Sometimes I just want to step away from realistic games, experiences which tug on my emotions, and puzzles which make my brain hurt, and I just want to play a game which is mindless, silly and bonkers – so I thought I’d try out Maneater! To quote Ronseal Woodstain, “it does exactly what it says on the tin” – Maneater is a game which revolves around you, a disgruntled shark with revenge burning within your eyes, eating men, women, fish, whales, and pretty much anything you see (It appears you’re on the ‘See-food diet’). Think of this game as the adult version of Feeding Frenzy – if that sounds intriguing, you’re gonna love it.
Developed by Blindside Interactive and Tripwire Interactive, yet published by both Tripwire Interactive and Deep Silver, the game was first shown back in 2018 and is out now on the PS4, Xbox One, and the Epic Games Store – a Switch version is currently in development and the Steam edition will most likely arrive in exactly 12 months. Although clearly inspired by Jaws, the developers also took inspiration from various RPG games as this is touted as the first shaRkPG (shark RPG), adding progression and purpose into the mindless slaughter and violence you’re about to cause.
Has this creative combination of genres and gameplay mechanics worked out to be jawsome, or it is dead in the water? Let’s find out…
Maneater has two sides to the story which is being told, one is a TV station which is creating a documentary show based on Scaly Pete, a famous shark hunter, and the other is from the point of view of a young bull shark. Scaly Pete captured, killed and slaughtered the young shark’s mother, disfiguring its face just before it retaliates and literally rips off his arm! As such, both parties now have a reason for revenge against one another, a desire within their souls to seek out and kill each other.
Thanks to your quick reactions, and sharp teeth, you escape the clutches of the insane fisherman and find yourself all alone within a small set of winding streams. With no one to guide you, it’s every man/shark for themselves as you feed on the local fish and creatures which reside within the murky waters, building your strength and resistance as you evolve from a young shark to an adult megalodon. With an almost Metroidvania-like approach, each time you evolve you’ll gain access to new areas as well as get the ability to venture into previously blocked-off grates and passages.
Although the game is quite simple in concept and the mechanics don’t vary too much, the game is held together with a fun and interesting over-the-top story which is narrated by Chris Parnell. It does have a rather slow start, due to how puny and small you are, but it becomes much more fun as you get bigger and gain access to areas populated with humans – or as I like to call them, dinner.
Maneater is a simplistic RPG game combined with a semi-open world which you can explore and discover many pop-culture references and easter eggs. As you swim around the areas you’ve unlocked, you’ll come across a number of other sea life creatures casually getting on with their lives, it’s your job to put an end to that! Each creature grants you health and a certain ‘resources’ as you devour their flesh, leaving behind only a trail of blood in your wake. These ‘materials’ can be used within the various shark dens which you find in each area, allowing you to upgrade your ‘armour’ and ‘abilities’.
Okay, I think I went a little too fast – this game is very silly, it’s not realistic outside of the visuals as everything is over the top and exaggerated. As you explore the ocean and lakes, you’ll find various chests, licence plates, and landmarks, some of which will grant you new armour and abilities to equip. The armour has three variants, bone, shock, and poison, each granting certain boosts and effects which are amplified once upgraded or if you equip the entire tail, body, head, and fin sets.
The abilities range from simply increasing your health to providing you with more resources with every kill (clearly the best one to have). You also have the ability to use sonar, just like Echo the Dolphin, only this is used to find the collectables instead of communicating with other lost harmless creatures. This is the best thing ever as it means you don’t need to follow any guides or look up things online if you’re stuck, simply push Circle and any object within range will instantly appear on your map. Thanks to this, you can easily finish the game within around 10-12 hours, quicker if you’re lucky with the boss battles and don’t get lost.
Baby shark, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
When I initially played the game, I didn’t know how I felt about it. You start off as this big, strong sea creature which can rip the flesh off a human with a single bite, but then you’re given control of a toddler with no such power or strength – a similar concept which happens in games such as Castlevania. As such, I was getting my arse kicked in the opening area, wild crocodiles would batter me, other sharks caused me to bleed to death, and the first time I saw a human hunter, he shot me to death quite easily. I was a weakling, a nobody who purposely avoided any confrontation as I went around eating all the small fish and turtles (they make a nice “crunch” noise).
