Some years ago Supermassive Games caused quite a stir among genre fans on the PS4 with its horror Until Dawn. The new adventure of the studio beats in a similar notch, but is based on shorter individual episodes and offers for the first time a cooperative game mode.
“Do not drink and dive” are the words you wish you could have told Alex, Julia and their siblings Brad and Conrad. But they probably would not have listened to you any more than Fliss, the captain of the Duke of Milan, with whom the four young adults in the South Pacific dive for remnants of the Second World War. In this horror adventure, the dive trip in French Polynesia quickly develops into a struggle for survival that not only freezes the protagonist but also your blood. Here is my review!
The first episode of The Dark Pictures Anthology begins with a flashback to 1947. A transport ship from the Americans leaves from a port in the South Pacific towards San Francisco. The destination was never reached by the soldiers on board, of which you control yourself in the playable prologue. An enigmatic haze drives the Army members crazy and ultimately costs them all their lives.
A good 70 years later, Alex and his friends also want to set sail in the South Pacific to dive for World War II wrecks. Included is his little brother Brad, Alex’s girlfriend Julia and her brother Conrad, played by actor Shawn Ashmore. While Alex is the protector type and Julia initially is more of a reckless blonde, Brad is the scared one of the crew, he does not tolerate alcohol either. Captain Fliss, one of the five playable characters in Man of Medan, takes on the role of the tough woman and warns that one should never disturb the peace of the dead. But even she would never have guessed that this gigantic ghost ship has been floating over the ocean for decades.
It all begins with a happy sailing trip with beer and good friends, but quickly turns into a catastrophe. In the middle of the night, the ship is abducted by armed invaders and as soon as you have survived this situation without damage, it suddenly feels like the year 1947, on which nothing is normal anymore. Similar to Until Dawn, the story is told by another character who calls himself The Curator and reminiscent of Supermassive Games’ PS4 horror. What sets Man of Medan apart from the horror elements of Until Dawn is that it is generally not about a Slasher. Rather, the supposedly on-board Manchurian gold seems to be cursed and produces a kind of haze that makes people see things that are not there.
Conrad also sees strange things and believes that he is pursued by a woman in a sailor outfit, which turns more and more into a cruelly disfigured being every second. Is he just picturing all this? Although most of the dangers are just illusions, you can still die in Man of Medan. There are 69 different ways of dying for the five heroes in total. The ones I’ve seen and provoked on additional play sessions are rarely as spectacular or bloody as in Until Dawn. This does not reduce the drama, however, there is not much that horror fans will enjoy when, for example, Conrad falls from a great height and hits his skull.
An important part of the game mechanics of Man of Medan is the dialogue decisions. Most of the time, it’s more about strengthening one’s own game feeling, influencing the characters in one direction, as you see fit. Depending on the choice, it comes to a marriage proposal from Alex to Julia. Failing this, you will later find the ring in Alex’s suitcase in Julia’s role. While decisions appear understandable, at least in hindsight, others seem rather arbitrary, whether they have serious consequences or that everything goes smoothly.
In a later scene one of the characters can be shot. However, why this should happen in one dialogue selection, but not in the other, ultimately makes no sense. The game does not give enough evidence just that someone could die there. Incidentally, this can happen quite quickly in the sequences, since Supermassive Games measures the time window for pressing the button, especially in the crucial moments. The reason could be that in Until Dawn you often had to deliberately fail to get to see one of the death sequences. In Man of Medan, such mistakes are made repeatedly, although in the first round I lost only one hero. It is not fun, however, that you have to live with your mistake until the end. You won’t be able to restart a chapter like in Heavy Rain or Until Dawn. Only if you completed the story then you can return to one of the sections.
In Man of Medan you can choose from two additional game variants in addition to the solo mode. On the one hand, there is the movie night mode, in which you can experience the story with up to five players. There are no content differences to the solo mode, you distribute the character only to the participants and passes on the controller accordingly. If you play with less than five people, the participants take on more characters. More exciting than the movie night mode is the online cooperative mode. You control two of the characters with a teammate and therefore sometimes experience completely different game scenes. While one, for example, in the role of Julia dives to an airplane wreck, the other remains with Conrad on the deck of the boat. You change roles regularly, so both players slip into each hero’s skin at least once. The cooperative mode by default does not provide a voice chat.
While Supermassive Games still uses the Umbra engine in Until Dawn, the Unreal Engine from Epic Games is used in Man of Medan. The result is more than impressive, especially with light and shadow effects. The character models, whose movements up to facial expressions were completely transferred into the game via motion capturing. The voice output is also quite good. Music and sound effects also support the atmosphere in a great way. What’s missing in the end is a finale that will do justice to the horror adventure. Because no matter how you finally manage to escape, the story could have been much more dramatic.
Cooperative mode is definitely an exciting twist that usually changes the game experience in a pleasing way. However, solo players enjoy atmospheric advantages because they have more control over what’s going on and do not have to bother with the wrong decisions a matchmaker makes. In the end, it also does not matter that the decisions often have no appreciable influence or that the resulting consequences are not always logically understood. Supermassive Games succeeds with the beginning of this horror series very well. It will be interesting to see what horror stories will await us in the coming months.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man Of Medan
While Man of Medan takes up much of the basic concept of Until Dawn, it's more of a scary thriller than a bloody horror slasher. The story and the struggle for survival of the five protagonists was very exciting.
- Exciting story
- Interesting, sympathetic characters
- Very good graphics
- Atmospheric sound
- High replay value
- Worthwhile co-op alternative
- Relatively short
- Minor technical defects