Sunday, 29 September 2019

Man of Medan ★★★☆☆

Man of Medan from Supermassive Games is the first entry into the Dark Pictures Anthology which is a series of smaller bitesize horror games set in the same universe. If you have played Until Dawn in any capacity then you will probably know what to expect – a choice-filled horror fest where playable characters can die at any moment.

Set mostly on a ghost ship out on the ocean, you control a group of mostly likeable characters as they try to solve the mystery of what is going on around them, all whilst being hunted by various antagonists. Saying too much about who these actually are is going to end up as major spoilers, so I will hold off on the descriptions too much. I’ll just say that there are both human and supernatural forces at play here who would very much like you to be dead.

As with a lot of horror games that come out, ‘Man of Medan’ unfortunately relies way too much on jump scares to bulk out the horror aspect. This is fun at first, with sudden noises or movements making you jump out of your chair. But after the first five or so it does begin to get a little tedious. I’m much more of a psychological horror fan, enjoying games such as Alien: Isolation or Layers of Fear – yes, these games do include jump scares, but they also use the environment heavily to create an atmosphere of constant tension.

Going back to what I mentioned earlier, the thing that makes Man of Medan quite unique is that any of the group of playable characters can die at any moment, either through the choices that you make or with failed quick time events. This is a branching story that will constantly change depending on your choices, and at the end of the game you could potentially end up having everyone dead (oops).

This would have more weight to it if I’d really got attached to any of the characters. Though they are mostly likeable, I didn't really feel an attachment like I did in Until Dawn. This might be because the game is a much shorter bitesize experience running at around 4 - 6 hours – Until Dawn spans around 10-15 hours in total. When one of my characters inevitably died during my playthrough, I was more upset about the potential gameplay sequences that I’d miss out on, rather than the fact that a character was now removed from existence. Of course, this does add to the replay value of the game as you can go through the game to make different choices, and with multiple endings available this is totally worthwhile for the completionists out there.

Along with the gameplay, Man of Medan is also very similar to Until Dawn in terms of graphical style, which holds up well. Many grotesque things happen in the story and it's disgustingly beautiful. My only complaint on that front is that you are mostly in one location for the game, except for a small prologue that mixes it up a bit. There isn’t much variety to be seen here, but I’m hoping this will differ for the next game in the series coming out in early 2020.

One of the most important parts that needs work done before the next game is the overall voice acting and interactions between the characters. The voices are mostly serviceable but problems start to arise when the whole team are interacting and having conversations with each other. They often feel wooden and stilted, like perhaps they weren’t all recorded at the same time (which is often the case, but you don’t want it to feel like that during playthrough). It can really pull you out of the experience and does not help to build up the atmosphere.

Man of Medan is a fun yet flawed horror jaunt - a short experience, but as it’s priced fairly, which fits in with expectations. If you enjoyed Until Dawn or any of the other Supermassive games then you will find a lot to like here… Just don't expect it to blow your mind and elevate the horror genre to a new plateau.

Hannah Read

Man of Medan at CeX

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