REVIEW: ‘Maneater’ Thrives Despite Performance Issues (PS4)

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Maneater

Maneater is an open-world action RPG developed and published by Tripwire Interactive for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. In Maneater, you play as a bloodthirsty shark, terrorizing humans and sea creatures alike as you grow and evolve in order to take revenge on the hunter that killed your mother. While I had a fantastic time with Maneater, the technical issues and are hard to overlook completely, making it an overall mixed, though fun, experience.

The game’s story mode is fairly simple and quite clever in its design. The narrative is shown through the eyes of a quirky reality TV show that follows Scaly Pete, a shark hunter. At the beginning of Maneater, in the tutorial, Scaly Pete kills your mother, a large female bull shark. Your ultimate goal throughout the story is to take revenge on Scaly Pete and his crew while also establishing your dominance in the ocean by killing other apex predators.

I really enjoyed the documentary TV show aspect of the game. It’s not just featured in important cutscenes, either – often there is commentary based on your actions and discoveries throughout the world. The humor in the game often reminded me of the early 2000s Tony Hawk games and made numerous clever references to famous movies and TV shows. Some of these references were pretty on the nose, like the enormous pineapple that clearly is a nod to SpongeBob, while others are more subtle, making understanding the joke even more pleasurable and entertaining.

Progression throughout Maneater relies on gaining resources to evolve. These evolutions add customizable perks that you can swap in and out whenever you’re at a grotto, which is where you can fast travel, save, and make changes to your shark.

Maneater Evolutions

While unlocking the different evolutions was a lot of fun, I didn’t spend much time actually caring about what was equipped to my shark. There are really only three options and I always had extra resources to upgrade them, so I didn’t spend any time thinking strategically about what I should be picking. The evolutions are cool, but the gameplay style is basically “charge in and eat as fast as you can” so the variations on how to do that didn’t particularly matter that much because each playstyle was about the same.

That said, how to play and control the game does taking some getting used to and was a struggle I continuously had with Maneater. The basic controls themselves are a little strange because you dodge, attack, and stun enemies using the buttons. My real issue with controlling Maneater, however, was the camera and lack of useful lock-on button.

Since you are a shark in the ocean, camera control is incredibly important because you can move in literally any direction. Unfortunately, if I was doing anything other than swimming in a straight line, I felt like I was battling the camera just so I could see where I was going.

This was frustrating when navigating tight areas, but, even worse, detrimental to my shark in combat because I couldn’t get the camera to focus on my enemy which would often get me killed. It might not have been a huge issue if I could have locked on to whatever I was fighting, but the lock on mechanism in Maneater basically just repositions the camera once and that’s it.

It doesn’t continue to follow the enemy around, meaning that the camera would swivel, show me whatever I was fighting, and then the fish or boat would immediately dodge in another direction and I’d have to try and find it all over again. Those few seconds of not being able to see what you’re doing often means that the enemy can come up behind you and completely decimate half your health before you can even see where they are.

Because of this, the combat in Maneater is definitely not the game’s strong suit. Some of the fights were really cool and a lot of fun and others were incredibly frustrating because your enemy was so much faster than you that you couldn’t even find them to attack them.

Exploration is really where Maneater shines. In addition to the story mode, there are side missions that have you go after both sea creatures and humans, nutrient caches, which are basically underwater chests that give you additional resources, and landmarks, which give you quirky little cutscenes and help you gain new evolutions.

Maneater's exploration

I spent my time in Maneater pouring over the map, finding every collectible I could and I had a blast with it. What I love about the game, too, is that you can essentially adjust the difficulty level of finding these places on the map. Your shark has a sonar ability that, when used, finds and highlights undiscovered objects for you. You can upgrade the ability so that the range is wider, making it easier to find more and more of the hidden collectibles, or you can simply not use it at all for an enormous extra challenge.

If collectibles are your kind of thing in a game, Maneater is definitely a good choice for you. There’s tons of stuff to find and explore throughout the ocean and the satisfaction of checking off everything on the map is definitely worth it.

Unfortunately for Maneater, the game does have performance issues that drags it down. I was playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro and had quite a few problems with the game lagging or freezing for a couple of seconds. I couldn’t quite figure out why, either – the lagging did often happen when there was a lot going on, but sometimes, I’d be swimming through an unpopulated part of the ocean and experience problems for no reason that I could see.

In fact, one time, the game crashed completely. Luckily, Maneater saves every time you accomplish anything, whether it be story points or finding a collectible, so I didn’t lose any of my progress, but I did have to boot the whole thing up again after it force quit itself.

Plus, unlike most people, I’ve never really had an issue with the sound my PS4 makes, but Maneater definitely made it sound like it was about to blow sitting on my shelf. I’m not sure if it would run any better on PC or an Xbox One X, but my PS4 Pro, which is only a year and a half old, seemed to really struggle running the game.

Overall, Maneater is a pretty fun experience, especially if you’re a fan of shark movies like I am, even though it does have its problems. It felt like being placed in Jaws and being told to just go at it and I loved that. I even ended up getting the platinum trophy since I spent so much time exploring the ocean and digging into the collectibles I could find. However, it has its downsides, too. It is, at times, difficult to control, and definitely has performance issues, at least on PlayStation. That said, the struggles I had with the game didn’t take away from my enjoyment of it at all and was mostly just a minor inconvenience. If you’re able to overlook the occasional stuttering, I definitely recommend Maneater if you’re looking for something you can dive in and finish this weekend.

Maneater is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch version is slated for later this year.

Maneater
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

Maneater is a pretty fun experience, especially if you’re a fan of shark movies like I am, even though it does have its problems. It felt like being placed in Jaws and being told to just go at it and I loved that. I even ended up getting the platinum trophy since I spent so much time exploring the ocean and digging into the collectibles I could find. However, it has its downsides, too.