REVIEW: Shark Attack Deathmatch

Shark Attack Deathmatch (80 MSP) pools together a checklist of inherent awesome (FPS! Sharks! Harpoon Guns! Blood!), set in a breathtaking underwater world that must be seen in order to be appreciated, and hands you the keys to the liquid kingdom. It seems like a can’t-miss concept. In truth, it’s almost all downhill after the game starts.

The single-player portion (and your only option in the trial) is Survival mode, which gives you ten minutes on the ocean floor to rack up shark kills. Arbitrary warning arrows prohibit exploration and keep you in the playing field, though there are dozens of nooks and crannies to hide from attackers and the local wildlife, including a rusted-out ship and airplane. The biggest problem here is, once a shark spots you, in cover or otherwise, you’re pretty much done for. The flash grenades at your disposal help in a bind, but time and time again, it results in a game over. Without an effective counter-attack or danger indicator to ease the difficulty, it’s a one-and-done game mode you won’t likely return to.

Deathmatch is the real draw anyway, which puts up to four players online in that same ocean pen (the option to include sharks does well to keep things interesting) to see who comes out on top. There are pickups for health, said flash grenades, and oxygen, as well as scoring bonuses for going on killing streaks or for a successful melee. You can level up (shown at the end of each round), though there’s no stat-tracking or unlocks to be had for doing so. Even so, the game would hold up well if it weren’t for all the supporting parts that fail to pull their weight.

Oxygen is an ongoing threat. The idea of having to watch your O2 levels is great, and adds a new layer of concern to the deathmatch formula (you can be your own worst enemy), but it’s overemphasized here. From the second you spawn to the moment you drown, accounting for average movement, you have less than two minutes of air. There are refills scattered about, but when you’re more focused on hunting down O2 tanks than defeating your competition, it’s an issue.

Your weapon options suffer too. The harpoon gun is slow and clumsy in either game mode, and the horrible hit detection doesn’t do you any favors. The controls are floaty (no, I’m not being funny with that) to begin with, making enemies hard to line up. Holding the reticle firmly on a shark or human doesn’t guarantee anything either; you’ll really have to lead your target to have any chance at landing a shot. One on one battles are laughable at a distance, a coin toss at mid-range, and resort to knife fights in close quarters. Needless to say, it’s not fun.

It gives me no pleasure to knock it down, but Lighthouse Games Studio has missed a golden opportunity in Shark Attack Deathmatch. What’s arguably the best-looking game on XBLIG at this point, certainly the prettiest in underwater visuals, is wasted on a subpar survival game and an under-cooked multiplayer mode. It’s sounds ridiculous to mention that the strongest part of the package is the screensaver, which lays the time and date down over scenes from the game’s lush environment. Yes, that was the highlight for me. What could have and should have been much better is instead a beautiful shipwreck.


How does the game fare after several months (and patches)? You can find my updated thoughts on Shark Attack Deathmatch here.

27 thoughts on “REVIEW: Shark Attack Deathmatch”

  1. I quite like the game; I haven’t found that the shooting mechanics are off or based on simple luck, rather that the game does require some honed skill to hit targets at any distance. The Deathmatch is jolly good fun, especially when your antagonist(s) are offed by sharks while trying to kill you! The best 80 MSP I’ve spent this year.

    1. If you enjoy it in its current form, then the updates to the speed and flow of the game could either be a blessing or a curse.

      I do like the shark attacks in multiplayer, though. I like the idea of collateral damage in a free-for-all mode, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  2. Wow…looks like this is one of those either you love it or hate it games. Tim you make valid points in your postings as does others make valid points as well. Love the freedom to debate. One more point. When XBLIG is released with a very limited 8 mins to try before you buy the developers need to make games that can grab it’s audience in that time frame and make them want to spend their points. I think maybe in the case of this game if there was a gradual difficulty levels it would have helped in that regards. Also maybe the single player game be set up more as an adventure instead of a survival type thing.

    1. That would be the ideal form of the game, I think. Something that expands the single-player to make it a little more compelling. The eight-minute trial doesn’t help anyone, especially the developers, and especially in this case. The online portion is the focus, but it’s locked away due to Microsoft’s restrictions. All that said. it’s up to the developers to ‘sell’ their game based on that trial, and it’s to their own peril to ignore that.

