The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan Hands-On Preview – Trapped On A Ghost Ship

Christian Vaz

Supermassive Games, creators of Until Dawn, are once again working on an adventure horror title, or rather a collection of standalone horror titles under the banner of The Dark Pictures Anthology. The first game in the series, Man of Medan, won’t be gracing PC and consoles until 2019, but I had the chance to play through a quick demo at Bandai Namco’s recent preview event.

Man of Medan follows the story of a group of young Americans who take a boat out to the South Pacific in search of a World War II wreck. Accompanied by their skipper, Fliss, the group encounter an unexpected storm, trapping them out at sea. What could possibly make this situation even worse? The group is split up and Fliss is marched onto the abandoned WW2 Freighter where she begins to uncover creepy clues. After a quick recap, the demo had me playing as Fliss as she was pushed through the lower deck of the Freighter by a man named Danny. The majority of the playthrough saw Fliss wandering through the rusty hallways of the ghost ship with a torch, occasionally stopping to inspect glinting items strewn across each of the rooms. Picking up items and inspecting them counts as a ‘Secret Found’ which, over time, helps Fliss to learn more about what happened on the ship.

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It’s clear that Man of Medan, much like Until Dawn, has been developed with the intention of playing out as an interactive horror movie. Every scene in the Man of Medan demo featured cinematic angles that almost always transitioned seamlessly into gameplay sections. In addition to maintaining the tension as it ramped up over the course of my playthrough, this held my attention, even in the parts of the demo that felt a bit slow. Incorporating a few jump scares and chilling dramatic irony as Fliss just misses catching sight of the ghoulish beings aboard the ship, this game is already a promising pick for horror fans.  

As you’d expect, Man of Medan doesn’t display a hud, with its minimalistic approach once again making it feel more like watching a film that you personally play some part in. QTEs featured heavily in the latter half of the preview build, which will certainly keep some players on their toes as they are very snappy. Whereas Until Dawn employed the ‘Butterfly Effect’ system in which actions would have consequences later on in the game, Man of Medan, introduces the ‘Moral Compass’. Split into the realms of ‘Emotional’ and ‘Rational’, this system gives players the option to make a decision based on what their head or heart are rooting for at that particular moment.

While I only got to make a handful of decisions during the short demo, I opted for the rational route, achieving one of the three possible endings on offer. After losing Danny, Fliss promptly bumps into Brad, one of the overprivileged youngsters she was initially escorting to check out the wreck. While the Moral Compass system gives players a clear shot at saving others, it really felt as though Supermassive Games wanted me to remove Brad from the story almost immediately after meeting him. At the end of the preview, players are given a choice: save yourself, or save Brad - this is following a few minutes of Brad popping up all over the place and acting like a cartoon creep. While I chose to ditch Brad and save myself, there were two other endings that resulted in Brad getting out alive, and even both characters surviving.

Despite lasting just eleven minutes, The Man of Medan demo was intriguing enough for me to want to continue playing, and the game ran flawlessly on the PlayStation 4 Pro. Waiting until 2019 for the full release feels a long way off as Supermassive Games have not yet detailed exactly when the game is due to launch. Even so, once Man of Medan is released, the developer has stated that they intend to release a number of titles within The Dark Pictures Anthology, exploring other horror sub-genres. Furthermore, this means that while the events in each of the games occur in the same universe, each story is standalone from the others. As the first in the anthology, Man of Medan already has the makings of a worthy follow-up to Until Dawn, albeit an entirely separate story. With stunning visuals made possible by the Unreal Engine and a talented cast of actors, Supermassive Games are once again raising the bar for creating a highly polished horror experience.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan will launch sometime in 2019 on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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