If Maneater was a movie, it would be the shark version of Jaws. this game glorifies sharks in the best way possible, and brings the charm of 90s open world RPGs to the forefront without trying to disguise any of the dated mechanics. In fact, the game’s setting and premise manages to make them relevant and enjoyable again, even against such blockbusters as Horizon: Zero Dawn or Assassin’s Creed.
Hold your breath
At least 75 percent of Maneater takes place underwater. Of course this is to be expected, since the game stars a shark. That doesn’t make the environment gloomy or boring at all though. In fact, the developers have gone to great length to build a world with coherent and connected water sources. Each one is instantly recognisable and distinct from the other due to key landmarks. Species of fish in the area and even just the number of humans that are present also make each location distinct.
After letting you lose with an adult shark, the game quickly drops you into a beginner’s area as little more than a pup. From here you need to eat and fight your way through the local wildlife in order to level up and grow through each stage of the shark’s lifespan. Ultimately you’re aiming to become the fabled Mega, a giant shark that can take down your arch nemesis. An evil shark hunter that brutally murdered your mother.
I can’t really stress enough how beautiful the game’s underwater environments are. This is a world that has been built to host all manner of human waste, and yet it is stunning in its own way. Nets tangle together to form trees, a nuclear power plant blows out hot radiation with an eerie blue light, and the occasional islands of trash all make for a familiar yet alien world that you can’t help but want to explore.
Complete it all
Just like every GTA clone on the PlayStation 2, Maneater has a lot to keep you busy while you’re not completing one of the story missions, which are few and far between. As you progress through each of the game’s locations you’ll unlock more side missions, increasing the variety among them, but ultimately this is a game about making your own fun.
That isn’t to say that Maneater is boring. Far from it. You can choose to actively terrorise humans at any point, hunt down a school of local mutated Groupers, or take down the apex predator. Unfortunately this is all too often an Alligator, and they suck to fight. The game’s fish on fish fights shine when you’re battling something a bit smaller, like a Barracuda.
If all that killing sounds like it’ll get dull, don’t worry. There are a host of collectibles to find. From boxes full of nutrients that will help you fine tune your shark’s abilities, to hilarious points of interest, and even license plates, there’s easily enough here to keep you busy for a good 10-12 hours. I’ll add that this is a game that anyone could get every achievement or trophy in, making it one platinum that you might want to chase for your own collection.
Evolve or die
While it is possible to go through Maneater without grabbing any of the evolutions, you’d be remiss to dodge them. Evolutions are gained from taking down apex predators, as well as the boss shark hunters. As you kill more humans you’ll raise your threat level. Once it reaches the maximum level, a group of hunters will come looking for you. Kill enough of them, and the current boss will emerge and try to take you down.
Taking this shark hunter down will award you a specific evolution. You can equip these evolutions and upgrade them with resources that are collected from eating various fish and people in all areas. You can upgrade each evolution through five tiers, and end up as a viciously mutated killing machine that no one will ever want to mess with.
Unfortunately there isn’t much variety in these evolutions, making them feel rather limited. If you put enough time into getting them all, then you might find yourself getting bored of the game faster than you would if you paced them out. Still, with each new threat level the shark hunters become more dangerous, moving in bigger groups and on larger vehicles. This at least does keep the game interesting.
It’s also possible to flop around on the surface, though you’ll begin to suffocate if you don’t get back in the water fast. This can make for some pretty funny moments as you flop and bite around after a crowd of people.
It also works with other sharks in the game. I saw a Mako leap out of the water, onto someone’s driveway, and proceed to suffocate because it couldn’t get back to kill me in time. Just like the RPGS it’s inspired by, the game is open to some truly wacky moments, and they’re amazing.
The gameplay in Maneater leaves something to be desired. Overall it’s brilliant. Swimming around as a shark feels great, and for the most part it’s intuitive to control and master. However, there were times when the game’s targeting system didn’t seem to want to work, and the sprint functionality even stopped working altogether a few times.
A game like this lives or dies on how it plays, because everything else boils down to collecting items and killing enemies. As I said, for the most part it is fine, but it did become frustrating to work with at certain points.
One of my biggest problems with the game however, is the alligators. These enemies are the worst, and early in the game they will rip you apart. The game doesn’t tell you that you should level up before you fight them. Instead it just leaves you with a mission to kill one that’s five levels higher than you. After you reach about level 10, you can safely take on an alligator without knowing that you’ll die straight away.
In my opinion, alligators should have been introduced later in the game, because they are a massive barrier to entry. Although, there are areas in each location that you can revisit once you grow to a new stage of shark, such as an adult, so I understand why these enemies exist. I think that a game made in 2020 should be able to introduce more powerful enemies as the player’s character grows in strength though, and this simply didn’t sit right with me.
Never fully satisfied
While I love almost everything about Maneater, it’s not without its flaws. On a technical level I did experience a number of framerate issues. These usually only popped up when moving in or out of the game’s safe zones. They also occurred when there were about twenty shark hunters trying to track me down. The game also seems to suffer from a fair bit of delay when using the in-game menu. I couldn’t work out what was causing this though.
The game has a great soundtrack, but the noises used for eating fish, humans, and getting hurt, get old very quickly. This was an issue in open world RPGs ten years ago, and it’s still an issue today. There simply isn’t enough variance in those sounds to keep them fresh after 10 hours, and it really starts to grind on you at that point.
Overall I’d say that Maneater is a bit of a mess when you look too closely at it. As a whole package though, it’s a fine game. It definitely has the same issues that games it’s inspired by suffered from, but that’s part of its charm. In a way this was like going back to being in my bedroom with my PlayStation 2 and smashing out an open world RPG in a single day.
It’s frantic fun and it will get boring once you’ve finished the main quest. However, there’s enough here to keep you busy for a decent amount of time. It might be worth waiting until it’s on sale before you buy it though, because it’s definitely overpriced brand new.
A code was provided by the publisher for this second opinion review.