Maneater places you into the fins of a giant shark that terrorizes swamps, beaches, and a variety of locales that unfortunately becomes a slog with each passing hour of gameplay as the player tears their way through wave after wave of fish, shark hunters, alligators, and a number of repetitive challenges that will bring nothing new to the table. Over the course of our 10-plus hours with Maneater, we definitely felt a sinking feeling as we realized that the game shows you nearly everything it has to offer once you finish the minutes-long tutorial.
Maneater is an action role playing game that sees your shark attempting to gain revenge for the loss of its mother at the hands of a shark hunter named Scaly Pete. On your quest for vengeance, you'll bite your way through hundreds, if not thousands, of aquatic life as well as human beings unfortunately enough to be in your way. Your shark will level up, gaining strange new mutations that certainly separate it from a number of its fellow giant sharks seen in the entertainment industry.
The aesthetic of Maneater plunges you into what is essentially a B-movie plot with one of the strengths of the game coming in the form of the narrator, actor Chris Parnell. The actor's Hollywood resume includes the likes of Rick and Morty, Archer, Saturday Night Live, and 30 Rock, and while he offers up quite a few hilarious one-liners describing landmarks and the general adventures of your great white shark, he can't break up the monotony of the dull gameplay that requires you to consistently hammer at the bumper on your controller.
The story has you following along with the offspring of a shark who terrorized the beachside during your time with the tutorial, snacking down targets as you use nutrients and mutagens to level up your killer of the deep into growing from "child" to "elder." Maneater feels like a video game that prides itself on missed opportunities, with every time a player expects some new gameplay mechanic, they're left wanting. Every undersea battle devolves into a struggle with the game's camera, as we found ourselves simply hammering away at the "bite button," frantically hoping that the target reticle would stay on an enemy alligator long enough for us to get in a number of hits to level up to a point where the enemy creature would require us to hit the button less often.
A perfect example of the game's missed opportunities comes in the form of shark hunter bosses. In a similar structure to Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption series, when your shark eats enough humans, they become more and more of a threat, with stronger hunters being sent your way. These bosses basically have nothing that separates them from the normal shark hunters you encounter outside of a brief paragraph of back story attached to their profiles in the pause menu and a quick five-second intro that has them holding something like a phone or a bottle of liquor before jumping into a battle. To give you an example of their lack of uniqueness, we found ourselves eliminating these bosses and only discovering we had done so after checking their profiles in the menu to double-check that they had in fact been eaten.
The Apex Predators aren't much better, simply being larger versions of the creatures of the deep that you've encountered before. Encountered alligators in the bayou? Well, get ready to fight a bigger alligator as the boss. Tore through barracuda near the golf course? Here comes a bigger barracuda. On and on it goes until you simply resign yourself to the endless purgatory of button mashing to make a battle go that much faster.
Don't get us wrong, watching your shark grow from a "toddler" to a "megalodon with bone fins and electric teeth" is a sight to behold, but it ultimately doesn't feel worth the repetitive hours that one has to put in, to say nothing of the game-crashing glitches you may encounter along the way as we did. The idea of playing as a giant shark is a good one, but Maneater just isn't able to capitalize on it.
Rating: 2 out of 5