      That’s not what sunk this game (as has been discussed already), though you make a good point. The community rarely rallies around multiplayer-focused games for any extended period, so a stronger single-player experience is definitely the smarter route to take if you’re looking to keep a new player’s interest months down the line. The initial audience is the most important, but I regularly get hits for older reviews that people are just learning about months after the release. There’s always exceptions to any rule, but a balanced game (single-player and the option for multiplayer, yes, even local) would have to be ideal.

  3. The ADS is not like your average ads in most fps games.
    Because its a spear gun!
    The player doesn’t bring it right up to his eyes So the little post sight cant be on a 100% horizontal plane like call of duty ads.
    I’d be surprised if most people even used the sights on a spear gun.
    Which is why the hip fire crosshairs not not being quite right is a bit of an issue.
    The hit detection issues in multiplayer do not stem from the actual game. I have never felt like I should have hit a shark and didn’t in survival. The issue in multiplayer is you cant tell who your playing with or how bad the ping is. I can promise you the guy who got that gameplay started his own game making him host.
    I’d bet there isn’t very much of a lag compensation system if any at all like they’re is in your average p2p game. But this also means you wont be killed behind walls or something dumb like that because of bad connectivity. If someones got a better connection then you they have a huge advantage.
    Because this isn’t call of duty, P2P is not an ideal situation for a SKILL based shooter like this. Obviously dedicated servers aren’t an option for a game with this low of a price. So to me this is a mute point until they’re are more people who are playing online.
    You don’t have hit scan weapons to fall back on, a speargun isn’t like a regular gun.
    Projectiles take time to reach their destination, underwater the resistance would be huge.
    You cant judge a games hit detection on how it feels in multiplayer when your relying on other peoples internet connection.
    I play most fps games on PC too, so I know all about how hit detection affects your game.
    For instance I was playing with some guy the other day who sounded like he was scottish, couldn’t hit him at ALL. I live in canada, and with no information on ping you simply just cant expect every online game to be spot on.
    A mention of the lack of a system on which to judge the connection of games is something I feel you should have mentioned.

    This is the same reason call of duty players don’t like battlefield, its just too hard.
    The lack of a directional warning makes this game suspenseful and ads a layer of tension few games have.
    The music is to warn you to look 360 degrees, thats how you play this game.
    Its got an intentionally low FOV to add to this also!
    It plays on peoples underlying fear of the unknown, you know there’s sharks FIND THEM!
    2 hours for a review! are you kidding me, you cant even get the hang of most new games in that time let alone do a full review.
    I’d bet you’ve spent more time writing and posting this review then you actually did forming your “opinion”.
    Allot of people complain about things not being ” fun”. But when your terrible at something its not very fair to judge it based on the bad taste it’s left in your mouth. The reason call of duty is so popular is because of its easy arcade feeling. You can pick up a gun and get a kill pretty easy, even if your just a casual player. because of this it’s appealing to a wider variety of players, then a more skill based game would be.
    Opinions are opinions, but I went into this thinking. “I bet hunting sharks underwater with a spear gun is hard”. Turns out I was right..
    People don’t like a challenge anymore, and game developers usually play right into this.
    And by the way what was your best survival score?

    They’re is also some tips on lighthouse games website, they helped me out.

    1. My apologies about stating the same point twice and every single there being used wrongly, I’m on a tablet and it can get a little hard to keep track.
      I just don’t feel you gave this game enough of a chance, it seems like you had a pre determined opinion about what a game titled shark attack death match should be.
      Assuming is fine, everyone does and I did too.
      When I say skill based shooter I refer to the fact you HAVE TO LEAD your target’s to hit them with the slow moving projectile your shooting.
      Watch ANY gameplay and you’ll see the person leading the target allot to even get a hit.
      So how can you claim your reticle was right on target when you have to aim ahead of anything to hit it?
      Are you suggesting you shouldn’t have to guess how much you need to lead your shot..?
      The only way I found out the reticle was off is after reading this review going back and shooting a rock from point blank in both ADS and hip fire with the reticle.
      You say it gives you no pleasure to knock this game, so why is your review almost totally absent of any sort of constructive criticism? This is the huge flaw with your review. It just comes off as a straight up insult to those who like the game or made the game.
      It seems like a pretty rough verdict for a game you claim you wanted to enjoy.
      It took me more then 2 hours to like the game. The guy who is such a boss in multiplayer spent WAY more then that in multiplayer alone, and he likes the game despite its obvious flaws.
      See where I’m coming from here? I’m not saying my opinion’s are right and yours are wrong.
      I’m saying you don’t have enough actual evidence in your review to back it up.
      That what i’m saying needs changing is all.

