As Halloween fast approaches and gamers look to scratch that horror itch, Man of Medan makes its presence known. The first iteration in Supermassive Games’ The Dark Pictures Anthology, Man of Medan packs a solid punch that is sure to impress. This isn’t the developer’s first time creating a horror title as they were responsible for 2015’s Until Dawn. However, this title feels much less clich√© than its predecessor. With a realistic batch of characters, an array of consequential choices, and an intriguing storyline, there is plenty to offer. Its overall length is on the shorter side but it can warrant numerous playthroughs in order to experience every possible outcome.

Consequential Choices

For those unfamiliar with the developer should know that this isn’t a normal horror game. It plays much closer to an interactive movie rather than something like Silent Hills or Outlast. Even though it is more like a movie, that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. This is still a solid experience that has a lot of heart. The game begins as the players are introduced to the cast of characters Brad, Alex, Julia, Conrad, and Fliss. Each character feels much more realistic than Until Dawn and in turn are a bit more interesting. When a choice is supposed to be made, it’s hard to select one that doesn’t feel in line with their respective personalities. That aspect can be good and bad due to the consequences felt in each choice.

Choice in this game is detrimental to the overall plot. Players will want to explore every nook and cranny to uncover the full plot and to also stay alive. For instance, uncovering a hidden note can show what is truly going on while skipping over it keeps you in the dark. It’s a great feature that really helps immerse the player and create deep consequences, even if those consequences occur far later in the plot. Because of this, keeping the main cast of characters alive can prove to be tough. There is no guarantee that the whole crew survives or that anyone survives at all. Everything falls onto the player which can make you second guess what’s going on.

Intriguing Narrative

Apart from the core cast, there is one character called The Curator. His role is as an all-knowing narrator that helps serve the person using the controller. He’ll break down the third wall and attempt to make things much grimmer and dreary than they may seem. The Curator is the character telling this story but when he appears he comes off as more annoying than anything. His smug comments and his approach towards the player as knowing more gets stale fairly quickly. He only is present in between the story’s main acts but when he does pop up it just takes away from experiencing the story.

In terms of the story, this is one that is very intriguing. The crew of friends goes out in search of an abandoned shipwreck until things go incredibly awry. Although the game’s “twist” is predictable, the path to get there is what will keep you going. Initially, though, the story does take a bit to actually startup. When it does, there’s no slowdown and you’ll be hooked until its finish. This does beg the question of why the developers decided to take so long in getting to the core of the story. Developing the characters for about an hour is important but it’s not that interesting.

Man of Medan

Gameplay Mechanics

Actually playing the game can become fairly unique. There aren’t just simply pick and choose your decisions to get to the end with the occasional exploration. Rather, there are Quick Time Events that help to satisfy the story in addition to a neat Calm Down Meter. The QTEs are incredibly detrimental and if you mess it up, a character can end up dying, injured, or completely change the plot’s direction. With the Calm Down Meter, players have to press A in order to keep their characters calm when adversity arises, usually to stay hidden. It plays much like a rhythm-based game and is always a high-point when on screen.

One thing that does hurt this game is its performance issues. While playing on a base Xbox One console, I ran into numerous slowdowns and graphical hiccups that ruined the overall experience. A few cutscenes glitched up and I couldn’t make out the series of events all that well. On top of this, the game has some PlayStation 1-era tank controls when exploring and it grew old fast. Walking down hallways with the camera angles changing always messed up because the character was walking in a new direction. However, the way this game utilizes its film aspects with different shots of scenes was a great touch.

Man of Medan

A feature that is worth talking about is definitely the inclusion of online co-op. Throughout Man of Medan, characters are split up and experience the story unfold in different ways. Playing it solo does help to see this, but it’s only in the co-op that everything is freed up. When the crew splits up for the first time, one player takes control of one portion of the plot while the other takes control of whoever is left. After the section is over and the cast is back together, the players talk in-game to each other but can choose what to share whether that be the truth or a lie. It does, at times, feel unfair when a player gets a far more interesting section of the game but is overall quite enjoyable. Online co-op is a mode you’ll want to check out, yet don’t do so on your first playthrough as it takes away a bit of the story at first.

Supermassive Games’ The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan is a great horror title just in time for Halloween. Although there are a few hiccups along the way in terms of performance issues and tank controls, the overall plot and gameplay are enough to keep players invested. With so many decisions and possible outcomes, it’s enough to warrant multiple playthroughs to experience every possibility. It also helps that there’s an online co-op mode to uncover the full story. Thanks to a teaser for its sequel found at the end of the game, we can be glad that there’s more in store from this Dark Pictures Anthology universe.

Thank you to Bandai Namco for providing us with a review code!

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan Review (Xbox One)
Man of Medan is another great horror iteration from Supermassive Games despite its shortcomings.
Overall Score8.5
Pros
  • Consequential Choices
  • Intriguing Story
  • Multiplayer Mode
Cons
  • Short Length
  • Controls Can Feel Wonky
  • Technical Issues
8.5Great
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