Platform: PS4, PC(Epic Games)
Price: $39,99 USD
Release Date: May 22th, 2020
Maneater was show on E3 2019 and gained quite a bit of attention at the time. It looked very interesting at the time and I really wanted to try out this “ShaRkPG“.
I had only seen the trailer so I didn’t know quite what to expect. Part of me was expecting a silly sandbox game in the Goat Simulator -style, but it turned out to be much more than that. I would describe Maneater as an open world collect-a-ton exploration game mixed with evolution mechanics. It reminded me of E.V.O Search of Eden, which was one of my favorite games on the SNES. Except with less evolution options and more brutal killing.
Describing a good game by comparing it to other games leaves me with a bad taste so here’s an in-depth analysis of Maneater.
The opening act of the game has you play as an adult Bull Shark, swimming and devouring beach-goers. This first act plays like a short hands-on tutorial on the basic mechanics. This short section ends when you’re captured by a Shark hunting fisherman.
He rips off a shark pup from inside the mama shark and cuts it. Explains that he does it so he will recognize it when he sees it again. At that point the shark pup eats off his arm and jumps into the water. From that point onward and until the end of the game, you play as the shark pup.
After completing each segment of the map you will get a cutscene showing what happened to the fisherman that killed mama shark. Those cutscenes are shown in a Discovery Channel documentary style, interviewing the old sailor and his son. He talks about his past, how his dad was a fisherman, and about his son not being fit for following the family tradition of hunting sharks.
The documentary style narrative isn’t limited to cutscenes. During gameplay the narrator will describe your actions as if it were a wildlife documentary show. The lighthearted and irreverent comments made by the narrator complement the cartoony style and overall atmosphere of the game.
Movement is quite a straight forward deal. You move with the left thumbstick and look around with the right thumbstick. Using the bumpers and triggers you can bite, lunge and evade. Certain targets are passive and will not fight, while others will bite back.
Your body size will increase as you gain levels, playing a large part in enhancing your abilities. You can only capture with your jaws an enemy of the same size or smaller, and it also plays a part in things like ramming enemies with your body.
When enemies are preparing to attack, they will shine brightly. If you bite into them at this moment, you will capture them with your jaws. You can then shake your head left and right to chew them. You do this by moving your right thumbstick to the sides, which feels like a very organic and immersive way mixing gameplay and combat.
Other than natural growth from gaining levels, you can also evolve specific parts of your body by spending the nutrients gained from your nonstop eating. Those evolutions come in the shape of organs that add new functions to you shark, or bodyparts that increase your existing abilities and change your physical appearance.
I was quite disappointed in the performance of the game on the PS4. It does play fine at first but, as you move onto more complex environments, the framerate dips start becoming quite jarring. This is very noticeable when you kill humans and trigger a shark hunting event, with hunters spawning nearby and immediately sending the framerate down. Not exactly unplayable but enough for me to get upset at the lack of optimization.
Maneater is quite silent for the most part. Sharks are silent killers after all. The environmental sounds will aid you by giving clues to what is happening nearby. Certain creatures such as Orcas, Seals, and Whales can be heard from quite far away. The best parts come from when you attack humans though.
When attacking a group of humans you can hear the bone crunching, flesh tearing, the screams of pain and horror, and the panicked sound of people drowning. Knifing the the surface near boats or beaches will immediately make people scream LOOK SHARK. Feeling like a badass predator is the ultimate goal of the game and they achieved that feat quite well.
The game looks great for its size and scope. The humans are cartoony but sealife and the environments look quite real. Not exactly photorealistic but good enough.
What really surprised me was how well crafted the underwater environments were. Not just wide and deep but also incredibly detailed and organic. The first few segments of the game take part in the shallow waters inside the city. These areas are quite destitute and the sea reflect this by how absolutely filthy everything is. There is so much garbage in the water that it’s quite disturbing. Not just floating but also resting on the bottom.
The richer areas of the city are much cleaner and you actually feel better swimming in them. And finally, the open sea waters are terrifyingly deep but still full of detail. The sea bottom is full of plants, stone formations, and underwater piping. It was very clear that a great amount of time and effort went into handcrafting these areas.
One of the cooler things I noticed was how different colors were used to aid navigation inside interior areas. Throughout the game you will find natural caves and man-made tunnels with loot and objectives inside them. They can get quite complex with rooms having as many as 4 exits in them. To help you not get lost, different light patterns and colors are used to help you find your way around.
Inside natural caves the dominant color of the environment is blue. However, there are shiny yellow plants near the entrances and exits of each room, which help you not get lost. It might seem silly to mention such a small thing on a review but I think it’s important to point out how well polished and play-tested a game is, and these little visual cues are a significant part of it.
It took me 13 hours to complete the game and another 50 minutes to hunt down the remaining trophies after that. Maneater is a rather short game and that has sparked some negative comments from players. Personally I had fun with it and I didn’t find myself wishing it had been longer. On the contrary, I feel like I would have gotten bored had the game extended too much beyond its current size. Tripwire seems to be working on DLC expansions for Maneater, which I will gladly play. Certain things in the game do seem to suggest that it was cut down, specially how your maximum level is 30 and there are Lv45 enemies in the map.
I did not need a guide, I simply moved around the water and used the sonar to find stuff. Very straight forward, I liked that. Very little backtracking, too.
While I had fun with the game and would recommend it to others, there are a handful of issues. Other than the less-than-stellar performance on the PS4, I found the variety of evolutions to be lacking. Simply by eating what was in front of me and clearing areas before moving on I had more nutrients than I knew what to do with them. There are only three sets of parts to choose from, not nearly enough customization.
Regarding the game’s length, although I previously wrote that I don’t take issue with it, I do think that the game’s price should have been lower. $40 is too much for a game that isn’t even 15 hours long.
Maneater surprised me positively on many parts, made me laugh and, most importantly, I had tons of fun playing it. Bouncing on land, jumping over bridges, chomping humans and exploring the sea floor was quite a novel experience. It’s not a perfect game and it does seem to have had content cut from final release, but it does look and play polished enough that it does not upset me. Short and sweet, it has been one of my favorite western games this generation.