Dark Pictures: Man of Medan

In 2015, a game got released as to which this guy was extremely jealous at. Namely Until Dawn. It was a game that intrigued me to no end. It had a captivating storyline, it looked amazing? It was how I imagined a horror game that played out like a movie? Should be. Sadly I didn’t own a Playstation so I never was able to experience the glory that Until Dawn was. And unfortunately, my wishes were never actually granted for having a game exactly like this on the Xbox… Until now! Supermassive Games brings us their next movie-like horror-themed game. Man of Medan, well actually it’s The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan. But that’s a mouthful. Now, I have to be very honest! I actually didn’t follow anything around this one so I went in completely blind. And boy! Was I absolutely blown away! So, what’s this game all about? Man of Medan is the first of what is going to be a trilogy. And actually based on a real story as a matter of fact! The original story tells of a Dutch freighter called the Ourang Medan (translated Man of Medan) that was carrying a mysterious cargo, that shipwrecked itself in the Dutch East India waters back in 1947. Some reports say that it was sending out frantic S.O.S messages about what was going on and that they were in dire need of rescue. Their last message? Was the radio operator that said, “I die”. And nothing more after that. The game jumps in after a short prologue, to our young budding adventurers that are about to go wreck diving. What will they find? What will happen? That’s something I’ll leave up to you, to discover. Who knows, maybe in the game, or even in this review? The choices… Are yours. It’s up to you as to how you choose to continue!

Ahh, the ocean. And I’m done! I do not like the ocean! I quit. GG. Have fun.
  • Sound Design: One thing that a horror game or movie has to have made for itself? Is the atmosphere. If this part is already lacking? Then you’re going to be experiencing an extremely lame and lackluster game. But don’t worry! Submassive has got us covered. The amazing usage of well-timed audio cues and ambient sounds like the creaking of this rusting ship that you’re wandering through? Set the perfect stage for a very claustrophobic experience. Anyone with a decent headset or sound set-up will truly enjoy this game to the fullest as sound truly makes up quite a bit of the successful insertion of a spooky and truly terrifying vibe. The sound designers truly deserve some praise here. They elevated Man of Medan from an outstanding game to something that rivals near perfection, and in my opinion? To one of the best video game horror games out there. Not saying the best, but they’re going to be very high up there on that list! Kudos!
  • Graphics!: Oh my gosh. Does Man of Medan look good, or what! This is a two-Pronger. Firstly the overall graphics. Everything that you’ll be seeing here, looks realistic. The way the lighting works, how it plays with the shadows. Or the way that the fog rolls around as you walk through it. Everything is made so that it looks and feels believable. It doesn’t go for some over the top effect. And it actually shouldn’t be as well. Man of Medan wants to deliver to us a movie-like experience, one as to which you have full control over. It looks so realistic? That it will immediately suck you in, to not let go until you’re finished with your first playthrough. Secondly. Sweet baby Jesus! The attention to detail that they put on each and every character is insane! Though the mouth movement motion capture looks goofy from time to time? The overall quality of how each individual looks and behaves like? Mind blowing! Truly something that you’ll be wanting to see in other games as well! Each emotion that they are expressing can truly be seen on their faces and that got me feeling connected to everyone. As if they were real characters and not some cooky quirky buffoons running around mindlessly.
  • (Voice) Actors: Some faces will be looking quite familiar. Most prominently Shawn Ashmore. He plays Conrad in the game and is also shown on the cover. He is also the one who I accidentally got killed at the very beginning of the game… Sorry, Shawn! Other than this amazing actor? Different talent also shines here. Submassive Games truly did their best when they composed this cast. Each individual looks and feels believable, that was already made clear. But they SOUND believable as well. No one does cheesy or over the top acting! This fact makes it really enjoyable listening to their conversations. When they are tense, you feel their tension. If they’re goofing off? You feel like you’re part of the gang. Like you’re sitting amongst their company and are having a chat with each of them. And that’s truly the essence of what it means to have a believable movie-like horror game.
  • Huge replayability: So, you have completed your first playthrough? Congratulations! Oh… Almost everyone survived. Good on you! But *redacted* got destroyed? Boom! Gone. That’s too bad. Maybe it was because you weren’t paying attention? Or maybe you just couldn’t care less. Whatever the case may be, it’s gone. The story is at an end. But maybe you can go have another whirl at it? Who knows, maybe you’ll do better next time! And yes, there will be a next time. My god how I love this narrator… But nevermind that, what I am trying to say. The game encourages you to try another time, it gives you that slight nudge right between the ribs to try better. See how the timelines differ if you choose option B instead of option A. Will you all make it this time? Or, what did you maybe miss on your first run? Whatever it may be, give it another go. There are so many branching paths and different twists that, if you really want to discover everything? You’d better call in a day off from work! (Alexis note: I’m saying this as a joke, of course, don’t really call in a day off from work. The game will still be there after your shift ends!)
  • Horror at its best: I am a major horror buff. I rarely scare from anything (damn you Decay, and your creepy ass doll!). But I have got to say… I truly got scared right out of my mind when it came down to this one. It’s not as if it shows you a lot of gory stuff or anything. It’s more like, how the sound design plays with your mind. How the music genuinely winds up, raising the tension. To then deliver the jumpscare at the most perfect of moments, when the entire atmosphere is at its peak. When you boil it all down, this is actually a game that will bring you back to the roots of jumpscares and horror, just the way I liked it!
This is how I felt, going to the bathroom after playing Man of Medan for 3 hours straight.
  • Clunky controls: Go up… No… Go up… Why are you going left. GO. UP. Yeah… This actually was one of my inner struggle conversations. For some reason, the controls feel extremely clunky at moments. Sometimes so bad, that you’d think that it was a beta game. But don’t worry, those moments are extremely rare. Overall it still is do-able, just wiggle around your movement stick and you’ll be good. And have some patience! And hey, maybe this will be fixable as well in a future patch!
  • Time for some QTE moments: Never ever leave your controller or keyboard alone! Okay, so we have already deduced that Man of Medan is an incredible interactive story to play through. That means quite a bit of QTE events. Which I don’t mind. What I do have an issue with, is the time that you’re given on some of these! Some happen out of the blue. That sometimes means that, blinking at the wrong moment? Could actually cause a failed QTE event! I mean… WHAT? Give me some time to react! I don’t want to set-up a constant eye drop dripping machine just so that I don’t miss one of these QTE’s. So people? Never leave your controller alone!
Oh, dude… This guy’s been waiting for Half-Life 3 since 1947? Poor bloke… Still hasn’t happened, man…
  • Framedrops: This section would’ve been empty, if not for the occasional frame drop. One of the game ‘s strong points is also its Achilles heel. Although an absolute marvelously looking game? The amount of detail that Man of Medan shows us sometimes overwhelms itself. Though it’s not constant and they rarely happen? It still happens, and that subtracts from the otherwise completely fluid and immersive gameplay! I truly hope that a patch will smooth this point out! Because it completely breaks my spirit when an otherwise perfect looking game? Breaks its immersion with something stupid like a frame drop!

