Have you ever sat there thinking about what it would be like to be a shark? Do you often find yourself thinking about breaching the water to jump onto a boat so you can rip a bunch of unsuspecting people to shreds?
At first glance, you might think Maneater is a meme game like Goat Simulator, but it’s far more serious and well-made than games like that (not that there’s anything wrong with meme games). It has RPG mechanics, a story, and AAA-level visuals.
We first tried Maneater at PAX East, and it really impressed in a convention setting. And that brings us to the big question: does Maneater deliver on its shark fantasy or does it drown in the deep water?
The first positive of Maneater is an obvious one: you’re a freaking shark swimming around eating anything that moves. It’s one of the most fun power fantasies anyone who has ever watched Shark Week. If the idea of swimming around the ocean eating everything in sight as one of nature’s most badass predators doesn’t excite you, it’s time to check that pulse.
The biggest thing I can say about Maneater is that it’s fun. When you’re looking for a video game to play, one of the most important things to look for is whether you’ll have a good time playing it, and Maneater delivers some good old fashioned fun in droves.
Outside of the fun mechanics of swimming around eating stuff, Maneater actually has some fairly deep RPG mechanics that see you leveling up your shark to become more powerful. This extra power allows you to fight more dangerous foes, including the game’s main antagonist Scaly Pete, a particularly unlikeable shark hunter who just so happens to have killed your mother at the start of the game.
Speaking of which, the story backdrop is fairly simple, but it’s interesting enough to keep the game moving forward. Basically, the game is framed around a shark hunter reality show mixed with a nature documentary. Your actions are narrated by Chris Parnell, and he does an incredible job moving the game forward and making it feel like a real documentary.
The aforementioned Scaly Pete is the main character of the reality show, and he’s as unpleasant as you can get. He’s a bit over-the-top, but so is everything about Maneater, so it doesn’t seem out of place at all.
Maneater is a fantastic-looking game, especially when you consider that it’s not a full $60 game. Rather, it’s only $40, but it has some of the same visual flair that comes with a full AAA game. I played through it on the PS4 Pro, and most aspects of the game look incredible.
Unfortunately, Maneater isn’t a perfect game. It has some minor issues that hold it back, but not enough to prevent me from recommending it to anyone who enjoys action RPGs.
The first issue comes from the controls during combat. Because you’re underwater, you don’t have to worry about enemies on a flat plane like you would in most games. Instead, they can be below you, above you, or just about anywhere else around you. As such, it can feel like you need to fight the controls to stay on the enemy you’re trying to eat.
For easier enemies this isn’t an issue, but when you’re trying to fight a great white shark while a bunch of smaller enemies swim around attacking you, the auto target system can leave you feeling a bit frustrated.
Thankfully, this is the kind of thing you’ll get used to as you play the game more, but there is a bit of a learning curve.
Another issue with Maneater is that it can get a little repetitive as time goes on. Essentially, you’re following a formula where you go to a place, kill a number of things, and repeat. The RPG mechanics help to offset some of the repetition by introducing new abilities, and the story helps keep things moving forward, but at the end of the day, the core loop is pretty repetitive.
Maneater had the potential to be a perfect game, but as it stands, its small issues are just enough to keep it from reaching the heights it could have. Still, I have no issue recommending to anyone who enjoys action RPGs.
The game is available for Xbox One, PS4, and PC for $40, which is quite a reasonable price for a game that’ll take you around 10 hours to beat (and it could take longer if you spend a lot of time exploring the world and gathering collectibles).
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