Maneater Review (PlayStation 4)

  • Genre: Action, Role-Playing
  • Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation, PC, confirmed future Nintendo Switch release
  • Developer | Publisher: Tripwire Interactive, Blindside Interactive | Tripwire Interactive, Deep Silver
  • Age Rating: PEGI 18 | ESRB Mature
  • Price: UK £35.00 | US $39.99
  • Release Date: 22nd May 2020

No review code was provided, and all opinions contained below are my own.

Introduction

Let me begin by saying that anyone who knows me knows that I do not like sharks. Quite frankly, I find sharks to be pretty scary. However, when I heard about this game and the fact that you get to play as one of the few things that truly scares me, I was intrigued. That is, until I realised that you have to fight other sharks.

Story/Characters

The premise of Maneater is an simple one; eat, grow and evolve. The game is set up and presented to the player as a reality TV show, complete with an admittedly very funny narrator who periodically cuts in with sarcastic comments, voiced by Chris Parnell (Rick and Morty). My favourite quip was definitely “the Hammerhead’s wide range of vision and depth perception are a trade-off for looking like an unholy evolutionary terror”.

The show follows Pierre “Scaly Pete” LeBlanc and his son Kyle as they hunt for the shark that killed Scaly Pete’s father. They come across an adult Bull Shark in the middle of a killing spree on a beach, which acts as the tutorial. The adult shark is captured and killed, her pup cut from her. Scaly Pete cuts the shark pup with a knife as to identify her when he sees her again and tosses her into the Bayou. The shark grows and evolves over time, eating humans, mammals, fish and Apex predators until she’s ready for revenge.

Gameplay

As you progress through the game, your size grows based on how much you eat. Everything you can eat gives you proteins, minerals, fats and mutagens. These are used as a currency to upgrade evolutions you acquire by defeating shark hunters, bounty hunters and killing Apexes, which come in handy on harder enemies later in the game.
The world of Maneater is a reactive one. If you sink boats and eat humans, you gain notoriety. Once your notoriety is high enough, shark hunters will come out in droves, shooting, harpooning and dynamiting. Once enough shark hunters are killed, a Bounty Hunter be dispatched to hunt it down. All bounty hunters have a name and preferred method of hunting. These can be completed to gain abilities and gain XP, but are not essential to the story.

The main meat of the game is completing quests you’d expect of an RPG before you can move on to the Apex. There is population control (kill x amount of prey), revenge (kill x amount of humans) and a key hunt (kill the mini-boss). The Apex predators are all terrifying in their own ways and very aggressive, ranging from a barracuda to a great white shark to a sperm whale. The apexes are always a higher level and very tank-like, with lots of health and heavy ram and grab attacks.

Combat in Maneater is fast-paced with small time windows to attack and dodge. The game is forgiving, however, as the shark can eat to regain health if a fight is not going well. Dodging and tail-whipping shark hunters is exceptionally fun and definitely my favourite part of the game; watching the shark barrel roll across the screen is incredibly amusing.
The evolutions help with these; you have bio-electric evolutions to shock enemies, bone evolutions to ram and bite enemies and shadow evolutions (pictured below) to poison enemies. All evolutions have a set bonus but can be mixed and matched with other evolution sets.

Graphics, Sound, and Performance

The environment looks great, whether you’re in the murky bayou or the crystal blue gulf. This is both engaging and terrifying, especially when you transition, rather abruptly, from the claustrophobic and shallow swamp to the open deep blue sea. Swimming over a drop-off is always daunting, with a vast expanse of open water above and below you. Effort has also been put into Port Clovis itself, with a skyline that comes alive at night.

This game was made to be played with headphones or surround sound. You can hear the sound of the water churning around you and passing your ears as you swim and all predators and prey have their own unique “voice”. While this is incredibly useful for identifying an enemy before you see it, a great white growling at me is not something I need in my life.

The voice acting in the game is more hit or miss. While Scaly Pete conveys a true hatred for the shark and the narrator is witty and unbelievably optimistic, the shark hunters are rather monotonous and repeat the same dozen or so lines. This is not by any means a deal breaker, but they can get boring to listen to if you’re raising your infamy for XP.
The game handles well, with the shark feeling like it has weight, rather than just gliding across the screen. The sensitivity and inversion can be adjusted if the default settings don’t work for you. Animations when you’re dodging, eating and breaching look fluid and are diverse enough that the combat does not get boring. You can even head onto the shore and hop around on the beach to get to humans with an oxygen meter.

The game is not without its visual drawbacks either. Before I go into them I feel the need to point out that I played Maneater on an original PlayStation 4, so the game may fare better on the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One S.

While open water is immersive and slightly terrifying, it pulls you out of the experience when you look into the distance. All marine life past a certain distance stutter across the screen with no animations, just the outline of the object.
Combat, can be made frustrating with frame rate drops when there is too much on the screen. This can happen when submerged, but mostly happens when taking on shark hunters closer to the surface. To dodge all incoming attacks, you have to dodge as a reticule trained on you flashes white for a split second. This has lead to me dying more than once when a drop in frame rate has caused me to miss the dodge window.

Difficulty

Maneater has no difficulty options, how you fair depends on how much you’ve evolved and how close your level is to the enemies around you. The Apexes were always a higher level than me (one being 10 levels higher). Much like the shark hunters, timing is everything. Some enemies can grab you. If they do this when you are low on health, you’re as good as dead, so some take more than one attempt. If you fail an Apex or bounty hunter encounter, the game restarts you in the grotto so you can grind more before taking the enemy on again if you wish. The grotto is the only place on the map where the shark is truly safe, with no risk of predators stumbling upon her.

Conclusion

While Maneater has it’s drawbacks, the visuals and sound culminate into a beautiful, immersive and sometimes eerie experience and the issues I have with the game are drops in the ocean (pun intended). The game is self-aware and knows exactly what it is; a light-hearted bit of fun. The reality show presentation conveys the story, but also stops the game from taking itself too seriously, even at the most visceral and emotional points.

Verdict
Minus some visual and audio blemishes, Maneater is jawsome fun. A must play for open-world and RPG fans.
8/10

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