Maneater Review (PS5)
I’M A SHARK, FEAR ME
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be an animal. Even daydreaming about being a pet just so I can just lay around and do nothing. Probably not going to be that great if you’re a prey animal though.
Maneater, though, has you play as a shark. A deadly shark at that. At the beginning you play as a grown shark eating fish and terrorizing humans. She does it so much that shark hunters come after her every spree and she has survived every hunt, with only a harpoon in her. However, today will not be her day. On her recent spree, the one where you control her, a certain hunter named Scaly Pete goes after her. Sadly, she gets caught and killed by Scaly Pete, who was looking for a specific “Mega” shark, and his son Kyle who is accompanying him for the summer. Pete finds out that she is actually a mother and proceeds to just give the baby shark a scar to hunt it later. Unluckily for him, this was a horrible mistake as the baby shark bites his hand (plus some more) clean off.
Interestingly enough, Maneater is framed like a documentary. A camera crew is actually following Scaly Pete throughout the game, but we also have a narrator with us as we play. Giving us the impression that they’re also following us around even though that’s not really going to be realistic. You’ll end up hearing the same lines for areas you’ll be going back to, but I really like the addition of the narrator and he can be pretty funny.
And while Scaly Pete is the antagonist (well from out shark perspective of course) I do like how we got insight into his character. We didn’t get a one note character, which is what I’m sure everyone expected. While Pete isn’t the best father, you do get the sense that he wants Kyle to be stronger, he cares about his son and wants his marine biologist job to work out (even though he wants him to hunt sharks too), and we get to know what happened to his dad which gives us more insight on why he is so gung-ho about hunting that mega shark and you. I didn’t feel too bad for Scaly Pete, though I do understand his perspective, but I did feel bad for Kyle. I really appreciate this touch to the story.
Anyway, the gameplay! The game takes place in the waters of the Gulf Coast and you start out as that baby bull shark that bit off Scaly Pete’s hand. With a taste of human and revenge, your main goal that you’re building up to is to kill Scaly Pete. But first is to grow and get stronger. As a baby shark, starting out as level 1, you are pretty weak (and cute). The only way to do that is to eat the other fish that reside here. Of course, this also means avoiding death by the bigger fish that attack you on sight.
Attacking is easy to get the hang of. As a shark, you of course bite other fish to kill them and eat them. You will also need to dodge out of the way of upcoming attacks, which they do choreograph it. As you get older, you do get the ability to whip your tail at your enemies as well as being able to hold onto smaller prey and thrash them around. They will also glow before or after some attacks, which indicates that they’re guard is down. This will let you do major damage either by letting you grab and thrash them around or get them stunned. Humans aren’t that different and easy prey, the hard part is just getting on land, nabbing them, and getting back in the water before you start suffocating. However, the shark hunters will get on your tail after a couple human kills.
When you go attack humans a threat meter will fill up and once filled shark hunters will come after you. These guys will shoot at you from their boat. Luckily, their reticule will show up on you, along with which direction they’re shooting from, so you can dodge their shots (though dodging is pretty hard against these guys). You pretty much have to launch ourself out of the water if you want to nab them out of their boat. But don’t try to avoid hunters as they are tied to your Infamy Rank. Infamy is increased as you eat hunters and destroy their boats (though in later ranks you really only make progress when destroying their boat). Once it’s completely filled, the unique hunter associated with that rank will appear and start to hunt you down. Honestly, these guys are pretty easy (except like the first two or three, which is probably because they’d be new to you) and you can just destroy their boat for it to count. I still do hunt them down in the water and make sure to eat them though. Infamy may not be worth doing, but they do give you an evolution set.
Each chapter will have you do a set of story missions which will have you terrorizing humans and doing some fish population control to bring out that area’s Apex Predator, which are basically boss fights. Apex Predators are the more powerful version of the predators you’ll run into normally, like alligators or the annoying barracuda, but as long as you dodge and bite them when you can, and especially when they glow, you’ll get out of that fight alive.
As you progress through the main missions, defeat the apex predators, and progress through the story, you’ll be going across seven different locations that unlock as you go. Each area is set up differently and look as different as they can be. As well as having different fish residing in certain areas (mainly what the apex predator and the prey they eat). They will also have optional “Hunted” predator and “Revenge” human quests for you to do if you want to.
There are also collectibles in each location: license plates, landmarks, and nutrition caches. License plates will often be floating above the water or land so you have to use your sick jumping skills to grab them. Landmarks will have you just attacking their sign where you get some brief history on it and finding all of them rewards you with an evolution set. And lastly, nutrition caches will give you nutrients that you use for leveling up your evolution pieces. You can locate these by using your sonar, which will highlight fish and collectibles in range (as well as put it on your map). You don’t need to collect these to finish the game, but it’ll help some.
Of course, while leveling up will have you grow and get stronger, you can get even stronger. As you play, you’ll be rewarded and find evolution that you can equip to your shark. There are organs which gives you a boost in a certain area, like more health or giving you more of a specific nutrients. You can also swap out different parts of your shark’s body with the three evolution sets (Bone, Electric, and Shadow) which has its advantages and disadvantages. Electric and Shadow sets are rewarded through the optional things you can do (Infamy Rank and collecting landmarks respectively), but the Bone set is granted through story progression. Those nutrients you get by eating and grabbing caches can then be put into mutating these parts of yourself so they have an even stronger effect. Making you even deadlier.
The only thing that I’d say goes against it can feel too repetitive in regards to its combat and at least playing on the PS5, it did end up hurting my wrists with how much you have to press the trigger to bite down on your enemies. It did make me wish you could have the option to press a different button to bite down after the initial bite. So if you’re going to play this on the PS5, and the controller causes you some wrist pain (or just any pain), I don’t recommend playing this longer than a few hours each session. I did also notice some framedrops here and there, but it only hampered me once.
Honestly, I liked Maneater more than I thought I would. I was going in expecting to play it an hour or two just to give it a chance, but it grew on me. I really liked playing as a shark attacking and eating fish that dared cross my path when I was hungry (or hangry if we want to be more accurate) as well as humans that picked the wrong day to spend their day by a body of water. And the narrator made the experience better. I will say the novelty does wear off after some time, but at least for me the game ended the perfect time where I was crossing that threshold.