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When I first heard that Supermassive Games were making a new game I was overjoyed with excitement and hope. I think everyone who played Until Dawn was too. Man of Medan is a new title from the brains behind the ultimate party game that’s best experienced with a group of friends and a nice cold pint of cider. (Other alcoholic beverages are viable). Unfortunately, The Dark Pictures Anthology isn’t off to the best of starts with Man of Medan — there’s just nothing there, sadly.
Five people wind up on an abandoned World War 2 ship. As you’d imagine, not everything is as it seems. It’s a ghost ship with something onboard, called the Manchurian Gold. I didn’t think the story was good it’s just a bit underwhelming. At almost any point in the game a character can die. However, all the characters are the most unlikeable group of people I’ve ever come across in a game so naturally, I made sure to kill them all off during the story. This I found to be the most enjoyable part of the game. My favourite character throughout Man of Medan is Fliss. She’s just unlucky. It’s her job to drive the unlikeable characters out to their destination. I feel for her, she should have taken a different path in life.
Supermassive Games’ core gameplay has been altered slightly since Until Dawn, which forced you to stay still at certain points to incorporate use of the motion detection features of the PS4 DualShock controller. In Man of Medan, a heartbeat sensor appears and you must press the right button at the right time. This replaces the motion detection functions because the game is cross platform, and so Xbox One and PC players have no guaranteed access to DualShock. If you fail to match the heartbeat sensor correctly, your characters may die — or they may not, depending on how you play.
The quicktime events also make a return, usually through chase scenes. The pictures on the wall in Man of Medan play the role of Until Dawn‘s totems. You can see snippets of a character’s fate, though they’re vague enough to not give anything away. For example, if you see a knife, you might try avoiding knives. Easier said than done! The rest of the gameplay involves walking around the ship and picking up stuff that’s “interesting.”
I do like the way Man of Medan looks, most of the time. There are a few characters at the beginning of the game that look very chalky but the remainder, and the actual detail on the ship itself, is good.
As much as I disliked the characters, the script and acting in some cases didn’t help Man of Medan‘s case. There are just too many instances where the characters act so stupidly, and just not how real people would react. There’s a moment where a character finds a dead body, and apart from the initial “aaaaaahhh” there is no further reaction. I don’t know about you, but if I found a dead body I’d be sobbing on the floor and would need therapy.
The next scene with that character though, he’s talking to his friend like nothing is wrong. It’s mind boggling at times. The Curator is also very strange. He’s loosely the game’s narrator, who breaks the fourth wall — it just doesn’t work. One of the first lines he says is: “I’m here to record the story you choose to tell. You see, this story is only part-written.” Looking back on it now, “part-written” is exactly how I feel about Man of Medan as a whole. It doesn’t feel finished at all.
Whilst playing, I came across a lot of framerate issues. The characters would be talking, but their lips weren’t moving, or the lips would speed up to catch up with the script. I also found the controller a tad unresponsive. I’d be walking down a corridor and the camera would change, and the character would sometimes stop walking or change direction completely. I also thought some of the quicktime events were unresponsive. There was definitely a few times where I pressed the button, but the game registered it as a fail.
I was obviously disappointed by a lot of the elements in Man of Medan. However, this game will shine if you play it with a group of friends. That’s how I played Until Dawn, and it made it ten times more enjoyable, so I would imagine it would do the same for Man of Medan. The next instalment of The Dark Pictures Anthology looks a lot more promising. It looks more like Until Dawn than Man of Medan. Based on my love of Until Dawn, I will put my faith in Supermassive Games to deliver on the second game of the anthology series, the ironically titled Little Hope.
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