Experience the ultimate power fantasy as the apex predator of the seas – a giant Shark! Terrorize the coastal waterways. Tear swimmers and divers limb from limb, give the humans a reason to fear you!
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Reviewed on: PS4 (Pro unit)
Also available for: Xbox One, PC
Cast: Chris Parnell
Developer: Tripwire Interactive & Blindside Interactive
Game Director: Bill Munk
Production Director: Bryan West
Design Director: David Hensley
Technical Director: Jon Carr
Art Director: Sean Mcbride
Audio Director: Mark Muraski
If you’ve seen the classic sci-fi film Sharknado you’ll remember a scene early in the film where a character gets attacked by a flying shark and gets their limbs ripped off. This is followed by a hammerhead shark dropping on the body for good measure. That level of silliness is what you can expect from Maneater, the ‘shaRkPG’ from developers Blindside Interactive and Tripwire Interactive.
Much like the classic shark film from the 80s, Jaws: The Revenge, you take control of a young female bull shark in search of vengeance against the hunter who killed your mother and sliced your face for good measure. This evil hunter is named Scaly Pete and unfortunately for him, you take his hand off as you escape into the open water of the swamps. You have the taste for Pete’s blood now and once you gather your strength, grow and take down a few hundred humans on the way you’ll be wanting a rematch against Scaly Pete and his boat that took down your mother.
What follows is probably not the type of game you’d think Maneater would be. Yes, there is terrorising of beaches and whatnot, but Maneater is one of the most straight forward collectathons I’ve played since Crackdown 3.
As this baby shark (let’s go hunt, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo) you’ll take on small fish at first while dodging scary crocodiles as you feed upon smaller fish to grow big and strong. Eventually, you’ll evolve into a teen and later in the game an adult, elder and eventually megalodon.
Each region in Maneater has the same variations of tasks. Kill X amount of a fish type in a particular area, kill a high-level predator, kill X amount of humans in an area. It’s simple stuff and it does get repetitive. But there’s only a handful of these in each area and the majority of your time playing the game will be spent just collecting the three types of collectables available in the game. Which yes, is also repetitive, however, it tickled that collectathon itch for me and this was the side of the game I enjoyed the most.
There are three types of collectables to find in each region and they’re straight forward to find thanks to the sonar pulse you have from the beginning of the game. Landmarks are small or large locations often with little pop culture references, chests contain resources to upgrade your shark and license plates are the hardest to collect as some require you to return as a bigger shark and perform a slight jumping puzzle.
Collecting all these things gives you exp and resources so it’s the fastest way to level up. I was overpowered quickly as I began clearing the first region even when I could move the story forward and I continued that trend through to the finish of the game. It took me eight hours to complete the campaign with a total completion time of 71%. You could obviously beat it faster, but as I said, clearing the regions is where I was having the most fun.
I would have 100% the game shortly after another couple hours of play but unfortunately, my final location glitched. This might not be a big issue in some other games but since this is a collectathon at heart it’s going to be an issue if not fixed shortly.
Combat in Maneater isn’t as exciting as it attempts to be. Through a mix of upgrades unlocked through leveling up and defeating hunters, you’ll unlock skills you can equip to your shark with an assortment of abilities. This is the RPG in shaRkPG. By the end of the game, you’ll have 26 options to pick from. Unfortunately, 90% of these things didn’t feel like they made much difference in combat at all.
Your basic chomp attack will kill anything eventually and upgrades that increase damage to boats appeared to make little to no difference. I kept the health increase and resource gain increase equipped for most of my playtime because I never felt like I needed better armour or abilities. There are several dodge abilities that will make you shoot out poisonous gas or an electric shock, but again none of these seemed to do enough damage to truly excite me and feel like I’d unlocked a truly interesting and exciting ability.
The fights against both animals and humans become repetitive fast and there’s no need to change up your tactics. Bite, dodge – rinse and repeat. If you ever run low on health just escape for a moment and eat small fish to replenish. I took on the hoards of human boats with no issues. Once I had the dodging pattern for their weapons down they were a breeze and apart from eventually bring in explosives to drop into the water they never grow stronger or smarter.
When you first terrorise a group of unsuspecting humans on a beach and wreak havoc its silly fun as they basically stand around for you to eat them and don’t do anything to fight back. But this silly fun grows old by the end of the game as the joke runs out of steam.
The apex predator battles in each region that serve as a boss fight are just high level and unique looking versions of whatever the main enemy of that area was. So for example, the first area is a crocodile, the second a hammerhead shark and they grow bigger from there. None of these fights does enough to stand out and ultimately each is the same tactic. Dodge, bite – heal and repeat.
It’s a pity because there are some exciting things you can do like grab a swordfish and launch it at an enemy like a spear. Or creep up under a boat and knock enemy’s off from a blast beneath. But all of these tactics are unnecessary.
I would have loved to see more variety in the missions and the inclusion of stealth elements. There’s never any encouragement to stalk your prey and truly feel like a hunter. Instead, the action is all very manic and silly, which fits the tone but grows stale fast.
Massive frame rate issues are also a huge hindrance in enjoying the shark combat. Moving around the world is fine, but the second you get a couple of enemies involved in a fight it takes a drop, add a few more and it can lead to fights against several boats that had my game running easily at times between 10-15 fps.