10th Sep2019

‘The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan’ Review (PS4)

by Xenia Grounds

man-medan-ps4-cover

The Dark Pictures is a horror anthology series from the developers of Until Dawn. This anthology is supposed to have eight stand-alone stories for us to experience and each entry should come out every six months or so. The debut for this series is Man of Medan. If this debut is anything to go by…I do hope that the next game in The Dark Pictures is better.

Man of Medan is about five young adult divers (Alex, Brad, Julie, Fliss and Conrad) who originally start by exploring a plane wreck and then are held hostage by pirates and forced onto the abandoned World War 2 ship, Ourang Medan. From there, they must try to escape this ship while seeing ghosts and being completely uncertain about what is real and what is not. This can lead to some horrific outcomes depending on what you choose.

The story of Man of Medan isn’t bad. However, it is forgettable because its four-and-a-half-hour story means that a lot of things don’t have good pay-offs, there’s a rushed pace and the ending is very abrupt. You don’t care about saving these characters as much as you should as they aren’t developed in a three-dimensional manner and the dialogue they share can be rather stilted and cliched without the B-horror movie self-awareness of Until Dawn. They aren’t as unlikeable (minus Conrad who gets most of the facepalm worthy lines and does some truly stupid things) as a few characters in Until Dawn were but arguably being boring could be considered worse than unlikeable as that means the character failed to leave a real impression on the player.

As far as scares go, Man of Medan relies heavily on jump scares and if jump scares don’t affect you like it didn’t for me then you’ll spend most of the game waiting for things to pick up only to be disappointed. It won’t be a game that’ll make you scared to sleep at night. That said, the atmosphere of the ghost ship is where the chills really lie because there is a mystery about what happened on the Medan and why all its crew died in the horrific manner they did. You know it ties into why our characters are seeing ghosts everywhere and are hallucinating things so if you take the time to explore and read documents then you’ll get the answers to the questions. However, figuring out the truth (which you will probably do without the game spelling it out for you) about the Medan effectively ruins most of the tension in the process which may also lower its replay value if you aren’t looking to get all the trophies.

Keeping the characters alive isn’t very hard compared to Until Dawn either. Yes, it is still dependant on your choices but Man of Medan seems more forgiving if you make a mistake on many occasions. There are a total of fourteen endings for this game if I remember correctly but unless you’re actively going out of your way to kill these characters off then you won’t see a majority of them. There are a few scenes where characters do things that I found illogical given the situation like how Brad seems to be completely ignored by the pirates during the siege of the Duke. I found it even more unbelievable that Brad would even get off the Duke and go onto the Medan when he wasn’t forced to or how Conrad stupidly antagonises the pirates but I suppose they had to get to the ghost ship somehow and it’s a classic horror trope that the characters aren’t always the brightest. That said, there are multiple instances where you might be yelling at the screen in disbelief and wondering whether any of these characters have ever seen a horror movie in their lives.

There are a few scenes with the Curator who might be the common link for each game in the series. He doesn’t do much apart from provide the occasional hint to you about what may happen next or what could’ve happened after certain chapters are done. His sarcastic and deadpan remarks can sometimes be a little humorous. He never sounds impressed even if you keep people alive. However, you can’t help but wish he had more to do apart from occasionally making you feel worse about your choices in the game.

One of the points of interest with Man of Medan is that you can choose to play the campaign with your friends or on your own. I played alone because I can’t always find friends that can play at the time when I’m streaming. If you have up to five in a group then I imagine that each person controls a certain character and if you’re horror savvy enough then it could get pretty enjoyable.

The gameplay is very simple. It is meant to be more like an interactive horror movie than a game so it relies mostly on QTEs (QuickTime Events). Other than that, you won’t be doing much apart from walking around and picking between dialogue choices and character actions. There is also the ‘Keep Calm’ mechanic which happens in scenes involving confrontation which resembles a heartbeat and you press the X button when you see the spike. It’s like ‘Don’t Move!’ from Until Dawn and just as annoying. There were a few instances when I pressed the X button on time only for things to turn red anyway.

The character designs in Man of Medan are a little off-kilter sometimes especially when characters smile. It’s almost Joker-esque and more unsettling than the ghost ship. This seems to be a common occurrence with properties made by Supermassive Games as Until Dawn had similar issues with its character models too except it’s more apparent here.

Overall, Man of Medan is underwhelming and it’s not anywhere near as memorable as its predecessor. For a game where the back cover boasts about how you shouldn’t play it alone, you’ll probably be able to play this at home alone at night without getting a chill up your spine. The next one is Little Hope which comes out in 2020 but after this game, you may not be keen to venture into those woodlands like the Curator kept not-so-subtly hinting you should.

Man of Medan is out now on PS4 and Xbox One.

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