Available now on Xbox One, PS4, PC and Nintendo Switch
Version tested: Xbox One X
This has to be something different! I can’t ever remember playing a game as a shark best bit is it isn’t just swimming around eating everything in sight as Maneater has a decent storyline and RPG elements as well!
The last game I think I ever played that involved swimming around the sea was far more friendly and a very long time ago, Ecco The Dolphin for those of you that remember that game back in the day!
Maneater is something completely different to that, here you are taking the role of a shark with that far less friendly! Here you will be attacking and trying to eat everything in sight, it isn’t all just swimming around aimlessly eating though as there is a storyline and some progression for your character, ahem shark..
Starting out there’s a quick tutorial just giving a quick run-through of the controls which at first do feel a bit strange and awkward, it isn’t long before they feel a little more natural and fairly intuitive. The right analogue stick is used to control the camera and the shark’s direction while the left stick is used to move forwards, backwards and side to side with the ability to swim faster assigned to holding the left trigger with a tap activating a small dash forward.
It’s a story of revenge
after the tutorial the story begins as a large shark that’s caught and killed by a shark hunter named Scaly Pete, he’s taking part in a reality tv show and after killing the mother shark he rips her open to find a baby bull shark inside the mother, being portrayed as the villain Pete holds up the baby bull shark and scars it so he will remember it in the future planning ahead to catch it and kill it! This doesn’t go entirely to plan as the baby bull shark does get some revenge for its mother’s death, managing to wriggle loose and take Scally Pete’s arm off, escaping into the sea with its first meal! From here the story of revenge begins.
Obviously sharks can’t talk and in Maneater this is no different to real life, aside from the cutscenes for the reality tv show there is an outside narrator that will constantly pop up with some random information and some funny remarks for comedic effect.
Starting out in the dangerous waters the pup will need to avoid any of the bigger threats around such as alligators, instead, it will be a matter of killing and feasting on smaller prey such as crabs, grouper and catfish to level up and increase the size of the pup to rule the waters.
Alligators aren’t the only threat in the water and anything that is a threat to the young bull will have a red outline like the muskellunge and barracuda, non-attacking fish will have a light blue outline around them making it clear when danger is close.
Human’s are the biggest threat!
The most dangerous of all things in the water is on top of it and it’s probably as you may have guessed us, humans! There’s a GTA type wanted bar called infamy in the top right corner that will fill as you cause havoc and attack humans, as you progress and get higher infamy ranking the heat on you will also increase sending more powerful shark hunters your way.
Attacking the boats and hunters on them is a bit of button smashing and with every boat, you take out there is most likely another one full of new hunters not far behind. If you do end up in trouble sometimes it is better to flea, consume some smaller fish to regain health and then get back up above the water to continue the fight. If you stay away from the shark hunters for too long you will lose them and they will stop looking for you, you won’t lose the level of infamy on the bar which is good news when trying to build infamy and unlock some of the more powerful shark body evolutions and gain precious materials.
The controls as I mentioned earlier do take some getting used to and while sometimes can feel frustrating, this is mainly during combat. The fact there is no real locking system doesn’t help, instead of locking pressing the right thumbstick will just highlight the nearest target to you and swing the camera around to it. Once attacking a selected target get ready to smash the hell out of the right trigger, you can either hold it when you have an enemy caught in the mouth and then shake the right analogue stick left to right or constantly hit the trigger to continually chomp away at your prey till they either get free or get swallowed. Aside from attacks with the mouth, there is a couple of other things to use, evade with RB and a powerful tailwhip with LB.
Make sure you evade to dodge powerful attacks
The evade is important when fighting some of the stronger predators in the ocean, especially the apex predators as a well-timed evade can be the difference between life and death. You will be made aware of a big incoming attack as the predator will glow yellow just before the attack happens to give you a chance to hit evade, get out the way and perform your own counter-attack.
Progressing through the story and exploring different bays will unlock upgrades to the shark as well as levelling up. Levelling up will increase size and rank eventually to the ranks of teen, adult, elder and eventually at rank thirty the shark will be classed as a mega.
The Grotto is a safe place for your shark to rest in safety although it doesn’t respawn any health in the grotto it’s the place to access Maneaters ARPG element, from the grotto all the evolutions and stat upgrades to your shark happen and you can choose what to equip and what stats you want to focus on and increase.
The ARPG elements in Maneater have two real choices, the first is the attributes and they are set into five different ones: ferocity, perception, vitality, endurance, and agility. These different attributes will change the overall power of your shark. The other side of ARPG element is the evolutions. Evolutions are upgrades for your shark and provide new abilities and massive stat increases. Equipping all the same bone sets or bio-electric will provide big stat boosts as well as new abilities, having multiple bio-electric evolutions will give big damage boosts whereas having bone evolutions equipped will give a better damage reduction etc.
The new ability assigned to the Y button will prove a massive help against some of the tougher enemies, equipping the bio-electric evolutions will allow you to stun enemies nearby leaving you to attack at will!