    2. No need to apologize. You’re just trying to get your point across, as am I. We all have differing opinions on stuff. I ran into the same with the Demon House review (also an FPS) before this. I played the game, knew the controls would take some getting used to, and said as much. Still enjoyed the game. Yet when others went to play it, they came back and said I was crazy to give the controls a pass.

      The time it takes to get comfortable with controls will vary, but I tend to give it a half-hour or less to adjust. Any more and I feel the developers have missed the mark. And I’ll give you some background on how I came up with my verdict on Shark Attack Deathmatch: I own or have played ALL the past and current major (and not-so-major) FPSes of the last few console generations, originals and / or sequels, be it Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo. That point you bring up about COD and Battlefield players not liking each other’s games, well, I play both, and do well at both. With each iteration, I can pick up the game and its controls in under a half hour, if not instantaneously. Of course, these are AAA titles, not indies, so that’s to be expected. As such, I give indies a break, to an extent, time to adjust and / or impress me otherwise. SAD (I’m abbreviating Shark Attack Deathmatch from this point on) had two hours to help me adjust, and it never did.

      I feel my points about the ADS and hip-fire are completely valid. In every gameplay video posted here so far, I’ve seen moments where shots that should hit, do not. In the developer’s own video you posted below, he misses twice in the span of fifteen seconds (starting at the 1:20 mark) with shots that looked to be -dead center- on two sharks. This is single-player, no ping or connection favors, and it’s the developer, mind you, the guy that built the game, has been playing / testing it for months, even longer, and still, he misses shots. Hell, he misses with his first knife attack in the trailer I posted at the top of the review. As such, how do you expect an average player, myself, or anyone else who is encountering and buying the game, to jump into it and have fun? Sure, you COULD devote hours and hours to improving at it, leading your shots and becoming an underwater Rambo, but how many initial people are going to be turned off by the fact that you’re not hitting targets you’re clearly -on- when aiming? Answer, more than a few. Those are the people I take into consideration. If I have a rough go, still, after two hours, I have to take points away in a review. And again, SAD is an -arcade- deathmatch game, not a hyper-realistic take on shark hunting. As such, the controls should be friendlier and accommodate that intended style. The hit-box on enemies should be larger, the spear gun more forgiving. Once you introduce floating powerups and point-streaks for killing bonuses, you’re throwing realism to the curb in any game.

      And lastly, as to my review times and processes, I’ll just say this. I always give criticism in a review that’s valid. I’m hardly an enemy of any XBLIG. Both myself and others (you can find them in ‘The Friends’ tab above) spend our money and our free time in this community in order to get the word out about XBLIGs. Sometimes that word is good, sometimes it’s not. That’s just how it goes. Once a product like SAD is released and asking for someone’s hard-earned MSP, it becomes fair game for criticism, whether it’s one dollar or $60. Two hours to review an arcade game is adequate, I feel, to get from it all you need to know about it. If games run longer, I play them to their conclusion whenever possible. The controls and issues were not resolved after those two hours, so I had to call the game out on it. I mentioned that you need to lead targets (helps only 50% of the time, though), and that the oxygen level depletes too quickly. Also the shark attacks are still too out-of-the-blue to build an adequate defense or avoidance routine. It needs something, a mini-map, more heads-up before an attack, etc. I praised its idea and its looks, also enjoyed the ‘screensaver’ option (hey, it’s not much, but it’s something, right?). I can’t say much else or change the review, and I think that’s as fair as I can be.

      Sorry this went on as long as it did. Apparently I was chattier than I first thought. And don’t take this as any sort of attack or rebuttal against your points. Consider it some added insight to the review from me, and take it as such. You’ve got a right to an opinion the same as me, but we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one, I’m afraid.

    1. Yeesh, no kidding. Glad I never went up against this guy in my matches. Up to Level 13, no less. He’s been putting in some time.

      I don’t know what you’ve got planned as far as updates, but if you guys tighten up the aiming so it’s less about luck and more about skill, reduce oxygen depletion, add a weapon or two, I’d say you’re back on track. I’d be glad to check out the game again once you did.

