Supermassive Games is taking a different approach with its upcoming projects. Instead of full-length games, the team is periodically releasing shorter stories, via an anthology series called The Dark Pictures. The first work in this series, Man of Medan, was released at the end of the August.
Its gameplay will feel familiar to fans of Until Dawn, but with a little less depth. For those interested in dipping their toes into this horror game's waters, the following list will present the five best and worst things about Man of Medan. Ultimately, though, fans of narrative-driven games or those looking for a fun activity to share with friends will get plenty of mileage out of this horror title.
10 Best: Online Multiplayer
This is probably the most ideal way to play Man of Medan, especially for the first time. The asymmetrical online multiplayer component sees each player simultaneously controlling different characters. You'll periodically switch roles, sometimes taking the reins of someone the other player controlled.
As a result, each person sees different events, or the same scene from a different perspective. The mode compounds the fear, as a bad decision by one player could put the other in jeopardy.
9 Worst: Story
The moment-to-moment action is compelling, but the backstory behind the supernatural phenomenon leaves something to be desired. None of it feels connected in any significant way. The characters come across a ghost ship, and must find their way off of the haunted vessel while also held captive by pirates.
The reason for the ship's dilapidated state is explained, but the discovery doesn't have much impact. Thankfully, the characters' dire situation makes things engaging enough to make one forget about the complexities of the lore and focus on survival.
8 Best: Replayability
Playing through the story once takes between three and four hours. This may put a few people off, but one has to remember the sheer amount of possibilities within the narrative. Character relationships can go down a variety of paths, different people live or die, and even minor events can occur in numerous different ways.
Man of Medan begs for multiple playthroughs in order to see more outcomes. Given its short run time, it isn't too hard to oblige this desire. It also makes one want to play in a different way, just to see how the world and characters react.
7 Worst: Consequences
The story can play out in a variety of ways depending on the decisions one makes. Everybody can live, everybody can die, or any number of people in between can perish. Unfortunately, one doesn't really feel or explore the consequences of these events during the ending.
After the main conflict is over, the credits unceremoniously start rolling. The enigmatic curator of the anthology will talk about the story, but it would have been nicer to see the characters discussing those they lost or saved in more detail.
6 Best: Shared Story
Online multiplayer isn't the only way to enjoy Man of Medan with buddies; a local mode is also included. In Shared Story, up to five friends can experience the game's story together, with each player taking control of a specific character.
While a few moments in the story require skill and reflexes, the majority of it centers around choosing dialog and actions, making it a perfect title for those less experienced with the medium. It is still scary with friends, though, so make an effort not to scream and freak out too hard in front of acquaintances.
5 Worst: Movement
The worst parts of Man of Medan occur when players are given free rein over a character's movement. Exploring the environments is rewarding, but navigating them is a chore. Characters move like a tank. It feels like it takes forever to get anywhere, even to the other end of a room.
Like any horror story, the snail's pace movement is probably intended to build tension and uncertainty, but it ends up feeling restrictive. A run button is included for those who want to get places quicker, but the boost in speed is negligible.
4 Best: Scares
As a horror game, Man of Medan certainly does its job. The opening moments set an ominous tone, and the first chapter goes on just long enough to lull the player into a false sense of security before things hit the fan.
The only mark against it is the fact that it is mostly jump scares, but they are effective none the less. Later moments get scarier as well, since not everything may be as it seems. This is also where multiplayer really shines, as one friend screams through the mic while the other laughs at their friends terror.
3 Worst: Quick Time Events
These days, the inclusion of quick time events is almost always considered a minus. They were once thought of as unique ways to "play" cutscenes, but now they get in the way. It is more excusable for this game to include them, but several moments feel like they should have let the player control the situation.
Some of these quick time events have characters running away from a lethal foe or monster. Why couldn't they just let the player run away with the analog stick? Still, these QTEs don't require lightning-fast reflexes, so they shouldn't cause too much of a problem as long as people keep their hands on the controller.
2 Best: Graphics
Man of Medan's presentation cannot be overstated. The character models, environments, and animation are all top notch. The frame rate doesn't always hold up smoothly, but it is understandable when the graphics on display are this impressive. Actor Sean Ashmore from Remedy's Quantum Break and the X-Men movies plays a leading role, and his likeness in the game is just stunning.
Performance capture was used for the actors' roles, and it helps bring depth to all the characters. Graphics certainly aren't everything, but they sure enhance a visceral experience like this one. Immersion is crucial in gaming; even more so in the horror genre.
1 Worst: Install Size
While Supermassive's ghost ship story is a small game, the install is anything but. Those interested in experiencing this story better clear up space on their hard drive. On the PS4, it will eat up just over fifty gigs of space. On the Xbox One, it is only about twenty-seven, but that's still hefty for what is not considered a full-length game.
It makes sense though; those graphics and all the branching narratives probably take up a decent chunk of data. Still, longer titles that are almost as visually impressive, such as Resident Evil 2, take up less space.