The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan is a new horror game that follows a boatload of privileged twenty-somethings as they go wreck diving, before being abducted by pirates and ultimately forced to explore a WWII ghost ship.
On the surface, the dark tone makes it resemble classics like Resident Evil or Silent Hill – the type of games best experienced alone, in a dark room with headphones. Surprisingly Man of Medan is more successful as a party game for up to five friends looking to spend a quality night in.
The plot jumps back and forth between the five diverse characters who are all suffering through the same events in their unique ways. Like a choose-your-own-adventure book, your dialogue and decisions affect each character, ultimately determining if they live to escape or die in one of many gruesome ways.
As a solo experience, Man of Medan is a tense romp full of jump scares that’s held back by a weak story and dull exploration scenes. As a co-op experience played with a group of friends, a few drinks and a sense of humour, this game is a blast!
Man of Medan works best when it replaces a friendly game of poker or some schlocky horror film discovered on Netflix. The alternate mode called Movie Night allows up to 5 players to take on one character each, passing a single controller back and forth between scenes.
Tension rises when the outcome of critical situations is placed into the hands of another player – someone who could fail a quick-time event or intentionally derail the situation to see how it affects the characters. Once your character dies, you’re out; delegated to a spectator and forced to withstand whatever verbal punishment is thrown your way.
Man of Medan can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to finish, making it possible to knock over in a single night. It’s incredibly challenging to keep all of the characters alive and fun to explore the different ways they can die. There’s plenty of replay value by chasing that perfect ending and satisfying those sadistic desires.
There’s no reason why this cinematic horror title can’t be paired with a drinking game and occupy several game nights. The simple gameplay makes it accessible to everyone, so long as someone explains quick-time events. And even if you’re the type of player who prefers a solitary horror experience, you can’t argue with the fact that jump scares are more enjoyable when everyone can laugh about them afterwards.
Man of Medan is the latest title from Supermassive Games, the studio behind 2015’s incredible PlayStation 4 thriller Until Dawn. Realising they were on to a good thing, the team adjusted gameplay and pitched The Dark Pictures anthology: a series of shorter, more affordable games presenting unique twists on classic horror tropes.
Man of Medan is inspired by the legend of the SS Ourang Medan, a ghost ship allegedly shipwrecked in Dutch East Indies waters during the 1940s.
This first entry in The Dark Pictures anthology is not without flaws: weak story, dull environments, over-reliance on jump scares and a janky frame rate on PlayStation 4. The next game in the anthology is said to launch in around six months. Hopefully, that’s long enough for Supermassive Games to raise its bar and launch a modern horror classic. Either way, we’re looking forward to pairing a few beers with friends for Movie Night Round 2.
A digital copy of the game was provided to the writer by the publisher.