    2. Currently the aiming is all about skill and less about luck (as the video clearly shows), I don’t understand why you would think it’s about luck? We decided to go against the dumb downed auto aiming of your typical AAA FPS title in order to make our gun fights longer, more intense & enjoyable.

      We are working on a patch at the moment, adding new maps, weapon, & increased the movement speed by 5%, added ability to play your own music in screensaver mode (i.e. from connected PC’s etc.), looking at possibly adding CO-OP Survival mode too.

    3. I’d agree with you on longer & intense battles, and add frustrating. The guy in the video does a great job, but even he brings up the fact that the shots don’t really go where you aim (mentioned at about the 1-minute mark). I’m not asking for auto-aim, believe me, though there were plenty of times my cursor was directly over a target and I hit only air. Every game is a learning experience with the controls, but you should never miss a shot when you’re dead center on an enemy.

      Happy to hear you’re supporting it. A boost to speed would be nice. I’d look into tweaking the oxygen rate a bit. I’ll look forward to the new stuff (I’m intrigued about new weapons, definitely).

    4. I know it’s a buck but simply due to this post I will not buy this game. Tim makes a valid point and you discounted his point simply by denying it. Well he feels that way. The guy in the video you posted feels that way. I feel that way. AS do others. The difficulty on the shooting is apparent. Now if you would have came back and said something like when you shoot under water the trajectory is effected by the water and the movement of the waves underwater….well then you would have something there. and if that is the case maybe there should be a motion detector showing how strong it is so we could compensate for it. All that is fine but as I originally stated….due to your sheer denial of this issue I don’t see me buying it. Killer Idea! Great Graphics! Just falls short IMHO!

    5. Hi David, yes I am denying his complaint about the shooting being about luck. He didn’t say it was difficult and I never denied that it wasn’t difficult, he said it was about luck. It’s hard to fix a problem when you don’t understand what the problem is, that is why I was asking why he thought it was about luck.
      Tim makes it sound like bullets travel through targets and it’s luck if it registers a hit or not. Which is completely untrue. It may feel like that because by the time the spear reached the target you shot the target had moved.

      Shooting a NON INSTANT projectile at a moving target means you need to aim a little ahead (i.e. in the direction the target is moving) of the target in order for hit it (which requires a lot of skill) There is no water current in our games.

      To make it easier for people to hit the target we have made a few changes in Version 1.1, the spear now travels a lot faster (so you don’t have to aim as far ahead anymore), the time between shots has been reduced to make the game a little quicker and less frustrating, swimming fast doesn’t use up as much oxygen as before. Movement is slightly faster as well.

      You can find out more here:

    6. As to the ‘luck’ statement, I’ll admit it may have been an extreme choice of word, but I won’t retract it. As I stated before in replies to ‘Spheeler’, I’ve now seen three gameplay videos (two from you, the developer) where shots have missed when you’re centered on the target, looking to be roughly ten to fifteen feet away from the shark at the time you’re shooting. I understand that shots are impeded / slowed in water, a spear especially. Again, I’ll say that this isn’t a game based on realism. First and foremost, a game should be fun. It should be accessible to the largest group of gamers possible. This is entertainment. Referencing those videos again, I saw too many moments where you or the other players fired a shot, then started to move away, confident that you’d achieve a hit. When you didn’t, you’d be forced to go back to the target to line up another shot. That, to me, signifies ‘luck’ in play, making it more a game of chance than actual skill. If your ‘skill’ allows you to line up a shot dead-center on target, your ‘skill’ should translate to a hit on that target, leading shots and underwater movement be damned.

      I’m not trying to ‘win’ any argument here, but I would like to point out the fact that the complaints I had about the game are being addressed in the first update, so either I had valid claims to begin with, or others did, enough for you to change things so that it more closely resembles an ‘arcade’ experience, which is all I’ve been asking for from the start.

      I look forward to the update, and the new map. If things have changed enough that I’m having more fun with it, you have my word that I will add those thoughts to this review.

    7. uhhh, I tried the demo….but it was so dull and also difficult that I didn’t buy the game. Then a day later I decided to be fair and try it out…DeathMatch is indeed way more fun….good for about 25 minutes before you get really bored though. And, there was hardly anyone online playing. Theres just not much to do, and I know if the level was bigger the game would be worse…because you swim so slowly…its a real shame.

    8. My thoughts exactly. 🙂 Maybe the developer fixes some issues and it ends up playing better, but with the XBLIG multiplayer community being as fractured and fickle as it is, will anyone still be around to enjoy it?

