Maneater Xbox One Review

June 1, 2020

Sharks have long been respected as one of the apex predators of the ocean. Their sharp teeth, sonar abilities, speed and sheer power make them a ferocious beast that few dare approach. They command respect but are perhaps treated unfairly in films such as Jaws, The Meg, The Deep and Sharknado, where they are cast as villains. Similar can be said about games where sharks are often featured as a boss character. Maneater takes this perception and puts an anti-hero spin on it. Explore the seas, get behind that raw power and unleash chaos on hunters and sea critters alike.

Maneater begins with players taking control of an adult bull shark. This acts as the game’s tutorial, giving players a rundown of the controls and also letting them sample what they will unlock later in the campaign. After devouring people at a beach, the shark is captured by a hunter named Scaly Pete. Pete knifes the shark to reveal it is pregnant with a pup, who quickly bites the hunter’s arm off and makes a gruesome escape. Before Pete let go of the pup however, he marked it to ensure he could later track it down for sport. The pup now seeks revenge, but first it must eat, grow and evolve. During the course of the campaign, the plot takes a couple of interesting turns such as players learning that Pete comes from a long line of hunters and his son is studying Marine Biology at university. There is some depth to Pete’s character and you almost feel sorry for the guy, but Maneater never strays too far off the focus on the shark.

In contrast to all the trailers and marketing for the game, you’re actually really vulnerable as a pup. You begin in a bayou environment and must explore your surroundings while basically eating anything and everything in sight. There is no shortage of turtles and catfish to feast on, but you must also be wary of crocodiles and muskellunge that will attack you. Most of the hostile creatures you encounter follow similar attack patterns, so even if you aren’t quite at the same level you can easily outmanoeuvre your opponents and slowly bite them down to size. If you do get locked into their jaws though, they will make short work of your health meter.

As you eat creatures you will gain experience and go through the shark’s life cycle, eventually reaching its Teen, Adult and Elder stages. Maneater is initially slow paced purely because you’re outclassed by the bigger predators in the water and are limited to levelling up by preying on smaller fish. Once you become an adult though, you will be largely unopposed and have a new sense of satisfying power. The game is definitely at its best once you reach the adult stage.

One of the appealing mechanics of Maneater is evolving the shark and enhancing its abilities. Early in the game, you have a sonar ability which can detect prey and objects from afar, as well as a tail whip move that stuns prey. Later you will be able to leap out of the water at great heights and gain more speed, health and overall power. By killing apex predators and hunters in the environment, you will also unlock a number of preset evolutions. These allow you to apply special traits to your head, fin, tail, jaw and body. For example, you can equip the shark’s jaw with bio-electricity which allows you to shock prey with each bite and stun them. Or you can opt to equip Shadow Teeth which gives you vampire-like teeth that sucks the blood from prey and partially heals you with each bite.  Bone Body puts a layer of bone around you and increases your ram damage when attacking boats. Each trait not only affects your abilities but also your appearance. It’s really engaging experimenting with different combinations and finding which one suits your play style – or simply pick whatever evolution looks the coolest!

There are seven unique environments in Maneater to explore including the aforementioned bayou, a seaside golf course, nuclear waste dump, canals at a hotel/tourist hub, amusement park and the open ocean. You can explore both under and above the water, offering two unique sights for each environment. The areas are littered with caves, reefs and tunnels to explore which feature different marine life such as fish, seals, whales and even other sharks. There are also a number of hidden collectables including tourist attraction markers, car license plates and nutrient caches which will reward you with experience and resources that can be used to further enhance your abilities. To progress the game’s plot and gain access to new areas you are required to complete a number of objectives, but these are generally limited to eating a certain number of specific targets and then taking on the area’s apex predator. As most of your time is spent eating things or battling hunters, the game can get repetitive with extended play sessions. Generally, there is enough balance between exploration, unlocking new evolutions and going from being a vulnerable pup to a menacing adult, that your interest will remain throughout the approximately 10-hour campaign.

Aside from repetition, there are some other annoyances which hinder the overall experience. There’s a lock-on system which directs you to attack specific targets, but if they go off-screen the lock is released. In particular, if you’re hunting another predator they’re going to speed past you while dodging attacks, so the lock-on system is more or less useless in these encounters. One of the bigger issues is whenever you break the surface of the water, the viewpoint will change to show the shark’s fin and what’s happening above. When preying on apex predators, the encounters often take place just beneath the surface of the water or in shallow waters. As you’re zipping around, dodging and attacking, you’ll often break the surface which takes you out of the immersion of the fight. I also personally found that I needed to constantly pause the game to bring up a map and work out how to navigate the environment. Maneater would benefit greatly from a mini-map. There is a compass which highlights points of interest that you have marked on the map screen, though annoyingly there is a delay of a few seconds for the compass to update.

Maneater’s visuals are good but not the best when compared to bigger name releases. The animations of the shark and marine wildlife look great, especially when you position yourself under rays of light. Human animations aren’t as appealing but they get the job done. Environments feature a day/night cycle which changes the atmosphere of your surroundings and overall is a nice touch. There’s not a lot of music featured in the game apart from dramatic tones that play when you’re fighting against other predators, which is disappointing but at the same time allows you to focus on the serenity of exploring the calm waters. In-game commentary is provided by comedian Chris Parnell, who often chimes in to reveal a fact about the fictional world or the life of sharks. Quite often Parnell delivers humorous lines, though be prepared to hear them repeated often throughout the campaign.

Maneater is an engaging title that will appeal to anyone who aspires to be a murderous shark. It’s fun to explore the environments and it’s satisfying when you’re an adult shark that has little opposition to worry about. Just keep in mind the repetitive gameplay may be a little much for some and there are other technical issues which hold back the overall experience.

Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Maneater on an Xbox One X console with a copy provided by Deep Silver. The game is also available on PS4, PC and is planned for release later this year on Nintendo Switch, with more details available at the official website.


- It's satisfying being the apex predator of the ocean
- Fun to explore the envrioments
- Experiment with different evolutions


- Repetitive mission objectives
- Lock-on system almost isn't usable
- Difficulty navigating without mini-map

Overall Score: