Maneater Review – With Sharks, Size Matters

The first open water Shark RPG of this generation of gaming is upon us. Should you jump in with both fins or just let this game head out to sea?

Read our review to find out

 

Not since the days of the PlayStation 2 have we had a video game that lets you play as a shark. We have to go back all the way to 2006 to find Jaws Unleashed (the Wii did have a version of the game in 2011). With the popularity of Shark Week every year, you would think someone would have made another Shark RPG since then, but you would be sadly mistaken. Finally, here in 2020, developer Tripwire Interactive has made what has to be the defining entry into the Shark RPG genre.

Who’s the bad guy? No, really, who’s the bad guy?

As the game opens up, you play as a full grown bull shark. A massive beast with sharp teeth and a voracious appetite. You are given a few tasks to teach you how to bite, eat, thrash, and tail whip and then you are tasked with eating some pesky humans. Eating humans and/or attacking their boats will raise your infamy level and bring out the shark hunters and the Coast Guard. These guys have guns, and as you progress through the game, they start throwing explosives at you. These depth charges  can actually be caught and whipped back at them if you are talented enough.

Once you defeat several of these hunter boats, the big bad Scaly Pete comes after you and takes you down. This is inevitable at this point the game, and it turns out our big shark is actually with child. Pete slices her open, revealing the baby shark as he grabs the infant by the tail. The baby shark might be a small, but its teeth are very effective as it chomps down on Pete’s left hand, and amputates it nicely at the wrist. Our little baby jumps into the water, and we become the baby shark, ready to eat, grow, evolve, and hopefully survive everything this large open water RPG can splash at us.

Bounty Hunters and Upgrades

Scaly Pete might be your biggest enemy, but eat enough humans and sink enough boats and your Infamy rank will grow, and there will be quite a few more people coming after you. As you increase in Infamy rank, there are 10 major hunters to go along with hundreds of Coast Guard divers, boat drivers, and armed seamen looking to take you out. Each of these major hunters possess upgrades that can be yours if you can defeat them. Some are body upgrades while others possess Organ Evolution perks that can be equipped that can increase the amount of items you gather, or might make you stronger, faster, or be able to take more damage. There are eleven Organ Evolutions and up to three can be equipped while visiting one of your home caves, or Grottos.

Huge Open Water Game Map

As a baby shark, you start out in a murky swamp called Fawtick Bayou, where pesky fish can take you out and alligators have to be avoided. The game uses a 30 level experience system where everything you do can earn you some XP, but as a level 1 baby shark, you really need to be careful where you swim. The game is split up into 8 different major areas, each with their own collectibles and points of interest, and each with increasingly tougher critters to look out for. Where you have alligators and barracudas in the first area, the second area introduces Mako Sharks as well as having barracudas. You’ll eventually run into Great White Sharks, Sperm Whales, and even Orca Whales.

Apex Predators

Each area also has a unique Apex Predator only found in that region. These folks are the meanest critters in the game, and you are advised to not try to take one down until you have had a chance to grow up a bit. For Fawtick Bayou, you’ll have to hunt down a handful of gators before Rosie makes her appearance, and she is one mean female. Luckily for us, you don’t have to take her down in order to proceed to the next area. Once you have earned enough XP to grow to the Teen stage, you can move on to Dead Horse Lake via a sewer grate you’ll have to bash through. Once you grow a bit more, you can come back to the bayou to take down Rosy, but she’s still a tough gator. Once you make it to the Gulf, the Predators are even tougher, so you may want to grow up fully before taking them on.

Each area has its own home base, called a Grotto you can unlock, where you can fast travel too, as long as you aren’t being hunted. Once in a Grotto, you can evolve your shark into a bigger badder version of yourself with the items you’ve unlocked by taking down the bounty hunters and Apex Predators.  Each item you earn or unlock can be upgraded from tier 1 to tier 5. These upgrades require materials like minerals, meat, or predator DNA which can be acquired by eating different things. Using your built in sonar (which should be your very first upgrade to tier 5) you can see what you will get from consuming the different critters. Humans are a prime source of that predator DNA, and eating them will bring out even more of them, albeit armed and hunting you.

Tricky Water Combat

Maneater being a game played almost entirely underwater, combat can be very tricky. You’ll have to learn to think differently than say a typical shooter or fighting game due to the fact that your enemy can come at you from any direction. When there’s a threat present, an arrow will show in which direction they are in, and on the PS4 you can click R3 to snap your view to them. When fighting any of the tougher critters, you’ll be clicking R3 just as much as you are hitting R2 to attack. Evolving your different body parts will also unlock special attack skills, which can come in handy when fighting these Apex predators and when taking down hunter boats.

Battling Boats

Boat combat can require a slightly different tactic than just biting and thrashing. Jumping up out of the water and targeting those hunters still on the boat makes for a cool animation as you grab them, kicking and screaming, and proceed to consume them violently. Some of the boats can be left floating with nothing remaining on the top of it but carnage. What was once neat and cool fishing boat is now just a shell of its former self, covered in blood. We are rooting for the shark here, so I guess it’s OK to enjoy that?As you get a higher Infamy rank, these fellas on the boats will start throwing explosives at you, and there’s a bounty hunter that tries to take you out with an explosive oxygen tank. You can actually catch these items in your mouth and send them right back at them. ♫Return to sender. Address Unknown.♫

Using the bony body evolution is key to taking these boats out quickly and efficiently, and always remember that you can dive down deep to find health in the form of other fish. There’s nothing like a tasty turtle to replenish your health in the middle of a fight. This same tactic can also be used when fighting Apex predators. Sometimes, it may be best to just hightail it out of there and live to fight another day.

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Awesome Graphics, Realistic Sound, and a Few Technical Issues

Developer Tripwire Interactive has created an incredible world full of living, breathing plants and animals, with a focus on detail that gives Maneater and unbelievable sense of realism in an underwater environment. The fish they’ve created look real, the underwater sounds are spot on, and the movements of the fish mimic real life. Playing on a PS4 Pro may have its advantages when it comes to graphics, but I can say the game looks incredible even on an older model. The game wasn’t without its flaws, though, and some of these problems have been addressed in a pre-launch patch. We have been playing for quite some time and have 17+ hours in prior to that patch, and a few hours in postpatch. When there’s a lot going on, for example in a boat battle with several boats, a bunch of swimmers, and other fish, the game can get a little choppy and drop frames from time to time.

You can expect the story to take you roughly 14 hours or so to complete, and that’s mainly because you’ll need to grow big and strong to take down some of the Apex predators and to be able to take down Scaly Pete. 100% completion of the game should take closer to 18 hours as there are quite a few cool things to find. Landmarks, one of our favorite items to search out, takes a deep dive into modern day pop culture with references to things like The Walking Dead, Demolition Man, and a sea sponge. Prepare to be entertained.

Tripwire Interactive has taken the open world RPG concept to a whole new level. Underwater.

Maneater isn’t an RPG, it’s the defining entry into a new genre: ShaRkPG.

Well done Tripwire. Well done.

Maneater has an MSRP of $39.99 / €39.99 / £34.99

9


Maneater review code provided by publisher and reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read What our review scores really mean.