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The Dark Pictures: Man Of Medan

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 18 - 2019

Staying alive.

 
While there is nothing better than sitting in a darkened room and watching a terrifying movie alone, there are a certain type of horror movie that will always be better watched with a group of friends, not least of which because screaming at the TV while alone is somewhat concerning. You know the type, they usually involve a group of younger, prettier people that make the worst choices possible. This type of movie shines brightest when people can jump at the same time and complain about the stupidity of the people on screen at the same time. This type of shared experience also carries over to video games, although usually not by design. Supermassive’s Until Dawn was one of these games, really lending itself to the idea of friends sitting together while one unlucky soul controls what is happening on screen, and the rest are left to offer “advice”. Well, Supermassive are back with the first in a collection of cinematic horror games known as The Dark Pictures Anthology. The great thing is that the developers have really grabbed the idea of a shared experience and built it into Man of Medan. Supermassive say “Don’t Play Alone”, and that is great advise, but not because it is scary.

 


 
Anyone who played the excellent Until Dawn will be quite at home with Man of Medan. There are a lot of similarities between the two games, especially in how the game plays. However, gone is the cabin in the woods vibe, replaced with the even more isolating open ocean. Each of The Dark Pictures games will follow a different story with a different cast. For Man of Medan we have the classic ghost ship scenario, although that will take a while to present itself. After a quick introduction to the game and how to play, things jump forward to modern days a group of five young people who happen to be out on the ocean by themselves. We have the two brothers, Brad and Alex, packing quite different personalities. Then there is Alex’s girlfriend Julia. There is something of a rift in their relationship, so we will have to see how that plays out. Then Julia’s charming brother Conrad, who is frankly a bit of a prat. Finally, we have the much more responsible Captain Fliss who has been convinced, for her own reasons, to take the group out into the middle of the ocean. They are there to do some diving, maybe find some treasure and even have an adventure. Be careful what you wish for.

 
Okay, so the cast of characters are not exactly likeable. But through the course of play, the player will be able to make decisions for them that may make them just that little bit more human, or bring them to their untimely deaths of course. The goal here really is to get to the end of the story with as many of the cast still alive as possible. To achieve this, the player will find themselves with some limited exploring, all of which is done at a slow pace as no one can move quickly in this game, and making narrative decisions for the characters. This type of branching narrative is always intriguing, as a simple choice early on can lead to very unexpected outcomes further down the line. Supermassive have done a great job with the web of choices in the game and how they can affect the relationships between the characters , and whether they live or die. This plays greatly into the replayability of the game, with each play through potentially very different from the last, a real bonus considering how the game could only last a few hours.

 


 
Aside from the decisions to make and the slow exploration, there are also different quick time events where players will have to respond with precision and speed as they press the right buttons. QTEs are not always the most welcome in video games, but in this type of interactive movie experience, they fit in well and add to the overall feel of the game, although it can feel a little cheap to suffer the consequences of not quite being quick enough, or not paying enough attention.

 
As an interactive movie experience, Man of Medan relies a lot on its visual prowess and atmospheric setting. Be it that feeling of being truly alone on the open ocean, or the claustrophobic sense of panic while moving around a derelict ship, the setting is absolutely spot on. The visuals are also sublime for the most part, creating an experience that is very easy to enjoy. There is some lag from time to time that breaks the immersion a little, but it is nothing too worrisome. The game also doesn’t seem to have the same level of “scare” as Until Dawn, feeling more unsettling than hide behind a cushion scary.

 


 
But you can hide behind the cushion if you are playing alone without feeling too silly. The game works perfectly well as a solo journey, and is quite enjoyable. However, Supermassive have tapped into the shared experience by dropping in a pair of multiplayer modes. Shared Story allows the player to team up with a friend online and control different characters through the course of the game. This mode is quite different as each player will experience different things and not necessarily get all of the story to play with. The Movie Night mode is where the game really shines though, as a group activity. Get a group of five on the sofa and pass the controller around as each player takes control of one character. While this can leave some players having to wait ages until they finally get the controller, everyone is getting to enjoy the experience together. This really is the best way to play.

 
I haven’t even mentioned the Curator, a well dressed gentleman who pops up occasionally to narrate and comment on the players decisions, or the Dark Pictures themselves that give the player premonitions of potential futures that could be helpful if the player can decipher them. These are both aspects that will presumably carry through the whole series of games, and are very intriguing.

 


 
The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan isn’t perfect. The characters are not likeable and there are a few performance problems. But, those aside, it really is an enjoyable horror romp on the open ocean. Playing alone is fine, playing with others in one of the new modes is even better. It’s not particularly scary, but Man of Medan is a great introduction to The Dark Pictures Anthology and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

 

 ★★★★★★★★½☆ 



 

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