Man of Medan review: Weapon of choice

Supermassive Games
Supermassive Games /

The first entry in Supermassive Games’ Dark Pictures Anthology, Man of Medan is a new horror adventure from the people that brought you Until Dawn.

Title: The Dark Pictures – Man of Medan
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release Date: August 30, 2019

While I had some issues with how the plot went, for my money, Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn is a prime example of a cinematic game experience mostly done right. It has some truly chilling moments, choices seem to really matter, and there is enough material you might miss out on to encourage multiple playthroughs.

Supermassive Games’ latest effort, Man of Medan, is the first in an anthology horror series titled “Dark Pictures”. It might be familiar territory for those who have played Until Dawn, but that’s hardly a bad thing as Supermassive Games shows they have a knack for making reliably entertaining cinematic horror games where choice is everything.

In Man of Medan you (and up to four other friends if you are playing locally, one other friend online) play as a cast of mostly well off young people who like to dive and check out wrecks mostly for the fun of it. Your latest adventure runs you afoul of some nasty pirates though and before you know it, you are on a long-abandoned ship with these pirates and seeing all manner of twisted stuff. Are there ghosts? Are you going mad? Is something else at play? And how will you escape the pirates and whatever is going on with the ship?

Man of Medan is your basic schlocky horror setup, but it knows that and plays to that genre’s strengths. There are plenty of moments that are tense, some funny, etc. I don’t want to get too much into spoilers here but while going through the story was interesting enough, I feel like the mystery at the heart of the abandoned ship was super obvious and even telegraphed almost right from the start. It is a surprisingly straightforward plot and resolution which, for a game that should be filled with twists and turns, is mildly disappointing. I still played through the game twice, solo and co-op online, and had fun both times so it isn’t too detrimental but could have been way better.

As Man of Medan is part of an anthology of stories, you have a guide in the form of The Curator. This is easily the standout character of the game (which is good because we’ll presumably be seeing him with every entry) and he provides an air of someone who can be helpful, but also mysterious. He’s got just a hint of malice as well. He sums up your decisions at certain intervals and offers to provide hints which you may or may not find useful.

Man of Medan overall has a good look, atmosphere and pretty appropriate music. The one issue I really had as far as the presentation was that the game seemed to stutter quite a lot. This could be because I was playing on a regular PlayStation 4 as opposed to a Pro or an Xbox One X/PC but it really wasn’t a huge leap over Until Dawn so it’s hard to say.

For those not familiar, the gameplay in Man of Medan consists of you making dialogue decisions, participating in “Quick Time Events” (QTEs) where you have to quickly press the right button or fail a section (which sometimes matters and sometimes doesn’t) and walking around and exploring a section. For some, this will not be entertaining but I had a pretty good time just picking out dialogue options and seeing where it went. The QTEs were handled well and didn’t seem to go by so fast  I couldn’t keep up, which has been a problem in some other games. They also weren’t so common or long that it got monotonous.

Bandai Namco
Bandai Namco /

Two of the big new features in Man of Medan are two systems that mostly work behind the scenes, but it’s incredibly difficult to discern how much if any real impact they have on the story. There are “traits” and relationship levels between the characters. Traits seem to develop based on the decisions you make with the characters. They become bold, anxious, inquisitive, etc. but it’s incredibly difficult to tell how much, if any, of that affects the story. It would be nice if there were greyed out dialogue options or something.

The relationship levels between characters are similarly mysterious. There’s a set of bars you can look at that go up and down, but it’s really hard to say if those levels affect anything. My two playthroughs certainly didn’t seem significantly impacted by these systems. Any differences were often down to making different dialogue choices or making/missing button presses on QTEs. I didn’t seem to get new scenes or dialogue options based on these systems.

Where I feel Man of Medan truly shines though is in its multiplayer. A solo playthrough is entertaining enough but there are also a ton of scenes you don’t see in singleplayer. You add at least one more person, you see a lot more of the story fleshed out and there’s a fun chaos element since another player makes it more likely someone will die (everyone can live but everyone can also die) due to a bad choice or a failed QTE. This variety and the relatively short length (around four to six hours) make it a pretty ideal game for a few friends to play on a get-together. It’s not that the solo playthrough has no appeal, but just that the game really shines as a group activity.

Ultimately, Man of Medan is an entertaining if somewhat safe and familiar entry from Supermassive Games. As it’s the first entry in an anthology, I hope they get weirder and more experimental with future entries but this is a solid enough starting point that offers reasons to play through it multiple times, especially with other people.

7.5. Man of Medan offers fun cinematic horror chills, especially in a group setting, but is weighed down a little by performance issues and some vague systems that are unclear if they have any real impact on the game.. Supermassive Games. . Man of Medan

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.