Review

Maneater Review - Fish Are Food, Not Friends

  • First Released May 22, 2020
    released
  • PS4

Maneater's ability to make you feel like a nonsensically powerful prehistoric monster is matched only by its comedic chops, but it's marred by loose, frantic combat.

Toward the middle of my time with Maneater, my shark, now the size of a sedan and sporting glowing blue fins and whiskers to help it channel bioelectricity into the water around it, leaped out of a canal and onto the cobblestone dais filled with drunken revelers. As the folks enjoying the shoreline of Port Clovis screamed, my shark flopped after them, deterred by neither lack of limbs nor lack of oxygen as it chased down and chomped partier after partier unfortunate enough to think they could enjoy a gathering this close to Dead Horse Lake.

As I gained bloody vengeance against the residents of Port Clovis for their abuse of the marine ecosystem, actor Chris Parnell's voice-over narration filled in some interesting details about the horse monument my prehistoric killing machine was defiling. One year, he explained, a Port Clovis-born horse placed 20th at the Kentucky Derby, creating a new holiday since the local population, known for public drunkenness and petty crime sprees, was eager to celebrate.

Maneater provides a lot of these kinds of moments, mixing ridiculous ichthyological carnage and reality-show absurdity to create something hilarious. It's an uneven experience, due largely to technical glitches, frustrating marine predator combat, and repetitive missions. But the longer it goes on, the more fun Maneater becomes, and its presentation keeps it from getting stale.

That presentation is the most inspired part of Maneater. The game plays itself off as a basic cable reality TV show that follows Cajun shark hunter "Scaly Pete" as he patrols the polluted waters of the fictional Port Clovis. When Pete finds and kills a pregnant shark, the baby breaks loose of the hunter's grip (by chewing off his hand) and escapes into the bayou, where it (apparently) vows revenge.

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What follows is a vicious romp through various biomes, thanks to the shark's apparent mutated ability to survive in both freshwater and saltwater, as you pursue the singular goal of getting huge and eating Pete. The whole experience is narrated by Parnell (of 30 Rock, Archer, and Rick and Morty fame) as if it were a cheap Discovery Channel nature documentary following the shark and its feud with the reprehensibly eco-unfriendly Pete. Parnell's narrator mixes actual shark facts--or what sound like facts, at least--with plenty of gags at the expense of the drunk and disorderly Port Clovisians, wealthy shoreline property owners, the human propensity to exploit the ocean and its vast biodiversity, and particularly boring fish.

The comedy is a huge part of what makes Maneater work, because otherwise, living the shark life would probably be kind of boring, since you'll mostly spend your time eating. You start as a small bull shark pup, gobbling up everything you can. Eating animals nets you nutrients you can use to level up your shark and upgrade mutations you earn as you complete quests, which help you get bigger and more ferocious.

You'll swim around eating everything in your path, but predators eager to make a meal of you, also patrol the waterways. Enemies like alligators and Mako sharks will dart toward you and chomp down, requiring you to use a quick dodge ability to try to stay out of their way and get a few bites in when their guard is down or smack them with your tail to stun them. You recover health whenever you consume another creature, so victory is usually about beating strategic retreats and eating strategic treats to get back up to fighting strength.

Combat can be a fraught affair when you're facing dangerous animals, since you and your enemies are darting toward each other like missiles and frequently passing each other. Pressing in one of the control sticks on console will zip the camera back around to the threat, but Maneater lacks a true lock-on system for some reason, which can make it easy to lose track of the creature you're trying to take down or escape. Especially in shallower regions, combat gets messy as you lose track of enemies, the camera gets caught against nearby landmasses, or you accidentally beach yourself or take to the water's surface, which locks you into an above-water view until you hit a specific button to dive back down. Fighting predators is a pain until you start unlocking cool mutations, which give you increased stats and perks such as stunning fish as you rocket past or returning health when you bite larger prey.

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Once you get a bit bigger and a bit more mutated, things take on a fun, if somewhat repetitive, routine as you climb the food chain. Each region includes quests that are all basically "Eat 10 of X fish," "Eat 10 humans at X spot," and "Eat X large predator," no matter where you are. But going after the humans indiscriminately has its costs--eat enough folks and a meter at the top of the screen that tracks how big a threat you present to Port Clovis will rise, causing the city will send shark hunters after you. These folks constitute your most dangerous adversaries most of the time because they carry everything from harpoons to dynamite to try to turn you into chum. Eating enough hunters and sinking enough of their boats raises your Infamy level, causing a boss hunter to join the fray. Eat the boss and you get a new mutation upgrade to equip, which makes taking down progressively tougher hunters a useful diversion from the main set of quests.

