A fun, albeit shallow, gameplay experience.
Maneater

Maneater is one of those titles that is just the right amount of dumb fun. It pushes the dumb just far enough that you are not overly concerned with its obvious shortcomings. I suppose that any game that places you in the fins of a growing, angry as hell bull shark that can mutate and grow. These mutations provide your shark with gain special abilities is not a game that would ever take itself too seriously.

Maneater is a game in which you roam the Gulf of Mexico and feast on human flesh, utilize mutations to gain unique abilities and powers, and do battle against all matter of aquatic life. The game still seems to be held back by simplistic mission objectives and repetitive gameplay. Most objectives will tell you to go to a location, kill a set amount of one animal, and move on to the next similar objective. The repetitive missions are at least broken up slightly by the fact that you can freely explore your environments for collectibles or upgrade materials. Even with these diversions, there just is not enough core mission variety to Maneater. It feels like there were a lot of missed opportunities to fully embrace the lack of seriousness in the game.

The game is presented as though it were a sensationalist nature reality show called "Maneater." The ever-present narrator, voiced by actor/comedian Chris Parnell, constantly chimes in after you do most any action. Though often humorous and on point, the narration can be a bit repetitive at times, sometimes quite literally. There were several instances where the narrator line would play twice in succession with nary a pause in between. At times, the in-game Maneater show focuses on Scaly Pete. Pete is a shark hunter that just happens to have killed your shark mother. You end up taking his hand before finding freedom.

From there on out, it is a double-sided story of revenge. You try to grow larger and find new mutations in order to kill him. Meanwhile, Pete is gearing up for a time in which he can give some payback for taking his hand. There is also a fair bit of seriousness tossed into the mix with a look at the tenuous relationship between Pete and his son. This offers a fair bit of seriousness and drama to what is otherwise a goofy game.

Maneater

All this drama between Scaly Pete and the shark would be for not if the shark was not able to become a threat to everyone and everything. That is where the RPG side of Maneater comes into play. The game opens with you being but a small baby bull shark. You must complete quests in order to gain experience and level up. This then allows you to evolve into an adult and then later into a Mega Bull Shark. Along the way, you will collect various upgrade components that can be used to enhance various mutations that you earn through the normal progression of the game.

Mutations can be used to give the shark an even larger advantage both in the seas and on land. Some mutations allow you to electrify an area around you. This then causes nearby enemies to be temporarily stunned and open to attack. Other mutations make it so that you can survive on land for longer than you otherwise normally would. This is important because several collectibles are actually scattered around on the numerous landmasses that are scattered in the Gulf.

Taking a cue from other open-world RPGs, Maneater includes a useful map. It comes complete with all matter of icons that will point you in the direction of an undiscovered point of interest. The map is even broken down into various sections that show individual completion percentages. It's not a massive game, so going for 100% is not only feasible in Maneater, it's actually quite easy to do.

Maneater

As said numerous times now, Maneater is not an especially big game. It is priced at just about $40 (USD), which is certainly below what people consider to be a "full priced title." Just make sure you keep that in mind when purchasing the game. It can be a rather short experience if you choose not to wander away from the main story beats. However, you may need to grind for some experience in order to not be at such a massive disadvantage in the final encounter. Typical progression through each section requires that you kill X number of enemies, find Y boxes, or seek a more powerful version of an enemy that you have already been fighting for a while. Once you do this, you can move on to the next area and do almost the exact same thing all over again.

If you plan on playing Maneater, this repetitive format is important to keep in mind. It's not a game in which you will want to sit down for hours at a time and play, because you will get bored of it. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the very first Assassin's Creed title. That one I mainlined over about two to three days and the game kind of sucked the life out of me as a result. It was just such a repetitive experience and I can see the same shortcomings in Maneater for the same reasons.

The repetition is offset a bit by the fact that the core gameplay feels tight and responsive. Swimming through the gorgeous underwater areas is a blast. Fights against equally formidable opponents becomes this underwater dance with quick attacks, the use of special abilities at key times, and sometimes darting away to chomp on a few fish for a quick health boost. The different areas in the game also offer up their own challenges during combat scenarios. Later areas may be more open with fewer obstacles, but this means there are fewer areas to hide behind. Another area is a bit shallower than you may be used to, which offers less room for defensive maneuvers.

Maneater

When you aren't doing battle against the other aquatic life, you have the opportunity to go against humans. Maneater has a system that will raise your notoriety if you chomp down on one too many humans in an area. Once that notoriety starts to rise, you will get hunters after your fins. This actually plays into the story a bit because once you get the hunters coming after you, taking them out will often reveal a special boss encounter. These boss encounters came complete with their own little Borderlands style character introduction. These fights against bosses and the hunters in general just did not feel as engaging or as satisfying as those against the deep-sea predators. Boss encounters were often more about how often you could tap dodge than it was about engaging the enemies in unique and interesting ways.

Though the game is full Easter eggs and nods to various film, literature, and television references, there just is something obvious missing from this: There are no fights against any sort of "mythical" style deep sea creatures. Where is my fight against giant squids? Where is the end all, be all battle against Cthulhu? In a game where you can make use of crazy mutations, it would not necessarily be out of the question to see these crazy fights thrown in. It really feels like a missed opportunity here.


Final Say
Maneater is one of those rare titles that shows a lot of potential but ultimately just fails to deliver. The game is not "bad" per se, but it's not one I would be quick to recommend. There are tons of areas where the core game could be improved. There are a ton of areas in which the environments themselves could be improved. Despite all the shortcomings, I did still find myself having a fun time whenever I picked up my controller. Maneater is put together well but it just could have been so much more, and I have no doubt that I will keep wondering just how cool some of those fights against mythical sea creatures could have gone. Perhaps there will be some DLC or even a sequel where those dreams will come true. As for the game as it stands right now, I would wait for a sale.



Score
3 out of 5 stars



Additional Information
  • Maneater
    • Developed by: Blindside Interactive, Tripwire Interactive
    • Published by: Tripwire Interactive (digital), Deep Silver (physical)
  • Price: Starting at $39.99 (USD) via Epic Games Store (affiliate link), PlayStation Store, the Microsoft Store, and coming to Steam later.
  • Platform reviewed on: PC
  • ESRB: Rated Mature (17+) for blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, mature humor, mild language
  • This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.
  • Additional disclosure: I am friends with one of the employees at Tripwire Interactive.

Additional Screenshots
Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_1.jpg
Views:	181
Size:	798.0 KB
ID:	3503299Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_7.jpg
Views:	184
Size:	426.6 KB
ID:	3503300Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_8.jpg
Views:	181
Size:	846.9 KB
ID:	3503301Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_9.jpg
Views:	180
Size:	690.6 KB
ID:	3503302Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_3.jpg
Views:	180
Size:	697.8 KB
ID:	3503303Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_6.jpg
Views:	178
Size:	697.7 KB
ID:	3503304Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_10.jpg
Views:	176
Size:	567.5 KB
ID:	3503305Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_11.jpg
Views:	339
Size:	649.5 KB
ID:	3503306Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_13.jpg
Views:	555
Size:	1,016.0 KB
ID:	3503307Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_18.jpg
Views:	183
Size:	513.7 KB
ID:	3503308Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_16.jpg
Views:	178
Size:	541.2 KB
ID:	3503309Click image for larger version

Name:	Maneater_Launch_Screen_17.jpg
Views:	179
Size:	717.5 KB
ID:	3503310