reliance on the most outlandish and minacious real-life conspiracies for its subject matter.
Maneater: Truth Quest Review — I Want to Believe
I won't dive into the minutia of Truth Quest's story — though you can certainly guess what it's about from the trailer above. That's partly because I've been expressly asked not to. But more importantly, it's because doing so would spoil some of its best parts.
Despite my reservations on the whole, there are some legitimately chuckle-worthy punchlines throughout Truth Quest — even if some derive their comedic value solely from their batshit nature. They are, of course, delivered by Maneater narrator Trip Westhaven, who has gone full Alex Jones since we last heard from him.
The long and short of TQ's message-board-laden narrative is that Westhaven has "seen" things during the filming of Maneater, and he's convinced a satanic cabal is behind it. Somehow aliens are involved, too.
But don't worry: Trip's done his research, and he'll tell you about the evil machinations afoot in Port Clovis, bringing to light what's really causing its fauna to mutate and terrorize the otherwise placid waters surrounding the Gulf of Mexico.
The problem is that while Trip's cheekiness is objectively funny in places, it begins to wear incredibly thin the longer the story goes on. Starting as well-delivered jabs meant to deride the subject matter sardonically, the commentary ultimately morphs into a thread of tiring and stark reminders of current world events.
There's no end-game that ties its threads into a thoughtful resolution, and while I'm not entirely sure that's Maneater's place or goal, we're left with what feels like a missed opportunity at best once the credits roll. But perhaps that's what it all means when we see how thing's have turned out: there never is an "end," and what a dire coda that is.
Luckily, Truth Quest's gameplay is as good as the base game and acts as its driving, mega-mouthed force.
There aren't any major changes in the current between Maneater and Truth Quest. You still chomp down on humans and beasties alike, gathering nutrients to help you swim to the top of the Port Clovis food chain. Bounty hunters still abound, and other apex predators vie for dominance.
There are a few new objectives and collectibles to hunt down, such as your run-of-the-mill time trials and Trip's Viewtube followers, called Questers, who themselves spew a retinue of conspiracy theories that will either have you laughing or rolling your eyes.
It's here that I'll admit these ramblings are perhaps more memorable for their uneasy, self-aware delivery when compared to Trip's overconfident Facebook-group conviction.
Regardless, chowing down on evil satanist sailors and black-ops-adjacent bounty hunters never ceases to delight even in its simplicity. Hunting down other predators remains adrenaline-filled. And cutting through the beautifully rendered waters of Port Clovis, even in its dingiest spots, can be relaxing if that's what you're looking for.
Alongside the story, Truth Quest thrashes in the shallows with its new objectives that see you hunt down towers on land and destroy them.
Guarded by heavily armed sailors, you're tasked with taking these towers down by tail whipping either bombs or bodies at them. Not only does it all but force you into a single organ mutation, but tail whipping objects is inaccurate at best in these land-based sections. All in all, they only seem to serve a single purpose: elongate the DLC's playtime.
Airborne enemies take a second, but very close, backseat to towers. Sure, taking down a helicopter is cool. Watching your meg launch into the air, chomping rudders and wings, crushing metal in mesmeric dervishes of death, is a sight to behold.
But again, these encounters only seem to elongate the time you spend with Truth Quest, not add any true difficulty or overall substance to the game. You could very well get by without them and never notice their absence.
That aside, a new evolution introduces compelling ranged combat mechanics and leverages that tail whipping into a fruitful strategy against the terrors of the deep, new and old alike. The evolution is so well conceived alongside Truth Quest's new enemies that it will likely have you trading in your bone set as quickly as you can (especially against those damnable helicopters...).
Perhaps one of the biggest draws of Truth Quest, though, is the new location. It drips in conspiratorial design, acting as the DLC's most prominent character, even outshining the new Apex that looms large itself. It reminds of a Bond villain's hideout, or something Maxmillian calls home in Evil Genius.
It's exactly the place I imagine such underhanded, shady dealings would take place, where roving bands of military black hats patrol dark waters, moored ships definitely filled with disreputable cargo float in the choppy waves, and a fishy secret laboratory bathed in green lords over the sea.
Maneater: Truth Quest DLC Review — The Bottom Line
- Being a shark is still fun as hell
- New evolution add ranged combat options
- New setting drips with character
- Jokes become stale by the end
- Tail-whipping mechanic is hit and miss
Maneater Truth Quest goes a bit overboard with its attempts to parody the current real-world conspiratorial climate, taking an experience that offers a reprieve from the terrifying every day of the COVID-19 pandemic and creating something that reminds us of our divisionary reality at every turn. It's funny, sure, but only for so long.
It doesn't help that, perhaps ironically, Chris Parnell plays the part of a deep-end Westhaven a little too well, lending a sense of unnerving gravitas to the part. The relentless delivery throughout the roughly 5-hour campaign grates by the end, making even the most outlandish ancient astronaut theory or skunk ape tale a welcome reprieve.
Good thing, then, that being Jaws is still incredibly fun and strangely compelling.
[Note: Tripwire Interactive provided the copy of Maneater: Truth Quest used for this review.]