But then, my baby shark grew up and gained a few new abilities to go with his rock fins – this is when I really started to enjoy myself. I finally felt like I was in control, I could take on the other creatures and emerge the victor thanks to finally understanding how to doge and strategically attack my opponent. Killing humans was also lots of fun as I would jump onto the beach and flop around, ripping people to shreds as I tried not to lose my watery-breath and die of dehydration.
But, the most fun came in the later stages of the game, when I was finally ‘the Meg’, jumping 20ft in the air as I grabbed the Jason Statham-wannabes off the hunter boats, flung them around in my mouth, then left nothing but a lovely red blotch in the water where their body once lay. With the increased size, confidence, and abilities, I was now able to take on much bigger beasts such as the colourless Orca and the ginormous Sperm Whale. By the end, I was literally a god, I was THE apex of the ocean, the water was my kingdom and I was its king.
What I’m saying is, the game has a very slow start thanks to the way the game progresses. But, once you’ve gained a few abilities and sets of armour, it becomes more fun as you can fight much bigger enemies and take on the humans. However, the gameplay stays almost identical throughout the entire game, so it can feel a bit monotonous if you’re looking for something deep. I, however, am a massive fan of simulation games and the Dynasty Warriors series, so monotony and repetition don’t bother me as I find it quite relaxing, even if I am ripping poor innocent people and animals to shreds.
You’re gonna need a bigger boat
There is one aspect of the game which changes as you play, especially if you’re going for the platinum, and that’s the human hunters. You begin with no notoriety, so the hunters you encounter are simply random angry humans who don’t like the fact you’re eating people on the beach. But, once you’ve pissed them off enough, you’ll hit your first wanted level, causing a ‘boss’ to appear. These ‘bosses’ are bigger and stronger boats which are manned by a ‘famous’ shark hunter (as per the fake TV show).
Once you’ve killed this new predator, the counter starts to climb again to the next level (thankfully this doesn’t reset when you die). Each time you hit a certain amount of agro, a new, stronger boss appears – some of which have pimped out boats with defensive abilities which you have to creatively counter. All-in-all there are ten bosses you can face, aside from old Scaly Pete himself, most of which are straight forward but I had a lot of trouble with the last few. Although, even though I was getting a bit annoyed, they offer variety to the gameplay so I actually enjoyed facing them.
Although you ‘can’ simply take on these human threats with brute force, ramming them or jumping then gobbling up all the people on the boat by sitting your fat arse on the deck as you chow-down, you can play the game more strategic in order to minimise your chance of dying. The roll move, R1, allows you to dodge incoming spears and smash into the boat depending on your fin armour, you can use your tail to knock back explosives and attack them from afar, and you can attack them from below by charging into them and causing a lot of damage. It’s up to you how you wish to play.
He lives in a pineapple under the sea…
One of the sets of collectables you have to find are landmarks. These are a bunch of easter eggs/references to films, TV shows, pop-culture, etc… I understood most of them but some I didn’t get, yet I imagine people out there will comprise lists within a few days that details everything and what they’re from. For me, a few which stood out had to be the Spongebob one I’ve put above, the Stephen King’s IT reference (even Deliver Us the Moon had that one), and Peter Pan.
In terms of the visuals and the overall design of the game, I thought it was fantastic. The quality of the models was very good, the level design was easy to manoeuvre and explore (although I did get lost a few times in the early stages), and the whole underwater atmosphere worked really well. I loved how the water you swam in was of various quality based on the location you’re in, ranging from dirty and cloudy water to the clear blue of the ocean.
Personally, just like another game I’m reviewing today, I thought this game really shone when it was daytime – as there’s a day-night cycle. At night it gets far too dark and you begin to miss out on the small details all around you. Thankfully, the caves have beautiful coloured rocks which light up the darkness that guides you through the small passages, but there’s nothing like that in the open waters. I would have liked a toggle to either have this mechanic on or leave it on daytime as I prefered swimming around in the day, especially when I was flopping on the bright yellow sandy beaches.
On a side note, the game doesn’t appear to support HDR on the PS4 – which is a shame.
Bugs and issues
Maneater is, for the most part, a great experience and suffers no issues. However, as you get further into the game, you begin to experience some rather unacceptable performance and stability issues.
First of all, I’m on a PS4 Pro and I was running it on my 4K TV (I’m not sure what the Pro enhancements are). Even so, the game begins to buckle and break down as you get further into the game and venture into larger pools of water and encounter bigger enemies. I found the game very jerky and clearly dropping frames as I attacked the humans around level 5+ and when chomping down on larger fish which were surrounded by more of its friends or other smaller fish. It’s not a deal-breaker, it’s not unplayable, but it needs more optimisation as one second it’s running smooth and the next it’s around 20fps.