CONCLUSION

Score: 87%
Although coming very close to a perfect game, there still is some room for improvement. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the engine wasn’t fully optimized, causing the frame drops. Other than that, Submassive Games brought us exactly what they promised. An interactive horror movie game. And believe you me, after turning off the lights and putting on some headphones? The fine line between game and movie will be bridged, and you’ll be sucked right into the atmosphere. I can’t wait for their next installment called Little Hope! This truly is a game that, if you are into horror movies and games? You’ll have to experience! Man of Medan truly outshines a lot of it’s competitors. With believable actors, a sound design that delivers an amazing atmosphere and visuals that bring to life everything that is around you? Man of Medan really brings you back to the essence of what it is to experience an old-school horror story as to how it was way back before we got spoiled with over the top antics and “realistic CGI”. Submassive Games, you truly created a gem, and I can only hope that your next installment, Little Hope, will receive the same love and devotion that this one got!

Developer: Submassive Games   Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Played on: Xbox One X Also available on: PS4 and PC
Alexis lost his mind, and clean pants, for 5 hours straight!
Achievement difficulty for 1000 Gamerscore: 10 hours if you really want to unlock everything, my best guess.
Perfect for: Horror enthusiasts. Anyone who is into interactive adventures!
Xbox Game Store link: Click here

Written by: Alexis

Writer for LifeisXbox

A dedicated writer who is determined to bring out the best or worst in a game and bring it to you in the most honest of ways.

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