Welcome to Best of Xbox Game Pass where each week I’m going to pick out a game available on Game Pass and explain why I think it is worth playing. While I’ll certainly include some of the bigger titles available on the service, I’ll focus more on other games that you might have overlooked in the hope of leading you to a hidden gem
We all have regrets in life and one of mine is that I was far too harsh on Maneater when it came out last year, scoring it just two out of five while trying to explain that despite its various shortcomings it was also bloody good fun at times. Perhaps I was trying too hard to be a critic, a connoisseur of video games instead of someone just looking for a good time. So let’s set the record straight: Maneater isn’t an amazing game, especially when you look at it more critically, but it also a game about getting to play as a giant shark that munches humans, destroys boats and developers incredible mutations. If you know what you’re getting into, Maneater is a damn good time, and it’s the perfect fodder for Game Pass.
Here’s the deal: you are the offspring of a mighty shark that died at the hands of a shark hunter by the name of Scaly Pete Your birth came when the man literally gutted your mother and you came spilling out of the remains, and thus you have a pretty healthy need for vengeance, and that means guzzling everything you come across to grow bigger, meaner and more badass. You’ll start as a cute little baby shark, grow into a moody teen shark, reach full adulthood and eventually become a full-blown Megashark.
That premise alone already makes Maneater stand out, but then the developers double down by introducing awesome mutations into the mix, like being able to grow bone armour and electric teeth, because a heavyweight underwater killing machine just ain’t badass without electric teeth.
It’s a repetitive game by its nature with missions being almost entirely constructed of eating a bunch of stuff, be it other fish, alligators or flailing humans. As such, you’ll be hammering the right trigger like it owes you money because that’s how you bite stuff. Combat is all about abusing that trigger too, although you can also perform a tailwhip and leap out of the water like a rage missing with teeth instead of a warhead. It’s even possible to snatch something in your jaws and then tailwhip it at a target, thus turning humans into bowling balls.
There’s a healthy streak of humour throughout Maneater, most of it coming from the narrator who treats your journey like a gory documentary. It kind of is because a lot of the narrative is delivered by a reality TV show that’s following the shark hunters, including the asshole you want to bite in half. It’s all hilariously over the top and Chris Parnell is great as the nature documentary narrator, commenting on your odd diet and hyping up the various shark hunters who try to hunt you down as you become more notorious.
There’s honestly something very satisfying about just swimming around in the ocean and chomping everything you come across. The controls are simple, responsive and a pleasure to use, letting you slice through the water, leap out and devour unsuspecting humans (you can even flop around on land) and dive into the depths, hunting down other sharks. It does get a bit messy in the combat, mind you. The lock-on sort of helps but is easily broken when enemies dart around which they do all the time, so fights are basically a mosh-pit where you destroy the trigger and struggle to keep the foe in sight. If nothing else it captures the chaotic feeling of a shark fight quite well.
Maneater is a good choice for completionists, too. There’s a bunch of collectables and stuff to find, but it’s all clearly listed and quite fun to gather. Stuff like landmarks nets you a funny little piece of narration while Nutrient Caches bolster your shark, increasing your overall size and giving you the fuel needed to buy evolutions.
Speaking of which, the various mutations and stuff you can equip are awesome. There isn’t a huge variety, but decking out your shark in a full suit of bone armour or Shadow gear looks spectacular and makes you feel like the king of the oceans.
And I like that it saves some challenges for later. Sometimes you just aren’t big enough and strong enough yet to go fin-on-fin with one the current region’s Apex Predator so you have to go away, munch some stuff and come back looking like you’ve been hitting the game for 8 hours every damn day and injecting yourself full of steroids.
Xbox Series S and Series X owners get some nice bonuses too because the developers just recently launched a patch to bolster the performance. Both consoles get ray-tracing which helps the already lovely underwater environments look even more spectacular. And both consoles are holding a silky-smooth 60FPS. Series X owners, meanwhile, get a native 4k image to ogle and drool over.
At the end of the day, though, Maneater delivers exactly what it needs to: a chance to come powering out of the ocean, leap 40ft in the air and chomp straight through some chump playing golf who thought he was safe on dry land. No other game really does what Maneater does, and for that reason, it’s the perfect Game Pass experience. Give it a go.