On a similar note, the further you get, the more prone to crashing the game becomes. I had played it perfectly for about eight hours, then the final four felt like I was walking on eggshells. This is most likely in relation to the terrible frame rates, as I imagine the console simply crashes when the performance gets so bad. In total, it crashed about five or six times in those few hours, something which wouldn’t be too bad if the game actually saved itself when it says ‘saved’ on the screen…
That’s right, I actually played the game for 15 hours, but I lost three because it crashed and when I re-loaded the game, it hadn’t saved anything I’d done in almost three hours despite the ‘saving’ message popping up every few minutes. I’ve seen that others over on PSNProfiles that they also had a similar issue but their crash stopped progression, so I was lucky. I’m not sure why there are no manual saves, or why the auto ones didn’t work in this instance, but only one of the crashes reverted progress.
Also, the subtitles are far too small! They are acceptable if you’re sat a few feet away, but if you’re sat at a normal distance, they’re almost impossible to read. You can see the size in my images within the review, I’m playing on a 55 inch TV and I had to move closer to see them.
One final thing I thought could have done with a little more realism were the human bite-sized snacks. If you, a 25ft big, fat Maneater jumps onto a beach and starts nibbling at the sun-tanned delicacies lay upon the ground, you’d expect the other people to evacuate immediately. However, the humans within this game are akin to those people who stood and recorded the boat crashing into the dock, whilst they’re stood on the dock, almost getting crushed (HERE). They’ll scream and run around, but they’ll stay in the vicinity and always return within seconds, simply coming to terms with their death and offering themselves to you as a tasty meal.
There’s also little reaction as you swim around with your fin poking out of the water. You can swim right up to people swimming in the ocean and they won’t even notice you or care if you haven’t eaten anyone, even if you’re jumping in and out of the water and doing backflips. Now, I know the game isn’t serious and it’s clearly a humous take on the concept with satisfying munching mechanics and almost realistic visuals. However, I wished the civilians were just a little more frantic and concerned when my big boy lands on the beach and sits next to them.
Surprisingly, this silly AI isn’t used on the actual sea creatures, they react in a more realistic way. While you’re small, bigger creatures will come for you, knowing they can take you on. But, once you get bigger, they’ll start to avoid you and back off quickly if you’re clearly going to win. Well, some of them do, others will attack you whenever, regardless of your level. This meant I had to stop what I was doing, as a level 30 badass, and gobble down a level 10 shark just because he kept nibble at my butt!
Overall, as a casual game, it does the job as it’s fun to play, not too challenging, and very satisfying in terms of combat and eating. But, if you’re looking for a realistic Shark-attack simulator, you may be disappointed. Maneater is more like an arcade game than a simulation, GRiD rather than DiRT Rally.
Despite the performance and realism issues I had with the game, Maneater is an incredibly fun and satisfying slaughter-fest shaRkPG experience. You must eat to grow, grow to fight, fight to survive, and survive to rip your mother’s murderer to pieces! The visuals are incredible, the gore is glorious, the story was funny whilst holding everything together, and the range of armour and abilities helps create a unique experience in this Adult-orientated Feeding Frenzy-a-like. If you’re looking to inflict some mindless carnage and earn a shiny platinum without too much issue, check out Maneater today!
*Update* As usual, I just finished my review when a patch released on PSN (I really wish these were pushed to come out before launch). It seems the developers have been working hard on making some last-minute adjustments, promising performance improvements and balancing tweaks. Some aspects are now harder/longer, such as requiring more resources to upgrade your skills and having to be a higher level to grip onto the other creatures, and some are more helpful such as a new Focus Treat Ability.
- - Simple gameplay mechanics which are easy to learn, allowing you to wreck havoc and eat anything you see
- - Various armour pieces and abilities which alter your playstyle
- - Looks beautiful during the day and very atmospheric at night
- - Very silly and non-serious gameplay
- - Easy platinum
- - The subtitles are far too small to see on a TV
- - The game is very unstable towards the end, it's prone to crashing and dropping frames when the action gets very intense
- - Some people may not like the monotony and repetition of the gameplay (I didn't mind this)
- - The AI aren't the cleverest, everything just wants to die!