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Sharks aren't scary. They're not. As they exist in the wild, sharks are basically fishy dogs with rows of terrifying teeth instead of cute puppy tongues. Like any wild animal, they'll eat a person if they're so inclined because people are made of food, but most shark attacks are actually just exploratory bites. They're just trying to say hello, and they communicate through biting.
It's not until sharks become sentient, usually through movie magic, that they become scary. At 7.5m long the eponymous shark from Jaws was an anomaly, but it was the determination from the animal that made it terrifying. It wasn't just "sharking it up" -- this fish wanted to eat people.
The smarter the shark gets, the scarier it becomes. And in Depth, the sharks are as smart as anyone you know.
Depth is a game of two teams. On one side you have the sharks, a pair of intelligent fish determined to rid their territory of invasive scum, and on the other you have the divers, a quartet of frogmen who are trying to get in and out with as much treasure as they can. Amongst it all is S.T.E.V.E, a safe-cracking robot which only moves when divers are present.
The sharks are ultra powerful in Depth, capable of devastating violence in the blink of an eye. The game for them is played in third person, the camera sitting a few metres behind their tail as they thrust their way towards the divers. You've got the ability to 'sprint' as well as a dash ability, and this gives you staggering agility as you roam around the underwater level. On top of that, sharks can bash through fragile pieces of the game world to open new avenues of attack. If the divers have secured the two doorways to a ship's cargo hold, it doesn't take a lot for a shark to burst through a hole in the wall.
On top of all of this, as a Shark you can see S.T.E.V.E. at all times, allowing you to find the divers when you respawn (because S.T.E.V.E. needs the divers to be nearby to continue to move). And once you get close enough to the divers, their biometric signatures allow you to see them through walls, which you can combine with your wall-smashing abilities to leap through and get a kill.
The power of the Shark isn't limitless, however. An interesting design choice by the team forces the Shark player to "thrash" a diver themselves to kill them. So when you dash into a room and grab a diver, they have ample opportunity to stab you in the head to get away. To actually kill them once grabbed, you need to flick your mouse left and right quickly, all while still swimming (ideally to safety).
This puts Sharks in a spot of bother, because if you take too much damage trying to get in and grab a diver you'll probably die to the knife before you get the kill. In a way this makes the Shark's game part powerplay and part stealth -- if you can get in close enough without being seen you can get a kill without taking any damage.
Each team has a set number of respawns, and as the diver respawns bleed down to zero you see a message on the screen as the sharks remark that their haven is almost theirs once more -- a concession to the idea that the sharks in Depth aren't the 'bad guys'.
As you kill divers you're rewarded with Evolution points, allowing you to unlock new abilities like detecting mines or regaining health by eating divers. These abilities feel inevitable, like you know you'll have them all by the end of the round, and it's similar to Turtle Rock's asymmetrical shooter Evolve in that way -- as "the monster" you know you'll be the most powerful at the end of the game.
The switch to first person for divers in Depth creates an intense sense of claustrophobia, which is exactly what the game is going for. It wants you to feel a little trapped, and in more than one occasion that's exactly what you'll be. The sharks have improved vision, mobility and the ability to sense the location of S.T.E.V.E. at all times, so as a diver you know the danger of the shark is an inevitability. The torch on your dive helmet has limited range, your starting pistol takes about five shots to kill a shark and you're basically stuck following a flashing beacon for terror through the world.
What makes playing the diver in Depth truly scary, however, is the fact that you're not just worried about death on the X and Y axes -- the best sharks will use the Z axis to their advantage as well.
Depth takes place in a properly three dimensional environment, but because gravity still exists in the game world you remain oriented in the correct direction. This makes it easy for you to navigate the game world like you would any other FPS, lulling you into a false sense of security at the same time. You have to deliberately adjust the way you look at the world, because otherwise you'll too often be caught by a shark swimming up from below.
Divers need to buy their weapons and items, but weapons bought remain with the player for the rest of the game while items are consumed as used. This means you might start out with a mere pistol but it won't be long before you're rocking a speargun (which has a long reload but is a one-shot-kill gun) or a soviet APS (underwater assault rifle). Just like the sharks, there's a sense that by the end of the round a Diver will be much more powerful than they were at the beginning. Still, this doesn't make the game any less terrifying, and by the end of the round you definitely feel vulnerable.
This is because S.T.E.V.E. has his orders, and after cracking four safes on the ocean floor he will return to the boat with his treasure -- and this is when savvy sharks can strike at will. In the final leg Diver's take a path through open water, away from the walls of sunken ships and caves that kept them safe earlier in the game. Suddenly Divers who know what they're doing will throw flares and sonar buoys wherever they can, giving the entire game world an eerie glow as they attempt to create an early warning system against the sharks.
Depth is two games in one. You have the fast-paced, tactical attacking game of the Sharks, where you team up with your buddy to isolate and kill divers while dodging spears, sea mines and bullets. And you also have the survival horror experience of the Divers, your heartbeat thumping in your ears as the swoosh of a nearby shark forces you to spin around on the spot.
Joab "Joaby" Gilroy is a huge fan of sports games, racing games, first-person shooters and 4X strategy games. He's awful at fighting and real-time strategy games although he'd love to get better. He thinks the Halo universe is hollow and that Arkham City was the real game of the year in 2011 and that AusGamers' managing editor Stephen Farrelly only gave Skyrim the nod because he is a filthy Marvel fan. His top three games of all time are (in no particular order) Deus Ex, GTA: Vice City and DayZ.
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