The Apex predator encounters come up after you have completed a set amount of percentage clearing objectives in the bay, culling certain types of fish as well or defeating a selected target will be things that need completing before taking on the apex predator. The difficulty is a decent challenge especially if you don’t have the sharks rank quite high enough to take on the predator, the final apex was rank forty-five and our bull shark maxes out at level thirty. While fifteen levels higher if your evade and attack is timed right your shark will be more than up to the fight!
An easy way to take down some of the harder enemies though is by just getting them to follow you, if you pull them away they will only follow your shark to a set point and then stop and go back, this will allow you to attack when they turn back. I found this a little disappointing as it makes it really easy to get away and also easier to take out some of the harder enemies including the apex predators if you wanted to take advantage of it.
Eight different areas to explore
The map is set out into eight different bays and each bay unlocks with progression through the main story and taking out the apex predator for that bay, there will also be a mission to keep an eye on Scaly Pete to see what he’s up to. The storyline is a little short if you just stick to the main objectives and most missions are very repetitive with most missions requiring you to travel to an area, consume a certain amount of fish or humans or take out a set target and then do it all again until the required percentage is cleared and then take on the apex predator before moving to the next area. The way the game is set out is very simple, Maneater is just one of them games that you can happily chill out playing and not think too much as it’s really simple.
While everything is very simple and chilled out there is plenty to do in each bay, with the main story being pretty short Maneater does save itself a little with all the places to explore and all the items to collect.
Licence plates are something your shark will come across everywhere and like landmarks and nutrients, there is a set amount to collect in each zone, nutrient boxes are fairly easy to get most of the time but the licence plates are usually in higher and more difficult places to reach that you will only be able to reach after some upgrades to your shark such as being able to stay out of the water longer.
The checklist on the map gives a clear and simple indication of how many things you have found and how many are still left scattered around, the way it’s set out is clear and simple keeping players interested and playing trying to complete the game with one hundred percent completion. These items also add XP and valuable materials that can be used to perform upgrades so be sure to grab any that you see but if you don’t straight away it won’t matter as the game will add the location to the map.
The art style in Maneater doesn’t go for a realistic approach with a more cartoony side to it, although the game does look really good. The sea looks great and there is plenty of random shipwrecks and sights to see under the water as well as small docks and cities above the water. The shark can explore both on land and under the sea. The way the shark handles on land is frustrating but this is to be expected as sharks don’t tend to go above water much.
Limbs can be bitten clean off and blood in the water looks realistic
While the visuals aren’t realistic both humans and other foes do lose limbs, when attacked by the shark you will clearly see bots of bodies missing and this does actually influence the way they fight back. Taking an alligators legs off will leave them unable to move and unable to really mount any attack back, the clouds of blood in the water give a clear indication where the animal has fled to in an attempt to survive. It’s not overly gory because of the art style.
The AI from both humans and predators in the sea is really good and very challenging (except for the following thing I mentioned earlier when they follow), humans are the worse and even at the rank thirty with Mega status and plenty of upgrades, the shark hunters are more than capable of taking the shark down with their variety of guns, boats and explosives, the divers are the worst threat when they group up and wipe HP out pretty rapidly!
The last area that’s unlocked is called The Gulf, this area is much deeper and further out to sea, also hiding the games biggest and most feared apex predator. This was the only area I feel performance suffered as random load screens kept appearing and there was also a few framerate issues. The sea was deeper here but there was far less detail than in other areas so the slowdown here seems strange and maybe a day one patch will solve this.
The sound throughout the game was very strong with decent voice acting and great facial animations during the cutscenes. The constant scream from the shark’s victims can be clearly heard as well as the loud crunches under the water while feasting on that poor sea turtle smashing its ultra-strong shell to bits! The sound effects throughout were really impressive and while there wasn’t background music all the time there was some when it felt needed like when activating the shark’s special ability. The narrator constantly rattles off information and stories while playing, at first some statements he makes are funny but after a while, things start to get repeated and wear thin fast.
Maneater is certainly something a little different to anything else out there at the moment. Controls take time to get used to with the aiming system majorly frustrating. The story, while not very long is interesting enough to keep playing and constantly seeing your shark grow and evolve is one of the highlights of the game. RPG elements which actually affect the way the shark handles and fights add another aspect to the game. Sound effects are great hearing every crunch as well as decent voice acting although the narrator can get a little repetitive after a while. The performance was smooth for the most part until random loading screens in the Gulf which is the final bay that unlocks on the map. Each bay is well designed with a decent amount of detail under the water as well as above it. It is great watching your shark go from a vulnerable little bull shark to the incredible force it turns into by the end. One weakness in Maneater would be the replay value as once all the missions are complete, upgrades are equipped it leaves very little to do.
7.5 / 10
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- Good visuals with nice artstyle
- Well designed world
- Addictive progression always leave you doing just one more thing
- ARPG elements add some customisation
- Performance stutter in the final bay with some framerate drops and loading screens
- Control can be frustrating especially when it comes to combat
- Story is short if you just follow main objectives and don't do side missions