Mixed in with those quests are hunts for collectibles. Scattered throughout each region are crates of mutagens you can find and consume and floating license plates you often need to leap high out of the water to collect. There are also signposts that mark local landmarks both in and out of the water, which the game uses as opportunities for jokes and pop culture references, like the sunken wreck of a knock-off of the Bluth banana stand from Arrested Development. Seeking out the collectibles provides a nice, quick break from constantly chowing fish, with the landmarks and their jokes especially worth the effort of tracking them all down.

So while you'll do the same things at each location, there's just enough variety of activities that you won't get bored, especially as you level up and get bigger and more powerful (and especially once you're out of the way-too-shallow bayou). Completing objectives earns you specific mutations for each shark body part that can be mixed and matched to suit your play style, giving a bit of a tactical RPG component to your constant consumption. The three main sets of mutations focus on speed, debuffs for enemies, and higher defense, and picking the right mutations for a situation gives you an edge. The mutations don't really change up the gameplay too much for most of the game, unfortunately, but once you start maxing out upgrades, they help create the experience that is Maneater's beating, delicious heart: Making you into a huge, ludicrous, nearly unstoppable killing machine. You'll still face challenging enemies like boats and predators, but you'll usually get to choose when to have those dangerous encounters, leaving a lot more time for undisturbed mayhem.

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That mayhem would work a lot better if not for the camera issues, the loose, panicky nature of the combat, and some minor technical issues we faced while playing on PS4. In certain biomes in particular, the frame rate would often take a dive, which was especially frustrating when trying to survive an onslaught of hunters or a pack of hammerheads. I also experienced a rare bug that caused me to lose my save file and had two collectibles straight-up not work when I collected them, preventing 100% completion and locking me out of one of the mutations. Publisher Tripwire says both the save bug and the collectibles issue have been fixed with a pre-release patch.

Issues aside, Maneater opportunities for shark chaos can be a lot of fun. The best parts of the game are akin to running around in a Grand Theft Auto game with a rocket launcher, indiscriminately wrecking everything you see as the cops come zooming in from all directions in a futile attempt to stop you. But instead of a guy running around with an arsenal of weapons, you're a monster shark launching itself 30 feet into the air, barrel-rolling straight through a boat, and plucking some screaming dork right off the bow for good measure. With the sharply written, hilariously delivered narration and story beats to freshen up the experience as you go along, Maneater becomes a goofy, fish-flopping romp, with a good balance of limbs to sever, boats to wreck, and challenging creatures to render into bite-sized chunks. Maneater isn't a perfect shark simulator, but it is a fun and funny one whose positive adaptations outpace its drawbacks.

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Now Playing: Maneater - Video Review

Back To Top
The Good
Ripping through Port Clovis as a megashark is ridiculous, goofy fun
Just enough stuff to do that you never quite get bored
Documentary-style presentation elevates what would become a repetitive experience otherwise
Mutations give some opportunity for strategic shark planning
Chris Parnell as narrator is an inspired choice
The Bad
Combat suffers from the lack of a strong lock system and can be confusing and frantic
Wrestling with the camera, especially in shallow water, is tougher than most fights
Some technical issues, like frame rate drops and broken collectibles
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Phil Hornshaw chomped, chewed, thrashed, and devoured sea life and uncautious humans for about 12 hours in Maneater on PS4, and wishes Chris Parnell could narrate everyday life, or at least additional shark-related life. Review code was provided by the publisher.
42 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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ReturnoftheBrotha

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I played this in Assassins Creed Black Flag!

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Yams1980

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Looks boring and repetitive. Every mission you kill 10 of this, or 5 of this. Sounds like busy work like most open world games with no real goal except to waste your time.

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Heqteur

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@Yams1980: what other goal than wasting time oes any other games has? Gamingis entertainment. Nothing more

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aross2004

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@heqteur: Entertainment is not a waste of time.

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m4a5

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Been waiting for a proper shark simulator after only really seeing mobile stuff.

Glad someone took the *cough* dive.

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alex33x

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No framerate drops on PC, or camera issues. Reviewer should have played the game on the platform is was made for.

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Fandango_Letho

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Edited By Fandango_Letho

@alex33x: It has a lot of drops on my 1080 ti. Game jumps from 40 to 100 FPS frequently in some areas.

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rodoxthedark

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Does anybody know how this runs on switch, might buy it for that

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aross2004

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@rodoxthedark: Switch version drops later this year.

