The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan Review – An Excellent Horror Anthology Debut

Man of Medan Review

Upon finishing Until Dawn, I’d immediately determined that I needed more of it; much more of it, in fact. Sure, I’d managed to get the majority of the exceptional cast killed along the way, but the journey of discovering the secrets of Blackwood Pines was rife with laughs, thrills, spooks, and bloody carnage. A drug, really; a horror high of which couldn’t be attained through the Rush of Blood VR experience or The Inpatient. I needed another angsty cast of young adults to band together in a fight for their lives against the supernatural with severe consequences. Fortunately, Supermassive Games returns to the roots of Until Dawn with The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan. The best news is it’s exactly what I was hoping for.

Man of Medan is the pilot story of Supermassive’s horror anthology series titled ‘The Dark Pictures.’ Inspired by the likes of The Twilight Zone, each episode of the series stands on its own with an original narrative and cast of characters. Man of Medan follows a group of friends who embark on a diving excursion across the pacific ocean. A run-in with pirates leads them to a WWII era battleship that’s long been adrift. As the player, it’s your responsibility to keep them all alive as they unravel the mystery behind the sinister forces aboard.

I’ve Been Here Before

Admittedly, the story’s incredibly predictable. I won’t be the only one to have figured it out within the first ten minutes. However, what I found more interesting is how the game manages to deceive you in spite of your knowledge. There are several moments when the characters essentially spell it out for you, and still, I managed to screw it up. It’s undoubtedly by design, and I love it. Similar to Until Dawn, paintings are scattered throughout the world providing you with brief glimpses of what can occur; some of which I found helpful, others never came to fruition. Some imagery, of which I won’t spoil, has me questioning if there’s much more to the story than meets the eye even upon finishing the game.

The characters are as equally compelling as Until Dawn’s cast. All of their performances and interactions are great, but Shawn Ashmore (X-Men, Quantum Break) steals the show. I grew to care for each of them by the end of the game but unfortunately lost a couple before credits rolled. Devastating, truly, but well worth the ride and definitely a second playthrough. Beyond the primary cast, I’m most interested in the Curator. The Rod Serling-like host of the Dark Pictures series, the Curator exists outside of the story in a Victorian-era repository where he coaches you along your journey. Sometimes he’ll offer tips, other times he’ll have you questioning everything. Performed by Pip Torrens, the Curator’s opulent, sophisticated disposition is immediately captivating. Fortunately, he’ll be the host of every Dark Pictures episode. I can’t wait to learn more about his character and the library of stories he possesses.

The Dark Pictures Anthology

The Medan itself has its spooks. Littered with the corpses of soldiers and other atrocities, there are plenty of vile sights to behold. There’s a relentless level of tension that builds as you traverse the claustrophobic corridors of the ship. The setting itself relies a bit too heavily on jump scares for my taste, most of which you’ll see coming from a mile away. As you progress, there are many collectibles to uncover, including various trinkets and letters from U.S. soldiers. I tend to be a collectaholic, and I found much enjoyment in the items I managed to find. Though I admire stories bound mostly to a single location, I found the Medan to be rather mundane by the end. Many areas of the ship begin to blend together, and I was prepared to escape by the end of my six-hour run. However, I applaud the idea and adore the many ways the devs fulfilled the setting’s horrific potential.

Until Dawn Fans Rejoice! 

If you enjoyed Until Dawn’s gameplay, you’ll certainly enjoy Man of Medan’s. You spend the majority of your time moseying around the ship with a fair amount of quick-time events, making do or die decisions for action and dialogue, and remaining calm with a heartbeat mechanic. If you’re looking for dire repercussions to your choices, you’ll find them here. Trust me, I can attest to them. The game demands your unbridled attention and keeps you on edge from beginning to end. I managed to drop the ball on a few encounters by merely looking away from my screen for a few moments. The only technical hiccups I encountered were a thirty-second drop of audio during a pivotal scene and one moment where a character froze in place for a few seconds. Those moments were far from game-breaking, and overall performance is smooth on PC aside from controlling the characters with a mouse and keyboard. It tends to feel pretty wonky, so I advise using a controller.

In addition to the single-player experience, you can play online co-op in what’s called Shared Story, or with up to four friends in a couch co-op mode called Movie Night. I was able to experience the shared story mode with a fellow colleague during a demo of the game. It’s reminiscent of Hazelight Studios’ ‘A Way Out’ as you and a friend engage in actions simultaneously whether you’re in the same location or separated. It works well and makes for some hilarious moments when mistakes are made. Movie Night allows you and four friends to choose which character to control throughout the game. When one player’s in control, the rest watch until it’s their turn. Once you complete the game, the Curator Cut is unlocked featuring new scenes and playable characters. Having played more than half of the cut, I can confirm it’s no minor difference and absolutely worth experiencing.

The Dark Pictures Anthology

Man of Medan’s graphically breathtaking. The visuals are practically photorealistic and complemented by excellent animations. There are a handful of uncanny facial expressions throughout the game, but the majority of them are gorgeous. The rusty blood-soaked corridors of the Medan are eerily mesmerizing, and many of evil entities within are effectively terrifying. Immersive audio is paramount to a compelling horror experience, and Supermassive nails it. The creaks and groans of the floating rust bucket contribute to the suspense, and there’s an abundance of bone-chilling noises to hear throughout. I enjoy the entirety of the game’s score, but I quickly fell in love with the main theme. I hope it reoccurs throughout all of the Dark Pictures Anthology.

If you’re interested in the game’s inspiration and development, I strongly recommend checking out the special features. There you can watch an awesome history of horror anthology mini-documentary as well as cast and developer interviews covering the production of the game.

Supermassive’s back in full swing. In spite of a predictable plot and setting that I eventually grew somewhat tired of, I loved every aspect of Man of Medan. It’s a killer debut to a series I’m now eagerly anticipating. It has the spooks, fun cast, and unforgiving consequences I grew to love in Until Dawn. Horror fans rejoice, as Man of Medan’s a phenomenal introduction to a promising new interactive anthology series.

For more on The Dark Pictures, you can check out 9-minutes of gameplay here:

***PC Review code provided by BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment***

The Good

  • Compelling characters and performances
  • Choices are permanently impactful
  • Reminiscent of classic horror anthology
  • Exceptonal audio and visuals

The Bad

  • Predictable narrative
  • Setting feels tiresome by the conclusion