Maneater is an enjoyable open-world romp that is just a bit too straightforward and contains more than a handful of bugs and performance issues.
The notion that sharks gobble up hundreds or thousands of people around the globe each year has been overblown ever since Jaws released back in 1975. Millions of people worldwide deal with the shark-induced fear that comes from dipping your toes into the ocean purely because of how media has portrayed the sea-faring creatures over the years. In reality, there were less than 75 unprovoked shark attacks around the entire globe in 2019, and of those, only two resulted in actual deaths. Despite real-life not lining up with the fictional world of sharks, for some reason, it’s a fun notion that the seas are filled with human-hungry beasts ready to strike at a moment’s notice.
With this in mind, in steps Maneater, the newest game from Tripwire Interactive that lets you live out all of your wildest shark fantasies. Pitched as an open-world action RPG (which Tripwire has lovingly referred to as a “ShaRkPG”), Maneater has you taking control of a bloodthirsty shark that is out to chomp on everything in sight. The final product, while definitely making for some fun, is a far too by-the-numbers experience that doesn’t do enough to set itself apart from the genre.
Maneater is presented in the same format as a reality television show, which is a bit odd at first. The game appears as if it were created to air during the Discovery Channel’s upcoming iteration of Shark Week. From here, you’re presented to some of the main characters that will appear throughout the game and the voice of the game’s narrator, portrayed by Chris Parnell, who gives a play-by-play of your own shark’s actions throughout the experience.
Starting as a young bull shark pup, you’ll eventually consume enough humans, fish, and other strange delicacies that will allow you to grow into an enormous elder shark. As you grow, your overall stats will increase as will your ability to jump higher out of the water and stay on land for more extended periods. Everything that you consume will allow you to gain more power throughout Maneater, and continuing to grow in size makes for a fun, albeit simple, gameplay loop.
While increasing your overall shark’s level will help you gain more strength at a baseline level, Maneater is full of a handful of other RPG systems that allow you to tailor-make your creature’s play style. Your shark has a variety of different slots in which you can attach various abilities, which will then be available to upgrade to increase your cursory stats while giving you other bonuses. Some of these abilities work in conjunction with one another, too, giving you additional passive boosts if you equip abilities of the same ilk. For instance, if you give your shark multiple abilities of the Bone variety, your overall resistance to damage will increase at a set ratio.
Despite having all the simple fixings to make for a fleshed-out RPG, Maneater‘s role-playing aspects feel pretty baseline. After I found the first few abilities that I really thought stood out amongst the rest, I barely mixed up what I utilized throughout the remainder of the game. While I’m always down for the addition of RPG systems in games considering how much I love the role-playing genre, if what is presented doesn’t end up feeling very thought out or novel, there’s almost no point in even adding these aspects to begin with.
Another part of Maneater that ended up being pretty lackluster dealt with the game’s combat. Playing as a shark, you’d imagine that gnashing at enemies with your teeth would be the primary way you do damage–and yes, you’d be right. Despite being able to also utilize your tail and having the ability to chuck enemies into one another, most combat scenarios will simply just see you mashing the right trigger once you get ahold of your target. Combat in Maneater is the definition of derivative and never really evolves outside of a few late-game boss fights. Once you’ve played about 30 minutes of Maneater, you’ll have experienced just about all there is to do in the realm of combat.
Speaking of boss fights, the battles that appear in Maneater are not fun at all. Much of this is compounded on the fact that the combat isn’t great in the first place, but the situations you’ll be presented with don’t contain any more depth than “Chomp on ship until HP runs out.”
Bland combat also makes the game’s Infamy system a slog to grind through. Essentially, the more people that you eat up in Maneater, the higher your Infamy rank will increase. At set intervals, when your Infamy has reached a certain level, you’ll then be met with specific mercenaries that appear to do away with you. If you want to max out your Infamy rank, you’ll have to snack on all 10 of these specialized bounty hunters that appear, and getting to that point is not very enjoyable at all.
Despite sounding very down on Maneater as a whole, I did generally enjoy my time with the game. The open-world is pretty well stitched together and cohesive outside of some early game environments being worse than those you’ll come across later on. Maneater‘s smaller areas can often make you feel cramped and confused when it comes to getting around, while the larger locales are pretty fun to swim about. I found it enjoyable swimming through the game’s gulf area and going out of my way to attack a sperm whale for no reason.
And while very straightforward, I also really got a kick out of getting 100% completion in the game. Most of the items of interest that you’ll come across in Maneater are simple collectibles like license plates and underwater caches, but finding all of them scratched my collectathon itch. I should make note that I’m always a sucker for open-world style checklist games like this, so your mileage definitely may vary.
As for the actual missions you’re presented with in Maneater, well, like the rest of the game, they get incredibly redundant. Pretty much every section of Maneater has you re-doing the exact same tasks, just within a different environment than before. You’ll have to eat up large groups of common sea dwellers, take on Apex enemy types, and reach a certain completion percentage in the area before then moving on. None of this is necessarily bad, but it also wasn’t gratifying, either. Most of Maneater‘s missions come across as pure busywork.
The one aspect of Maneater that I also can’t go without mentioning comes in the way of general performance. I played on a PS4 Pro and experienced a fair amount of hitching, framerate dropping, and other various issues during my 11-12 hour playtime. Maneater also hard-crashed back to my PS4 dashboard at one point, while in another instance after dying, I respawned at quite literally the opening cutscene of the game for some reason. Fortunately, my actual progress had been saved at the correct point, but I had to completely close the application and reboot the game to get back into my actual save.
Maneater isn’t a bad game by any means, but it never does anything beyond its simple elevator pitch. Compounded with the fact that the launch iteration of the game had more than enough bugs, long loading times, and performance issues than I would have liked, it’s hard to recommend as a must-play by any means. There’s a fun game here at the core of Maneater, but even then, there’s not a whole lot of meat on the bone. For a game all about sharks feasting on their surroundings, Maneater would have been far better if there was a little bit more to chew on.