Maneater takes the GTA formula and takes it out of the box and quite literally into the water.
The success of the Grand Theft Auto series has led to a large number of games that try to take the formula the series has popularised and create their own spin to the genre. Some titles try different locations, cultures, timeframes, gameplay elements, and more. But the folks at Tripwire Interactive and Blindside Interactive have pushed the envelope a bit further and out of the box with their own take on the genre. In Maneater, you take on the role of a burgeoning bull shark quite literally eating its way through The Gulf. It’s an idea that initially seems quite dumb, but in spite of its premise, Maneater surprisingly turned out to be a lot more than what I had expected, and in spite of a few shortcomings, is a pretty decent take on the brand of open-world action-adventure genre that GTA has created.
Maneater starts off with your typical tutorial sequence. You play as an adult shark and learn some of the core moves in your fishy arsenal such as lunging, tail whipping, and more. But the tutorial suddenly takes an interesting turn at the end of it when you’re caught and subsequently killed by the game’s main antagonist Scaly Pete. You then find out that the shark you were controlling for the game’s tutorial was actually your (the protagonist) mother when Scaly Pete slices you out of her womb before you’re able to escape his clutches while taking his right arm with you in the process. You then begin your journey of survival, literal growth, and eventual revenge.
"It’s an idea that initially seems quite dumb, but in spite of its premise, Maneater surprisingly turned out to be a lot more than what I had expected, and in spite of a few shortcomings, is a pretty decent take on the brand of open-world action-adventure genre that GTA has created."
In spite of its seemingly tragic introduction, Maneater is actually pretty comedic, from its bright and colorful visuals to its absurd story and humorous characters. The game’s light tone is further emphasized by the game’s narrator, voiced by Chris Parnell of Archer and Rick and Morty fame, who regularly comments on your activities and spouts amusingly delivered shark “factoids” mixed in with a lot of pop-culture references. Parnell does an incredible job at making the game feel more engaging and makes the entire journey all the more enjoyable.
The game is divided into several areas that you are freely able to move between, allowing you to go back and complete quests or retrieve collectibles you may have missed. In fact, some of the game’s side quests actually require you to go back for them later on as the enemies you have to defeat to complete them are too strong for you at the time you’re given the quest. If you’re not too keen on swimming all the way back to previous areas, the game expectedly provides fast travel to each of the grottos you’ve unlocked. Grottos act as your base of operations where you’re able to not only equip the myriad of mutations you’ve unlocked but also upgrade them to improve their effectiveness.
To unlock mutations, the game tasks you with either killing specific powerful sea creatures called apex predators, killing named human hunters, or collecting all the landmarks in each of the game’s areas. Upgrading each mutation requires resources you obtain by either killing sea creatures and humans or through the boxes you find and open around the map. The game’s roster of mutations is pretty interesting, and it allows you to mix and match them depending on your playstyle. There’s the bone mutation set that basically turn you into a battering ram, the bioelectric set that lets you shock and stun enemies as you bite them, one mutation allows you to stay out of the water for longer periods of time, and one that lets you regain more health from eating things, to name a few.
"In spite of its seemingly tragic introduction, Maneater is actually pretty comedic, from its bright and colorful visuals to its absurd story and humorous characters."
While you’ll easily be able to chomp on most of the game’s sea life, from catfish to seals and more, you’ll also have to battle with some of the more aggressive species in the game. And underwater combat in Maneater is actually surprisingly interesting as it requires you to do more than just blindly spam your bite attack. You’ll need to learn how to not only properly move in the water but also to time your attacks, so you don’t end up biting at nothing while leaving yourself open to attack. You’ll also need to learn how to dodge enemy attacks to avoid ending up as fish food yourself. Fortunately, the game allows you to fall back and chomp on nearby prey to regain some health before jumping back into the fray.
This makes the journey from being a small pup to a mega shark quite satisfying as you increase in size and creatures that were previously too large for you to fight become easy prey when you become ten times larger than you were. Engaging sea creatures smaller than you gives you the ability to hold them in your jaws and thrash them about for more damage. You also have the ability to tail whip sea creators to stun them, allowing you to really chomp down on them for a short period of time.
While hunting human civilians is quite easy apart from having to jump onto land and grab a few before you suffocate, killing humans does induce the game’s own Wanted mechanic. So after killing a certain number of humans, hunters begin to show up in droves until you hide and they eventually give up. But unlike GTA’s star system, the infamy level in Maneater is persistent so hunters will increasingly become more numerous and difficult to deal with as you kill more humans in the game. It is quite nice that even when you face the game’s more equipped human hunters, you’re still able to simply jump onto their boat, grab them by your jaws, and drag them into the water to become fish food, as it should be.
"It is quite nice that even when you face the game’s more equipped human hunters, you’re still able to simply jump onto their boat, grab them by your jaws, and drag them into the water to become fish food, as it should be."
It’s disappointing though that the game’s elements don’t really interact with each other. Aggressive sea creatures don’t attack each other or smaller non-aggressive ones, sharks don’t attack humans, and human hunters don’t attack other sharks, just to name a few. It would’ve been nice to have sea creatures and humans interact with each and their own as it would help make the game’s world feel more alive.
The game also does start to feel repetitive after a while as the variety of things to do doesn’t really increase as the game goes on. You’re either tasked with killing a certain number of humans or sea creatures, set to hunt a specific sea creature or apex predator, or finding all of a map’s collectibles. Luckily, the apex predator battles do provide a bit of a challenge, especially in the early stages of the game, and help break up some of the tediousness. Searching for collectibles also gives you something else to do than simply chomping on living things. It also allows you to appreciate each of the game’s different areas, which are all impressively designed and made quite unique from each other, with some featuring a number of discoverable areas including underwater tunnels and passageways.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Fun gameplay and combat; Great voice acting/narration; Well-made and unique environments.
Feels repetitive after a while; Environments don’t interact with each other.
Maneater is a pretty decent take on the open-world action-adventure RPG formula that GTA has popularized. While some of its elements feel quite lacking, many of what it has to offer is pretty well-done and entertaining. It’s definitely worth trying for fans of GTA-style games who are looking for something especially different.