If you thought that Depth was the sole runner in the underwater FPS deathmatch genre of games, then think again. Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 is yet another of Steam’s Early Access titles, this one promising to deliver intense underwater bouts of frantic shark-vs-human action. Though Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 doesn’t possess the shark-perspective gameplay of its deep-sea rival, it can rightly claim its superiority in terms of customisation options, the quantity of which cannot be beaten, even by Digital Confectioners’ hugely popular asymmetrical multiplayer deathmatch offering. An extra layer of difference is added by SAD2’s diver-vs-diver combat, making it well worth some exploration in this review.
Different to its Underwater Rival/s
It should come as a relief to potential purchasers of this game that its gameplay mechanics aren’t a direct copy of its rival Depth. The unavoidable similarities exist of course: it’s an underwater first-person shooter after all, with a deathmatch format, and there are sharks lurking in the waters. However, Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 already pulls itself out the waters of identicalness by widening the sphere of danger to human enemies as well as sharks. From the moment you’re submerged, therefore, your life is in danger not only from the sharks lurking in the shadows, but also the other divers who may also be playing on the server. This results in a different kind of fear than is created by Depth, but one that’s still very real each time you enter into a match.
While Depth relies on a treasure-hunting justification for its divers being the water, this game does no such thing. Your aim is to simply explore the waters and, regardless of which mode you’re playing, survive for as long as you possibly can. There are other things to consider besides the threat of sharks and humans as well, such as the threat of running out of oxygen. This danger is made all the more present in your mind by the sound of the oxygen regulator awing and hissing in an alternating fashion as you flop and float around the depths of a variety of underwater environments.
This Game’s Come A Long Way
Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 started off as, and indeed still is a Lighthouse Studios title happens to be a Steam Early-Access game. In effect, this means that the game isn’t a finished product (and may never end up being so), which in turn means that the initial release of this game wasn’t exactly packed with features. Since then, there have been a fair few features added, with some being more exciting than others.
From the outset, you’ve got a range of extensive diver customisation options that let you change the appearance of your diver (not even Depth allows you to do this). More usefully, however, you now have a wider range of modes in which to enjoy SAD2’s gameplay. Single-player mode still exists, which involves surviving against sharks and not much more.
However, multiplayer is of course the main draw of this kind of game. The multiplayer is great – the threat of sharks in addition to humans makes it much more of a 3D horror game in that you’re being attacked from all possible angles – but it’s still not a sure thing that you’ll even be able to find a server with a decent number of players on it. Players will also be glad to know that Predator Mode is now a thing, which lets you assume the role of a shark (but let’s just ignore for a second that Depth allows one to do this as an integral part of its match setup).
The game’s look and atmosphere is where it really shines when compared to Depth. Try as you might, you’ll never quite find another non-Depth game – even on shark/shark-attack game databases like www.sharkattackgames.net - that specialise in this kind of thing as well as Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 does. Its variety of maps are best described as beautiful rather than atmospheric (as they are in Depth), with underwater flora being ample and the behaviour of the sharks in particular edging more towards realism than its rival underwater deathmatch games. Combat feels like it moves at a much more realistic pace as well, instead of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rollercoaster that is Depth’s combat gameplay.
The game falls down when compared to Depth’s ability to create high levels of tension, though. There’s just not enough players online at any one time for there to be truly engrossing matches taking place, and the presentation just isn’t as atmosphere-building in the same terrifying way as Depth. Still, Shark Attack Deathmatch 2 is extremely cheap on Steam, and you’ll struggle to find a more realistic interpretation of underwater encounters with both divers and sharks.