From Tripwire Interactive comes a new shark-based action RPG that is utterly ridiculous but surprisingly enjoyable at the same time.
Maneater has what is perhaps one of the most bizarre and unique premises that I've encountered in a video game for quite some time. You play as a baby bull shark who is ripped from her mother at birth by an obsessed shark hunter who marks her so he can find her later and then tosses her into the wild. As this bull shark, you swim through the ocean and eat everything you can. As you get bigger, you take on the alpha predators in the area, battle shark hunters, and take your revenge on humanity for polluting the ocean and hunting your species. The whole thing is utterly absurd, repetitive, and glitchy but also fun in short bursts.
The thing that is perhaps the most shocking about Maneater is just how heartfelt the story is. It's not exactly on par with Obsidian's stories, for example, but you do find yourself more invested in this shark's journey for revenge than you would have ever thought. The majority of the water that you swim through is disgusting and overly polluted with everything from cars to nuclear reactors mucking it up which gives you the feeling that you are nature's wrath against humanity for their atrocities.
Even Maneater's main antagonist is loaded with subtle depth that you wouldn't otherwise expect in a budget title like this. Meanwhile, a narrator explains everything that is going on while cracking dad jokes at every given opportunity that are as funny as they are cringeworthy. It's just a shame that the gameplay doesn't quite match the effort put into the plot.
To be clear, the gameplay isn't bad; it's just barebones. For a game that takes place entirely underwater, it controls smoothly. Sometimes, things get a bit janky when an intense fight happens and there is an annoying frame rate drop when too many things are moving but for the most part, navigating through the waters of this world is smooth and elegant. The action of hunting down and chomping on sea creatures as well as humans is always satisfying and provides an immediate catharsis for someone looking for that rush. The problem is that the gameplay doesn't give you anything interesting to do as a shark beyond eating said things.
Once you reach the third area, you've more or less experienced everything that Maneater has to offer as the vast majority of it consists of a handful of repetitive tasks with the only thing that changes being what you eat. You have to eat a certain number of local animals, clear a few areas full of humans, take on the local apex predator, and acquire collectibles. You then have to fight a local hunter before seeing a cutscene with the antagonist where you learn a bit more about him. Rinse and repeat.
It does have to be said that the actual process of completing these actions is enjoyable. Like many other repetitive open-world games, it eventually sucks you in and puts you into something of a hypnotic state with its tasks. It's not breaking any boundaries or anything but once you find yourself diving into Maneater's repetitious loop; you're going to have a hard time setting the controller down. The tasks themselves may not be particularly memorable but they keep you going and they're just compelling enough to ensure that you're never bored with it. It's just a shame that it doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from the crowd.
Ultimately, Maneater is a passable distraction. It features a decent bit of fun with a surprisingly heartfelt plot but that's about it. With long gaps between major releases in this part of the year, Maneater will provide some entertainment for those looking to fill the void.
- + Surprisingly heartfelt story
- + Absurd and fun gameplay
- + Gameplay loop is impressively addictive
- - Missions are mostly repetitive with very few stand-out moments
- - Novelty wears off rather quickly
- - Combat is fairly janky