Fight bloodthirsty sharks and enemy players in a cold, murky ocean.
PC Release: Early Access
By Ian Coppock
Okay, right now, if you’re planning to take a game called Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 seriously, I suggest you close this tab and find something else to read.
Still here? Good, because this game is worth looking at despite its overblown name. Or, perhaps, because of it.
A long time ago, I reviewed a little-known Xbox 360 gem called Shark Attack Deathmatch. Players could compete in one of two modes: a brutal underwater free-for-all with lots of harpoon guns, or a lone wolf survival mode against multiple hungry sharks. The game struck an unexpected chord and formed a small but dedicated community of fans. The developers banded together to expound upon the vein they’d struck, and Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 is the result of that effort.
Right away, I realize that multiplayer games tend to deviate from our story-heavy focus here at Art as Games, but every so often I find a game that, yeah, might not have a narrative, but it packs some crazy novelty. Payday 2 had co-op bank robberies, Burnout Paradise had car-crashing mayhem, and Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 has some lethal multiplayer in a dark, bloody ocean. Fair enough?
SAD2 is currently PC-only, though the developers have made plans to port it to consoles after an ongoing Early Access campaign. Players compete in 8-person deathmatches across five ocean maps. Armed with a harpoon gun and a knife, your objective is to kill as many human foes as possible while also avoiding silent fleets of hungry sharks. While slow to reload, the harpoon gun is a lethal long-range weapon; and, as you can see in the screenshot preceding this paragraph, it’s not the only gun you’ll find out there in the briny.
Gameplay in Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 is simple, but tense. You’re dumped into a murky void where sound and sight are both muffled, and your harpoon gun will not always save you from being thrashed by sharks or knifed by divers. Each of the game’s matches is gripped in an escalating apprehension, as you search the dim waters for foes human and fish. A Jaws-esque theme will start up when a shark has locked on, giving you a heads-up right before you’re to be a great white’s lunch.
A lot of Steam reviews have been quick to call SAD2‘s gameplay simplistic, and they might have a point, but it’s also a great opportunity for casual players to join in on the fun. There aren’t any complicated combat mechanics, no overblown maps or stats. It’s just you, your gun, and your wits.
In addition to the basic weapons, SAD2’s maps are scattered with various pickups. Health and oxygen are your two most important resources, but you can also find useful weapons hidden deep underwater. The location of these pickups is fixed on each map, which does give some advantage to prior knowledge of the terrain. I personally feel that randomized supply drops would make the game feel more hazardous and uncertain. It would also level the playing field for people who have never played a particular map versus someone who’s played it 10 times.
Human players bring an element of unpredictability to each match, but we all know why we’re really here: the sharks. Comprising both the game’s main antagonists and the main element of novelty to the game, sharks swarm each match and hunt for any and all humans they can find. I’m fairly certain that they also grow more aggressive as the match goes on. You can guarantee that hostility by shooting one before it’s started to hunt you.
Each map features two varieties of shark: a low-tier “common” shark that’s relatively easy to kill, and a much bigger mini-boss of a beast that can absorb your entire store of ammo in one battle. Great whites, bull sharks and reef sharks are just a few of the predators creeping the depths. Each high-level shark you kill doubles your score, allowing for a quick advantage against more experienced human enemies. Killing sharks also gives you points in the overall game, which is only fair considering they’re out to get you too.
So what do all of these features add up to? A novel survival horror experience amplified by gorgeous underwater graphics and decent, if not fantastic, level design. Most matches will see you dive into the water, creeping along the rocks as your breath mask provides the only background noise. You might encounter a myriad of ocean life, maybe a couple of enemy divers, and then suddenly shit your pants as you turn around just in time for a great white to clamp its jaws around you. Extend this for ten minutes, and you have a thrilling underwater battle on your hands.
The aforementioned level design has some decent creativity that made me nod in approval, if not chortle. From the sunken World War II remains to a futuristic, flooded rendition of New York City, there are a few locales to duke it out with humans and sharks. So far there are five maps, and the developers plan to release more content across the board. The solo survival mode I mentioned returns here as well, complete with a co-op option for you and a buddy to tackle. It’s the thrill of hunting your human and shark enemies, alone in the murky water, that makes Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 really stand out in a crowded arena of low-budget or free-to-play deathmatch shooters.
Despite Shark Attack Deathmatch 2‘s novelty, there are a few problems plaguing this title that could consign it to the depths if not addressed immediately. Multiple players have reported latency issues with matchmaking lobbies, and I personally have sat stuck waiting for a match to begin for 5-10 minutes at a time. A few people have also reported lagging and other issues common to multiplayer games, though I personally have been lucky enough to miss these.
The most damning issue for this game at the moment is its lack of players. A thrilling multiplayer experience doesn’t mean shit when I find no one to play with 75% of the time I log onto the game. The most people I’ve ever had a match with is just three others besides myself; half of the eight-person format SAD2 aims for. While it’s true that the game was only recently released and needs more time to grow, I would suggest that the development team be more aggressive about marketing it. Taking out those banner ads on Steam probably isn’t cheap, but unless this game’s community grows in the next couple of months, it probably won’t grow at all. The developers have been very active on social media, which is great, but they need to do more to draw attention to this little gem before it gets quashed by newer, better-advertised multiplayer games.
My recommendation of SAD2 is contingent upon your comfort with Early Access titles. I personally have found just enough content to be satisfied with my purchase, and I’ve followed the developer for long enough to tell you that they WILL follow through on future developments. If you’re adamant against Early Access or have no interest in horror-themed multiplayer, I won’t fault you. It’s like eight bucks, and myself and a few other people can regularly be found in matches. Give it a go, come say hi, and let’s kill some sharks.
You can buy Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.