Video Games and Movies go hand in hand. On 1 side you have movies that are based on video games. Many of them are terrible, but from time to time a good 1 will shine. On the other hand, you have video games that try to capture the movie experience and turn it, effectively, into a movie you can interact with. It’s nothing new, and is probably best known through David Cage with games such as Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit in the UK) and Heavy Rain. However, when Beyond Two Souls proved to be a disappointment, it was considered that this genre of game might have been done. Enter 2015’s Until Dawn by Supermassive games, which effectively created an interactive Teen Horror movie and created it beautifully. With the success of that game, came the creation of “The Dark Pictures Anthology” series as a successor – 8 games, starting with this 1 – This is Man Of Medan.
Our story starts off in 1947 as we follow around 2 young American soldiers named Joe and Charlie who are stationed in French Polynesian Waters on the ship known as The Medan. After having their fortunes told while at the Harbour, weird stuff starts to happen on board, which leads to the deaths of many soldiers and a plane crash. Fast forward to the modern day (2019) in these same waters, our story, much like Until Dawn, revolves around a group of young characters; 21 year old Alex, his 18 year old brother Brad, Alex’s girlfriend Julia, Julia’s brother Conrad, and the captain of their boat, Fliss. They start out having fun, but are then taken for a ride that they have neither control or plans to carry out. When a trio of fishermen; Olson, Junior and Danny, decide to hijack their boat like Pirates, and hold everybody hostage, they decide to start searching for “Manchurian Gold” which is mentioned on a map in the boat, and they end up finding, and climbing onboard, what was, and probably still is, The Medan.
Now to sort out the highs and horrors:
The Graphics are absolutely incredible. Near-photographic in quality with excellent lighting. The animals aren’t quite as well presented as the humans and monster, and at times the frame rate can drop, and the editing can be a bit funny. Or very simply – great art, but unfortunate animation. Quite glitchy at times. The characters walk like they’re half submerged in water, which…is the way.
The Art Style is very inspired and well done. Despite being set away from the USA, the gothic and HP Lovecraft tones are wonderfully evident. Excellently designed backgrounds, fantastic character models and monster designs, and a great presentation of mould, rust and decay throughout the levels.
The Level Design is solid, with no way of reversing any decisions you make at all…literally, the game autosaves with every decision. It is all well and good. It increases the tension while playing, and makes you careful with your decision making. Is there a goal? Yes, much like Until Dawn, your goal is to keep everybody alive, which leads to an achievement. However there’s another achievement that Until Dawn also had, and it’s more fun – were you try to get everybody killed. I decided to try and keep everyone alive in my first play through, and it wasn’t that easy and in the end only 3 of the 5 survived.
The Gameplay is, in my opinion, a lot less polished compared to Until Dawn, and due to the fact that I wasn’t used to the controls, I found the Quick-Time-Events to be particularly challenging. Especially if your goal is to keep everybody alive by the end. Unlike Until Dawn, Man Of Medan has a 2 player feature…or more specifically you and a friend on another console can take part in the same game at the same time and play different roles with 1 player occasionally making the decisions for both parties – and speaking of parties, there is also the Party Mode, which allows players to play specifically as 1 of the 5 characters in the game and try to get everybody across the finishing line. I have only played this in 1 player mode though.
The Story is okay, like a straight-forward teen horror movie in which the characters aren’t too hated or likeable, but play their parts. In terms of the horror, it chooses to be a bit…gimmicky. Relying on jump-scares and gross visuals to the point that after the first jump scare, you’re prepared for them for the rest of the game. One thing that can be said is that there are plenty of plot-holes – For instance…This is a rusty ship full of rats and is damp. Floors are rusty. Holes are everywhere. Spikes stick out. Germs and Disease Galore…so why do about half of the characters walk around in their bare feet?! I have not played this game in 2 player (which apparently adds more to the story) and there is the Curator’s Cut (which is unlocked after playing the Theatrical Cut), but you need to really enjoy the story and characters before doing them I say…I don’t know if I’ll be doing that too much though.
The Music by Jason Graves is good – an aspired combination that’s part Danny Elfman (doing Batman scores), part Hans Zimmer (with no brown notes), and part Phillip Glass. It follows on from the style that Until Dawn had (I know, we’re making lot of comparisons here), but in terms of being ‘scary music’ it’s not in league with games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill or Project Zero in this case. It’s more like a gothic-scary movie rather than 1 that exudes genuine terror in the player.
Would I recommend Man Of Medan? Yes, but don’t pay full price for it. No more than £10 in my opinion. I have played episodic indie games before that might not look as good as this, but have been executed better and for less money. A play-through only lasts about 5 hours when experienced at a leisurely pace and while the amount of endings in this game will keep you going back to try and get them all if you found yourself really enjoying it – The plot holes can make it all a lot less connected than previously hoped, and the gameplay can at times be a little infuriating if you’re looking to get something new or better. Compared to this instalment – Until Dawn is the superior experience, and I might even suggest waiting until they bring out the other 7 games in this series and perhaps getting them all as a big bundle for the PS5. As a standalone, it’s fine. But also save your money.
Graphics: ****1/2 (loses half of a star due to editing and frame-rate)
Art Style: *****
Level Design: ***1/2