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rodoxthedark

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@aross2004: yeah read that after the fact, think I’ll wait till it’s on game pass or ps now

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dmblum1799

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Edited By dmblum1799

Chris Parnell is awesome. He was

Dr. Spaceman: "Jenna, for your height, your weight puts you in what we call the *disgusting* range. Fortunately, there are solutions. Crystal Meth has proven to be very effective."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33OU_HOBBDs&t=74s

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StreetShark

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@dmblum1799: I loved him as Dr. Spaceman.

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so_hai

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"Its not the perfect shark simulator."

Are you sure you want that?

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JimAbadon

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Edited By JimAbadon

Gotta admit, I was so sure this game would turn out bad but even on Metacritic it seems to be on the positive side. I'm really surprised, I might actually pick it up in the future.

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DragonfireXZ95

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It's a pretty good game, but isn't it a Bullshark which can actually survive in both fresh and salt water? That's not a mutation, that's just real life.

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so_hai

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@DragonfireXZ95: That's right. Bull Sharks can swim very, very far up rivers.

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aross2004

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Edited By aross2004

@DragonfireXZ95: Then good thing it's a video game, and not real life.

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seanwil545

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Would be nice to know how the PC version is running GS.

Epic Store though, this timed release nonsense is getting old. Guess I'll have to wait for the Steam Version.

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owenstoodstill

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@seanwil545:

Finished it today on PC.

Run smooth as anything. Probably only had about 2 little drops in framerate. No issues with collectibles or any glitches or bugs at all. Game pad support is what it is on epic store no option to customise like steam but the defaults work just fine. Camera in fights is a bit annoying, could do with a lock-on feature.

This exclusives are getting annoying on epic though, agreed!

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seanwil545

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@owenstoodstill: Nice, thanks for the update. I have a number of games I still need to dive into, so I'll wait for the Steam version.

Good to know that overall it is running well on PC...big thanks.

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gamingdevil800

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Gotta say I've met the occasional maneater at the weekends.

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soulmuncher666

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@gamingdevil800: Where's the weekends?

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so_hai

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@soulmuncher666: It's a gay club.

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gamingdevil800

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@soulmuncher666: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Weekend+Ln,+Kentucky+42071,+USA/@36.7030648,-88.1055125,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x887af969e9e74d25:0xad17d5dcd809ddd8!8m2!3d36.7030648!4d-88.1033238

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aross2004

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All over it! So rare that we actually see anything fresh nowadays.

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Thelostscribe

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@aross2004: I agree, since it got a good review from Gamespot, who is typically harder on games than most other sites, I'm buying it right now. I wish they'd have talked about how big the areas were, they look pretty massive in the pics, considering you can fight Sperm Whales and the like.

Hopefully the developer adds a lock on system a little later on. Post launch patches can be a great way to improve.

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Gr4h4m833zy

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Looks interesting. I'll wait for a $30 price drop.

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aross2004

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@gr4h4m833zy: So you're going to wait a long time for it to be $3 on XBOX, or $10 on PS4. It's not a full priced game.

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Thelostscribe

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Edited By Thelostscribe

@gr4h4m833zy: It's $33 on Amazon for Xbox One right now. It full price is only 40 bucks.

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Midna

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Midna  Online

Looks like fun!

4 • 
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ukgamer51

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Why o Why o Why isn't Gamespot review these games on the Xbox one x, or at least try them on both consoles, The reviewer states some technical issue with the PS4, But nothing about how it plays on other consoles.

Wise up Gamespot !!

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faberware

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@ukgamer51: playing it on xbox currently and it's fairly in line with the review of the PS4 copy. I have reached adulthood, around level 10 or 11, and while Ive yet to have quest or collectibles not work, the framerate can dip when fights get frantic. Only other thing was in some areas the colors would go haywire and have some graphical glitches with water being speckled black or harsh lime green.

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soulmuncher666

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@ukgamer51: Oh I'm sure its totally glitch free on xbox.

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xantufrog

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Edited By xantufrog  Moderator

looks like a pretty fun romp. If I didn't have a ton of other games on my docket right now I'd pick it up

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Sindroid

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scoring a 7?

I think we are gonna need a bigger boat..

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5tu88sy

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@Sindroid: Nice

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Solaryellow

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WOW! I was expecting much worse!

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DaVillain-

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DaVillain-  Moderator

Eat your heart out Jaws: Unleashed XD

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santinegrete

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@davillain- genre is saturated, said no one :D

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5tu88sy

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@santinegrete: I wonder how many gamers in the world actually wanted a shark sim?

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santinegrete

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@5tu88sy: I really wanted it since I was a child and found Sharks fascinating. I bet we're few on that, but people wanting a basic survival game becoming a power trip? Lot of games and gamers for that.

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Maneater

First Released May 22, 2020
released
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

7
Good

Average Rating

9 Rating(s)

7.6
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Mild Language