Supermassive Games has proven their track record with PS4 survival horror adventure Until Dawn. They mostly had released short projects after it and now sometime later, they are back again with a brand new horror anthology series: The Dark Pictures. Man of Medan is the first part of this anthology series that is based on the story of a ghost ship. This ship has its history behind it and was supposedly based on a legend in real-life history.
The main protagonists of Man of Medan are four Americans: Julia, Conrad, Brad and his brother Alex. Conrad is the brother of Julia while Alex is her boyfriend. They decide to go on a diving expedition as a group on one fateful day. They aren’t aware of the dangers that are present in these uncharted waters around the site picked for diving. Their boat captain is a girl named Fliss who is also one of the playable characters. During their diving expedition, they stumble upon a crashed plane but instead of telling the coast guards, they decide to investigate it on their own.
The diving expedition around the plane soon turns into a nightmare when the boat is attacked by some unknown assailants. This coupled with an unexpected storm leads the crew of the boat and the assailants to stumble on a safe destination which ends up being the ghost ship. This is where the story properly picks up however the lead up to this sequence also carries a lot of choices that affect the outcome of the story. Any of the leads can die depending on the choices that you make before hitting the ghost ship.
The story of Man of Medan is told through a gradual and slow pace. If you had seen the trailers before playing the game, your expectations would be high regarding the number of scary scenes. Most of the scenes in the opening prologue are rather tame and the game takes a good chunk of time to set up the story before putting the cast on the ghost ship. The gameplay mostly consists of making choices or walking in a fixed-camera perspective while looking at objects for clues or secrets and talking with others.
Man of Medan has a rather short game length so the story is easy to digest. It is made for replayability because every choice has its consequences in the game. The short game length helps to sell this idea of replaying scenarios to get different outcomes, all of which can lead to multiple endings. There is a lot to uncover in the story which won’t be explained if you finish it just once. It is also important to take into account the co-op multiplayer, which is a significant part of enjoying the game.
While Until Dawn was largely a single-player affair, Man of Medan has been developed with co-op in mind. The game highlights this aspect in the main menu by letting you pick between the choices of playing alone or with someone else. The co-op is offered in two different modes: “Movie Night” and “Shared Story.” Shared Story is the default mode which lets you play the game online with a partner. In this mode, each of the players will control a character and the choices made will affect the outcome for both of them.
The co-op is what helps salvage the single-player experience for Man of Medan, which is pretty disappointing. It lacks the good writing, humor, and character developments of Supermassive’s Until Dawn. The scare factor is neglected to jump scores for most of the game until all hell breaks loose after a certain point. The game starts to get more interesting as the paranormal and psychological factor is ramped up, but the slow pace is a dealbreaker here. It is resolved somewhat thanks to the co-op mode which lets you engage and become a part of the world along with a partner.
The choices offered in Man of Medan are quite deep and almost every one of them can affect the story and even the behavior of the characters. Dialogue choices will change depending on the behavior traits of the leads, new story paths will also open based on your outcomes and it is possible to end up killing the whole cast as well. It is very interesting to witness this all in motion when playing the game and helps sell the idea of a video game where the focus is more on entertainment than interactivity.
The game’s design is quite restricted. Most of the gameplay involves walking in a fixed-camera perspective where you can find glowing objects which can be interacted. Action is mostly handled through quick-time events that require timed button presses to complete them. These are crucial to complete because they also carry a consequence based on their success or failure. Despite these flaws and the limited gameplay on offer here, this is still a good game that is built on a foundation that can be improved with some care. If the gameplay and pacing issues were fixed, this could have been as good as Until Dawn.
I had my issues with the visuals and performance. The game supports HDR but it felt like the brightness was messed up and looked washed out. It is also too dark which adds to the issue as well. There was no option to turn off the HDR and the performance itself has some issues with how it can stutter during certain sequences. The review was done on a PS4 Pro so your experience might vary depending on the screen and console used here.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: The Dark Pictures Anthology is a series of stand-alone, branching cinematic horror games featuring a multiplayer mode. In Man of Medan, five friends set sail on a holiday diving trip that soon changes into something much more sinister...
Final Score - 7.5/10
While it lacks the scare factor, the concept of a horror anthology series with co-op multiplayer is pretty unique and executed in a great way. The writing is rather weak for this first entry but the gameplay with its branching narrative offers sufficient replay value.