Maneater on Xbox One review: One of the biggest surprises of 2020

Become a fearsome predator in this quirky yet challenging RPG.

(Image: © Tripwire Interactive)

There aren't that many games out there that feature a shark as the protagonist. Beforehand, if you wanted to experience the aquatic life as a feared predator, you had to buy Hungry Shark World on Xbox One and other platforms. However, that game is all about quick play sessions and keeping your shark alive for a few minutes at a time.

Maneater manages to elevate that formula by bringing it to a 3D, open-world setting. There's even a somewhat compelling story thrown in there in case the larger setting wasn't enough. All of this makes Maneater one of the biggest gaming surprises of 2020 so far.

Maneater story and objectives

Maneater starts off with a rather gruesome cutscene. Your shark mother is caught by a fisherman and you're thrown into the water after being disfigured (there are other details involved that I won't share here because they're quite disturbing). The goal of the game is then to get revenge on the fisherman who killed her. Oddly enough, it's really good motivation that kept me hooked for hours. I really, really wanted to eat him. When you start the game, you'll immediately discover why.

Just like Hungry Shark World, the goal is to eat other fish, humans, and even alligators to gain enough DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) to evolve into a larger shark with new abilities. If you take down human bounty hunters and their vessels, as well as other tougher creatures, you gain even more raw materials and experience. All of this is just to make you stronger. The other quests not related to the main one are superfluous.

While progress can be slow to start, if you challenge yourself by going after Level 15 bosses, you'll become an Adult or Elder shark in less time. You'll also easily be able to upgrade abilities like Advanced Sonar to legendary levels.

Maneater combat and customization


Source: Tripwire Interactive (Image credit: Source: Tripwire Interactive)

Customization plays an important role in Maneater as you approach the endgame. Initially, you can only equip different mods like the aforementioned Advanced Sonar, which allows you to sense prey at a great distance. However, as you kill different shark hunters, you can increase your health, damage, or even gain the ability to channel electricity by equipping different head, tail, or other organs.

To get to this stage though, you're going to have to play a lot because it's not easy to tkae down the shark hunters. It took me around 10 hours to become an Elder shark, and the game continues to be quite challenging after that. Keep in mind that the mods are supplementary to leveling up. With each level, you gain a little more health and damage.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
DeveloperTripwire Interactive
PlatformsXbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch
Xbox Game PassNo

Combat revolves around attacking with your powerful jaw and stunning enemies with your muscular tail. You can also boost and leap out of the water to snatch unsuspecting humans from their boats. While the mechanics are relatively simple, timing is the key to success. For example, if you senselessly attack an alligator without stunning it when it's about to attack, you're going to end up dead. Luckily, there's a respawn mechanic, but the enemy will also regain its full health.

I found that kiting is an effective strategy when taking down powerful enemies. Attack them for a little bit, run away, eat some fish to heal, and attack them again. Repeat this until the Level 15 alligator is dead.

Maneater additional features


Source: Tripwire Interactive (Image credit: Source: Tripwire Interactive)

Maneater plays out like a low-budget documentary with a somewhat hilarious narrator (played by SNL and Rick and Morty's Chris Parnell). Your actions are chronicled by the ever-present voice and sometimes it also provides hints as to what to do next. This is just one of the many details in the game that elevate the experience beyond just a game concerning mechanics.

While you'll spend the majority of your time eating, there are a ton of secrets and collectibles scattered throughout the open world. Each subregion tells you exactly what you need to find to get 100 percent completion. If you're struggling to take down an enemy, grinding out these is an easy way to level up because they reward a lot of experience and materials.

Maneater visuals and performance


Source: Tripwire Interactive (Image credit: Source: Tripwire Interactive)

Maneater looks stunning on Xbox One X and appears to be running at 4K resolution. Unfortunately, the frame rate is locked to a stable 30FPS. Luckily, the controls are responsive and I never felt like I was at a disadvantage playing on the console. However, I did wish for smoother visuals because boss battles require quick thinking and you have to evade a lot.

Usually, underwater sections of various games are a little difficult to control because of odd camera angles or other glitches. Since Maneater is designed from the ground up to take place in such an environment, it's a treat to play. Navigating is easy if you use your Advanced Sonar ability, but I still would've preferred a mini-map instead of having to reference the world map every few minutes.

Maneater final thoughts


Source: Tripwire Interactive (Image credit: Source: Tripwire Interactive)

Overall, Maneater is a simple game, but it's supremely addictive. However, developer Tripwire Interactive should've made it easier to level up because you feel way too underpowered for a long time. Having to grind collectibles or consume hundreds of underpowered fish gets tiresome after a while, especially as you level up and put in all those hours.

It's hard to assign a score to Maneater because you can't really compare it to many other titles. I think this may be the first shark role-playing game (RPG) I've ever experienced. I think judging it based on the enjoyment I received — subtracting the slightly frustrating and grindy aspects — is the way to go here. It's a unique experience with challenging, yet grindy, gameplay and a quirky sense of humor.

If you own an Xbox One, you should pick this one up. It's just a blast to play.

The game was reviewed on an Xbox One X with a code provided by the developer.

Asher Madan

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.