Almost a year after it launched on PS4, Xbox One and PC – with PS5 and Xbox Series versions in November of 2020 – Tripwire Interactive’s munching murder machine RPG, Maneater is lunging onto Nintendo’s Switch.
With a brutal belly flop and thrashing of the head, Maneater puts you into the fins of the shark, making you the anti-hero bad guy with one objective, to eat everything you can. As a single-minded and eventually nigh-unstoppable bull shark, it’s your job to take revenge on a scaly shark hunter, Scaly Pete who has his own reality television show, who murdered your mom and scarred you. Thus begins a tale of righteous vengeance where everything is prone to your fury as you eat, grow and mutate your way to the top of the food chain and the chance to turn Scaly Pete into your. . . well you know what.
Despite been labelled an open-world RPG, Maneater, like the bayou waters you first begin life in, is more of a shallow action game with light RPG elements that, despite its lack of thematic and content depth, is incredibly enjoyable through its cathartic violence and tongue-in-cheek approach to all of its situations.
As with most open-world games, your time is filled with a checklist of things to collect, places to find, and objectives to complete. Scattered across the game’s environments are license plates to eat, mutagen chests to find and locations to discover. Each area also has a list of objectives for you to complete. Unfortunately, they’re all the same across each area and are basically go here and eat so many of these quests, whether they be fish or people. The fun, however, comes in how you choose to approach these sidequests, especially when dealing with chowing down on the game’s braindead humans who barely have enough sense to run from you. But then again, if I too saw a shark hopping across my golf course and chowing down on my caddie my brain would probably freeze as well trying to figure out what the hell was happening. And yes, I count that experience of mowing through a throng of golfers on the ninth as one of my favourite moments in the game.
There are perks to completing these sidequests though beyond merely clocking things off your checklist, which add to the game’s light RPG mechanics. Whether discovering location descriptions or eating the various sea creatures hapless enough to get in your way, you’ll level up along with picking up a variety of mutagens to use in your evolution. Not only will you grow from a pup to a megashark, but you’ll also mutate into the fiercest creature this side of the deep. The mutations, which range from sonar to different body types to electric jaws can be discovered from completing the sidequests and will allow you to build the Frankenshark of your nightmares. And each mutation can be levelled up further to increase your health, stun capabilities or vampire-like health-restoring attacks.
Whether you choose to use jaws that stun enemies with electricity or bone armour to devastate larger opponents and destroy boats easily, there’s a mutation that’s right for what you’ll encounter in the ocean depths or when skimming the surface.
Of course, you can’t cause this much carnage with impunity and once you start to focus on people for your dietary needs, the shark hunters come out to play. The game uses a GTA style alert system to bring them to bear on you. Reach a certain threat level and they’ll be all over you with their laser guided and almost unavoidable attacks. Initially you’ll be too weak to do anything but high-tail it from there and once you’re far enough away, the hunters will forget you exist. Your threat level doesn’t decrease though for as you climb through the tiers you’ll encounter the games bosses. While they aren’t any harder than regular hunters, killing them will gift you more mutation. And there’s something oddly perverse and enjoyable about jumping twenty feet from the water and grabbing them from a boat to thresh around in your jaws like a missile with a purpose.
Completing the objectives also opens up an Alpha predator for you to kill and once you’ve completed enough objectives you’ll be able to continue the main story, usually by checking up on Scaly Pete. To the developer’s credit it’s here that they’ve attempted to flesh out the game’s story and characters as we watch Pete on his reality show attempting to connect to a wayward son all while hunting you down. Even though it gets lost in all the aquatic mayhem, the theme of family is a welcome addition to add some weight to the game.
Visually Maneater is a beautifully pleasant surprise, running as it does on UE4 and the Switch Lite handles it like a champ with only two instances of slowdown that I encountered. The games eight areas are visually diverse with enough detail above the surface to make cruising around above water worth the effort. Beneath the waves it’s just as beautiful, though some areas are prettier to look at than others, the bayou waters for instance been shallow and murky.
Your sharkatar is gorgeously modelled and animated, as is most of the sea life you’ll encounter. Humans seem a little on the stylised low-poly side, keeping in check with the games absurdist nature.
Outside of the repetitive cookie cutter quest structure, Maneaters biggest issues lie with its A.I., or lack thereof, and the games combat. As pretty as the game is, you won’t find the NPC’s and NPF’s (non-player fish) interacting with each other, meaning that there isn’t really a sense of a working ecosystem. Even where people are concerned, they mostly stand or run around without any real immediacy. The shark hunters, down to the bosses themselves are just aggressive but don’t have any tactics to speak of, something the games narrator hilariously comments on about human attention spans.
Combat itself is serviceable but not noteworthy. You do as a shark would do, mutations aside, meaning most tactics are based around rushing speed. You can bite your opponents, lunge at them, tail whack them and if you manage to grab them in your jaws once you’re large enough, shake them around until they break. Until you learn the intricacies of handling a situation, combat can be annoying especially without a proper lock-on button. Pressing down on the right analogue will reorient the camera towards your current threat if you’ve both managed to speed past each other but that’s it. A lock-on would have gone a long way towards improving the situation. Thankfully, it’s not game breaking though.
Maneater may not be the most in-depth shark action RPG around, and it does take a bit of time to get into the game thanks to an initial grind, but once you’ve chosen to dive deeper into its blood-filled waters, you’ll find a weirdly addictive and enjoyable experience that looks and runs great on the Switch.
Grab The Switch Version of Maneater here for £39.99
Maneater is also available on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC
Developers: Tripwire Interactive, Blindside Interactive
Publishers: Tripwire Interactive, Deep Silver, Koch Media
Enjoy the review? want to read more of our reviews? then click right here to be whisked away to the realm of our opinions.