  4. I had issues with the sharks biting me. I tried to fight back, against them but did not succeed. Tried hunting them too, but no joy. The bloom and the animations are indeed beautiful, and you do get the sense of it being underwater, with the caustics and the god rays. The HUD, the vignette, as you say it looks breathtaking.

    1. Yeah there’s really no way of coming back against a shark attack, they just maul you to death. Getting hit from behind is worse, as there’s no way you could even tell it was going to happen. I can appreciate using the cover to launch attacks, but with it being so hard to hit anything with the harpoon gun (and it takes three shots to take one down sometimes), it’s just not worth it. Incredible visuals though.

    2. It’s actually not very hard, you just need to sprint swim and dodge it. Even if your getting pushed back while the shark’s feasting on you, just try to move up or down. When I get attacked from behind I can usually get out of it no problem.
      Also when your not in ADS the spear does shoot a little low and to the right, if you know this its not hard to account for though.
      Considering thats the ONLY bug I’ve run into, the game seems very stable to me. The hit detection is a non issue from my experience as well. Not really sure how you’d be able to tell if you weren’t aiming down sights and accounting for the bug..
      Umm about sharks sneaking up on you without warning, when a shark see’s you THE JAWS MUSIC PLAYS. how could you miss something like that while doing a review!
      Throwing a comment about “floaty controls”. Makes NO sense, that kind of issue only shows when your playing a traditional fps.
      To me it just sounds like your either terrible at the game or you didn’t spend enough time getting the hang of it. Having never played an underwater death match game before, I expected some kind of learning curve.
      I was pleasantly surprised by the formidable challenge it presented, It doesn’t hold your hand the whole way for once.
      Thats a positive aspect of the game?
      When I see your review I see someone who’s frustrated they’re not good at something right away. This is why todays games are so easy and have such a low skill ceiling.

      This game is breath of fresh air, in a world polluted by garbage. And on top of that It cost’s a dollar! What are you going to buy a Hat for your avatar with that 80msp.
      The survival mode is more then enough to warrant a price like that.

      I seriously think you should re-visit this review, because there’s more glaring flaws here then in the game.

    3. I have to stand by what I said. The issue with the aim and hit detection isn’t just limited to me, others have reported the same, and as you’ve said, you do have to account for the shot drifting and thus aim / shoot for the target a little differently than normal. I can tolerate that, what I can’t tolerate are my shots not hitting a target when my cross-hairs are directly center on it. Referencing the player’s video up above (the best player I’ve seen at the game so far), even he mentions the shots not going where they should, and usually misses with his first few shots whenever he encounters someone. Again, is this a challenge? Does it increase the tension in firefights? Sure. But I grade games mostly on fun. And that was the question I kept asking myself. Is this fun? Do I enjoy scrambling for an oxygen refill every two minutes? Do I enjoy missing several shots before getting lucky with the game’s version of targeting? Not really. Accounting for drag on a shot is fine and dandy, but in an online deathmatch scenario, you want to feel like your skill is what’s going to win you a match, not mentally-calculating the underwater mathematics of the situation before each shot fired. Were the game hyper-realistic, or if I were, say, firing a sniper rifle from a great distance away, okay, but not for battles at mid-range.

      I did notice the ‘Jaws’ music play whenever a shark came in to attack (that I didn’t mention in the review, agreed), but the music still doesn’t give you an indication of where the attack is coming from, or how many sharks have spotted you. Add to this the aim / hit detection issue / bug, floaty, sluggish controls (for ADS, it’s tough to line up a shot), and it makes Survival mode a little less fun than it should be. Again, the challenge is there, tension, sure, but it’s not really based on skill, no matter how much time you spend with it. I gave the game almost two hours, with a good portion of that time spent in Survival, and I didn’t notice any drastic change in how I played from the beginning to the end. I consider myself to have decent skill at FPSes, too.

      It’s important to note that the review is just an opinion, of one person, no less. I felt it lacked in a few areas, and ultimately wasn’t very fun. If you enjoyed the game, more power to you. You got your value out of the dollar. I don’t regret buying the game, and with the developer looking to tweak some things and add a weapon and / or some maps, I will definitely check it out once that update is live.

    4. Not sure what happened, I tried to reply to your message?
      But here’s what I’m talking about, perfect example.
      This guy, knows how to play:

      This guy doesn’t but he admits it :

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