Maneater Review: Sharky Soul Food
Maneater is an open-world action RPG unlike any other.
You take control of a bull shark from a humble pup right up to mighty megafauna across various fictional Gulf Coast towns that are teeming with ocean life for you to consume.
From harmless seals, turtles, and catfish to deadly hammerheads, orcas, and sperm whales, there are plenty of creatures for you to devour, though the bipedal species are the most exciting prey.
Believe it or not, there is an actual storyline to Maneater, too; you aren’t just massacring wildlife and humans without rhyme or reason (though there is a lot of eating involved.)
Instead, Maneater takes a reality TV show approach to its action, following you and a shark hunter named Scaly Pete, who, of course, has made you his nemesis, which may or may not have something to do with you eating his hand.
The commentary from Chris Parnell (of SNL and 30 Rock fame) is a particularly pleasant surprise, and while I couldn’t quite shake the thought that it was Jerry from Rick and Morty telling me about shark attacks and marine biology, his aptly sarcastic delivery really makes Maneater’s humor shine.
Maneater Review: Sharky Soul Food
Maneater doesn’t take itself too seriously, and there are pop culture references and dry comedy spread throughout, which is perfect for the “comfort food” action gameplay of a shark terrorizing coastal towns.
However, combat is much deeper than you might expect. On top of the standard "press RT to bite" attack, you have a dodge that leaves rival predators open to counter attacks. The shining jewel of Maneater's combat is the Tailwhip ability, though.
By holding prey in your mouth, you enter a brief window of time dilation to aim before flicking your prey at incredible speed towards a target using your mighty tail.
Words don't do justice to how good this feels; you have to try it for yourself. Leaping from the depths with a turtle in your mouth, slowing down time, and torpedoing the tiny reptile at an unsuspecting human is the same brand of catharsis as tossing God of War's axe.
Maneater also does a good job of keeping its gameplay interesting by continually introducing you to new locales with different predators and new prey to snack on.
From the endless depths of the ocean to the dingy bayou, every location is varied and visually stunning.
Each location also has a more powerful Apex Predator lurking in its depths that you can lure out by dwindling its food supply, which is a clever mechanic that adds some believable flavor to a game about a rampaging killer shark.
To top things off, Maneater features simple but engaging RPG mechanics with unlockable evolutions that can be swapped out and upgraded. These add an extra layer of customization to everything, especially with the bone and bio-electric sets, which completely change the look and playstyle of your shark.
Your evolutions are fed by the nutrients that you acquire whenever you eat anything in Maneater, which gives everything you do a feeling of purpose.
Whether you're focusing on missions, aimlessly chomping wildlife, or hunting for collectibles, everything gives your nutrients to power up your shark.
I will say, though, that the gameplay started to feel a bit repetitive by the time I was done with Maneater — after all, you are a shark, eating and killing is all you really know.
There are numerous collectibles to elongate the game's playtime if you’re a collectionist, but you can power through the main storyline in about 6 to 10 hours.
Maneater Review — The Bottom Line
- Deep combat and evolution systems make Maneater surprisingly fun
- Exploring the variety of gorgeous underwater environments is a delight
- Dry humor and commentary from Chris Parnell is the perfect accompaniment
- A little short on content for its price, especially on PC without any achievements to shoot for
While I experienced a few minor bugs and glitches in my playthrough, they weren't severe enough to worry about. Overall, the experience was clean.
I would, though, recommend purchasing Maneater on console if you’re interested, rather than PC. The controls are obviously built for a controller, and the absence of achievements on the Epic Game Store leaves the content feeling a little thin.
In a time of global crisis, however, a game where you can turn your brain off and eat anything and everything in sight is just the kind of detachment we need. Even if it wasn’t on your radar at all, Maneater is a title that will gobble you up for a few hours of blissful escapism.
[Note: A copy of Maneater was provided by Tripwire Interactive for the purpose of this review.]