What you won’t like

Above: I’m a leg kind of shark.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

What does it say about sharks?

You do learn about the bull shark, and it’s clear Tripwire put care into learning about this species. It’s one of the few species of sharks that can live in fresh and salt water. It’s a voracious eater. It relies on senses besides sight and smell to hunt. But I worry that some will see this as a “sharks are human’s enemies,” when I don’t think that’s the intent. While you do eat a lot of people — my toll must be in nearing 1,000 at this point — you never get a sense that Tripwire is trying to tell you that sharks are bad and worthy of slaughter.

Yet I do feel like Tripwire has lost an opportunity to dig more into the negative effects of shark fishing inside Maneater. I would’ve enjoyed more Easter eggs talking about the predator’s place in the ecosystem, and how humanity is threatening many species of sharks. I would’ve also liked a discussion about the effect super-predators such as this mutant shark can have on ecosystems.

But Maneater isn’t an educational game. It’s about over-the-top humor and eating as many fish, humans, and reptiles as you can find to grow and mutate.

Bad to the bone.

Above: Bad to the bone.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Storyline triggers need more clarity

More than 16 hours in, I found myself unsure of what to do. A message onscreen told me to fight Scaly Pete, but the story quest queue had nothing in it. The map didn’t show any quest triggers. Turns out I had to do some of the “eat humans” tasks, but Maneater didn’t tell me these are related to attracting Scaly Pete’s attention. I thought this had to do with killing all the bounty hunters. I did, and still, Scaly Pete didn’t appear.

Turns out I had the right idea — kill more humans — I just wasn’t doing so in the right place. I had to eat people in the areas with sidequests for killing humans. I figured it out, and look at that — I got back-to-back Scaly Pete events. But I wish this was more clear.

Joke may wear thin for some

To enjoy Maneater to its fullest, you gotta buy into the joke — the fun of playing an absurd, mutating shark and eating everything in sight. Now, some are going to buy into this hook, line, and sinker (sorry, I couldn’t resist). But I can imagine how others either won’t get it or tire of this humor after a while. And that’s OK! I have a hard time finishing action-adventures and shooters — I just get bored with them. And some folks might get bored with exploring and eating in Maneater, or they may just tire of the playing the same joke over 20 hours. But I’m not tired of it, and I’d happily play more games like this in the future.

Conclusion

Maneater is unique — tell me the last time you played an open-world RPG as a mutating shark. Its sense of humor winks at you. It’s challenging without being difficult. And it’s hard not to enjoy the absurdity of being an armored shark that can destroy 10 or so boats as hunters are shooting you with automatic rifles and machine guns and throwing TNT at you.

I would’ve liked a bit more clarity on the storyline quests, and it would’ve been nice if Maneater would say a bit more about the imperiled state of sharks in our world. And if you don’t get the joke, you’re not going to get this game.

Otherwise, Maneater is just the thing I’d recommend to folks looking for the kinds of experiences only games can provide.

Score: 81/100

Maneater is out now on PC (Epic Games Store exclusive for now), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It’ll release later this year for Nintendo Switch. The publisher sent GamesBeat an Epic Games Store code for the purposes of this review.