Maneater Hands-On Preview – Deep Blue Potential

Maneater posits a very simple question: Do you want to be a shark?

Not a real shark, of course. Real sharks are – despite their negative media connotations – mostly harmless. But do you want to be that shark? The shark from Jaws, The Meg, Deep Blue Sea, and Sharknado. The monster that devours indiscriminately and unconditionally. The monster of our collective nightmares.

To Maneater’s credit, it answers that question rather well. From your first moments swimming as the finned beast of the sea, you not only feel in control of your character, but of your environment.

This is impressive considering the difficultly many games have had over the decades in translating the three-dimensional movements of the sea into a cohesive movement system. Maneater gets around it by pairing movement controls with not only dedicated buttons to break through and descend from the water’s surface, but a rather intuitive lock-on feature. It means that – aside from a few camera issues – traversing the sea is never a struggle.

This flows well with the feel of the shark itself. The mixture of button mashing to chew animals and fish into scraps, the several abilities afforded to you to use to stalk your prey, and the many more on offer as you progress through the game’s skill tree, means you always feel like a true aquatic menace, even when facing creatures way bigger, stronger, and more bloodthirsty than you.

Just searching for a midnight snack

The downside, to this, however, is the layout of the game itself. The developers have opted for an open-world approach, full of the usual collectibles, landmarks, side quests, and boss areas. And while it works for a lot of games, it only made Maneater feel somewhat limiting in comparison.

At one stage, while fighting a rather difficult alligator, all I could think of is how similar the entire experience felt to other open-world games. And after a while, I couldn’t shake the thought that the game would become repetitive, even tedious, if the map was any bigger than it currently is.

Which is a shame, since a game like this one would work perfectly with a more linear, mission-based level design, rather than an open-world one. However, without seeing the end product, there’s no way to truly judge. There’s every possibility that the dev team are hiding something extraordinary in the rest of the map.

However, based on what was shown, it’s fair to say that while Maneater has promise, it may be heading straight into the fishnets. And whilst the idea on the surface of Maneater is exemplary, it may be a re-tread once we went a little deeper.

Maneater is coming to PS4, Xbox One and PC in 2020.

Albert Santos is a writer, specialising in pop culture, from western Sydney. His work has been featured in many places you’ve read and many more you haven’t. He sometimes quietly laments that children today will never know the pain of playing an original GameBoy, with no backlight, in the back seat of a car at night.