Review – Maneater

I didn’t get the chance to check Maneater out at E3 2019. Instead, my colleague Jordan had the honors and he proceeded to spend the rest of 2019, as well as the first five months of 2020, saying that Maneater was basically the most “Leo game” he had seen in a long time. A game all about trashy humor, ultra gratuitous violence, and cathartic fun. It took almost an entire year for Tripwire to finally release Maneater to the masses, but it was certainly worth the wait.

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I wish they had jumping sharks at Sea World.

Maneater sure knows how to set up its world and characters. Yes, even the characters, including the titular shark. You start off by playing as a fully grown shark terrorizing a beach resort, murdering tons of people in one of the most cathartic gaming experiences I’ve had so far this year. The combination of Jaws-inspired tunes, the screams of your victims, and a suave Chris Parnell (Jerry from Rick & Morty, Cyril from Archer) narrating everything in a documentary-esque manner, is just absolutely perfect. But here’s the catch, this is not the actual protagonist of the game. Shortly afterwards, said shark will be caught by a fisherman and torn open. You then proceed to play as the infant daughter of that shark, in a beautiful revenge tale full of blood, sweat, and the tears of your victims.

This is when Maneater truly begins. You’re a baby shark that just lost its mother, trapped in the middle of the Louisiana bayou. Your goal is to eat everything in sight in order to gain nutrients and level up. You will also need to avoid being eaten by bigger predators like alligators, as well as having to deal with fishermen and bounty hunters. The more people and animals you kill, the faster you’ll grow, and the more areas you will unlock in order to kill even more people. It’s a sadistic gameplay loop that absolutely works.

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A healthy, gluten-free diet.

Maneater‘s progression system works perfectly. Since all of your stats are tied to the consumption of nutrients, and nutrients are acquired by eating fish and other creatures, the game makes the process of “grinding” an absolute blast. You are constantly killing and eating everything in sight. Whenever there’s an actually dangerous enemy to fight against, you have other moves, such as a powerful tail whip and a dodge. Be it a big fat alligator or a group of hicks piloting a boat, it’s always fun to pick a fight and kill everyone. There are also some special bounty hunters that, when killed, provide your shark with special mutagens, such as an electric bite. Darwin would have loved this game.

Controlling the titular shark is a hassle-free experience. The control scheme looks confusing at first, but the game does a great job at teaching you the basics in its introductory level. Besides the aforementioned simple, yet very effective combat mechanics, your shark can jump out of water like a blood-thirsty dolphin and even explore dry land for very brief periods of time, in a funny twist on how most games deal with your character’s oxygen meter whenever diving in a body of water. The camera works fine enough, and even though you can’t properly lock on an enemy, the game still features a prompt to re-center your line of sight towards a foe in case you swim past it.

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It might be a game set underwater, but every now and then it still manages to provide players with some beautiful environments.

Being an open world game, it’s easy to expect for Maneater to feature tons of repetitive sidequests throughout its map. While this is the case, a good chunk of them revolve around killing lots of small enemies in a short period of time or getting rid of a larger, more difficult mini-boss, so that actually makes the whole process of tackling sidequests an entertaining task. There are a few bland quests, though, most of them being comprised of locating secret landmarks or collecting license plates which are almost always located on land, not underwater. Why would a shark want to collect license plates, however, is beyond me.

One thing that impressed me in Maneater is its optimization. This is an open world game that runs extremely well on less powerful PC hardware, to the point that it can be properly played on integrated video cards. It’s not exactly the best-looking game I have ever seen, with a lot of the lesser enemies and humans being comprised of low-quality polygons, as well as tons of repetitive overworld assets, but it excels with its lighting effects, a very well-animated sharktagonist, and an extremely stable performance. I didn’t see a single glitch throughout my entire playthrough, with the game always running on an ever-stable 60 frames a second.

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A bloody, albeit borderline zen experience.

Maneater is a game made by people who knew the limitations imposed by their budget, the current gen of consoles, and the overall nature of open world games. They managed to craft an incredibly polished murderfest experience that makes you want to kill everything in sight due to how fun its gameplay is. The sole act of eating smaller fish in order to grind for experience is a lot more entertaining than it ever had the right to. This is a game I was sure I was going to like ever since its first reveal, but I would have never imagined I’d love it as much as I do.

 

Graphics: 7.0

Far from being the prettiest game from this entire generation, yet it still features a decently animated shark character, as well as some surprisingly good lighting effects. The framerate is also rock-solid, even on less powerful PC hardware.

Gameplay: 9.0

Controlling the shark is a hassle-free experience, despite the initially confusing control scheme. The combat mechanics are very simple, yet effective.

Sound: 10

The sound department is basically comprised of tense tunes meant to resemble the Jaws soundtrack, people screaming for their lives, and Chris Parnell narrating everything as if he was a David Attenborough wannabe. Simply put, it’s perfect.

Fun Factor: 9.5

It might have one or two boring sidequests, but Maneater‘s dark sense of humor, fantastic sound design, good controls, and downright addictive gameplay loop more than make up for these small setbacks.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Maneater is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Maneater was provided by the publisher.

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