Ocean Man, Take Me By The Hand

HIGH I’m a freakin’ shark!

LOW That framerate.

WTF The story was… deeper… than expected

While plenty of games want to be on par with Hollywood blockbusters, we don’t get many that would rather be the unabashed equivalent of a cheesy B-movie, but Tripwire Interactive has delivered what may be the finest example in ages with Maneater.

The pitch? Control a shark seeking revenge on a hunter that killed its mother, but couch it in humorous reality show style with a narrator (the always-hilarious Chris Parnell) detailing events on screen for a fictional show called Maneaters vs. Sharkhunters.

Swimming around Maneater’s open world feels like an interactive documentary, albeit a bloody one. The camera can be a bit bothersome at times, but it feels excellent to move through the water.

Maneater’s third-person gameplay is reminiscent of other open-world RPGs. The shark’s main quest is to grow, and that’s done by fighting through several powerful sea creatures. As the shark grows in size it also grows in level, displayed by a number. Each enemy also has a number, and naturally, higher numbers mean the shark should expect a tougher fight.

Combat is enjoyable, if a bit repetitive, but the ability to bite into all living things in Maneater‘s environments is amusing mechanic. Thankfully, the experience is also heavy on exploration.

There are plenty of markers and collectibles on the map, and the traversable area includes bodies of water ranging from bayous and abandoned aquariums to the coasts of cities like San Francisco. Each area has plenty of interesting sections to explore, and as the player grows and evolves, they’re able to access different places — similar to how progress unlocks in a metroidvania. For example, many collectibles are on land, but a leveled-up shark can survive being out of the water for a few minutes without dying.

Unfortunately, repetition starts to set in after a while. Every story mission boils down to two objectives — killing things and destroying boats. Then, every area has a boss battle against an “apex predator,” though there’s not much to defeating them as it boils down to swim, bite, tail whip and dodge over and over again. The real excitement comes from trying to figure out how to destroy certain boats while being fired at by authorities alerted to the shark’s presence.

Maneater has trouble keeping up with that excitement in a technical sense, though. Whenever there’s plenty of activity onscreen, the framerate and resolution take a dive (pun intended) and it’s like I’m watching blurry slideshow footage of a shark attack. However, even with the performance issues and repetition, I never stopped enjoying my time with Maneater and I finished it in just a few days while almost 100%’ing it — a rarity for me.

For those craving some deliciously cheesy B-movie flavor wrapped around a concise open-world core, Maneater delivers.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

— C.J. Salcedo

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Tripwire Interactive and Volition, and published by Deep Silver. It is available on XBO, PS4 and PC. This copy was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PS4. Approximately 20 hours of play were devoted to the game, and it was completed. There is no multiplayer.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M for Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, and Mild Language. The game is violent and gory to no end. People and animals are ripped apart, with boats being covered in blood and the water turning red. A lot of swearing is bleeped out owing to the narrative taking place within a fictional reality show. In spite of the violence, this game can be enjoyed by older teens who enjoy movies like Sharknado or even Jurassic Park.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played a majority of the game with no sound and it was totally fine. Subtitles are represented, but boy are they tiny. There is no option to resize them.

Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable.

Cj Salcedo
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