I love horror games like Man of Medan. Whether it’s supernatural, sci-fi or even western, as long as it’s creepy and scary, I’m down with it.
That’s why I LOVE Until Dawn.
Despite the knocks it got for being linear, it’s still ranking as one of my favourite horror games ever…and I’ve been playing games for a looooooooooooong time.
When I first heard of Man of Medan, the first thought that came to mind was, ‘When?!’ Well, that when has finally turned into now.
So after all that wait, is Man of Medan as good as I hoped?
What is Man of Medan?
We’ve talked a bit about the game in our preview but for those who didn’t read that, Man of Medan is a horror game, the first in the Dark Pictures Anthology series from Supermassive Games (developer of Until Dawn).
Four friends (and the Captain of their chartered boat) are kidnapped and brought to a ghost ship by their captors. What follows is a tale of hide and seek, coupled with a ton of jump scares and depending on your choices, one of a couple of endings.
In a neat twist, you can play the game solo or with friends (online or through swapping controllers locally). It’s actually MORE fun with friends (as they can try to screw you over) with the decision making but I REALLY advise playing solo first to get the best experience.
Like Until Dawn before it, Man of Medan is fraught with multiple decision making options. These range from the mundane to spur of the moment life or death choices. Whatever you pick, you’re going to have be fast because you only have a few seconds to make up your mind.
Quick time events can also influence the outcome and they come on with zero warning. You’re going to want to be on your toes every time, as even cutscenes can suddenly require your input.
New to Man of Medan is the heartbeat timer, where you have to hit X in time to your heartbeat.
I definitely feel this is the worst addition to the gameplay, as it detracts from the stressful event that dictates the timer to appear in the first place! You’re too busy trying not to mess up that you actually ignore what’s happening on the screen!
It’s the 90s all over again!
Playing Man of Medan is a damn joy, especially if you grew up in the golden age of Survival Horror, the 90s.
Fixed camera angles drives home the claustrophobia and creepiness that permeates the ghost ship; every corner or room you enter might have a scare waiting for you! The widescreen borders at the top and bottom of the screen (making the game look like a movie) only serves to enhance the experience.
It’s great…but also one of the game’s unfortunate weaknesses.
The fixed camera can make navigation a pain, especially if you’re trying to explore all the rooms properly. Angles can suddenly change, meaning you’d have to re-orientate on the fly to move where you want to go. It’s nothing new and veterans of the genre will have no trouble adapting but if you’re not used to this gameplay style, it’ll be a trying experience.
The characters (you’ll switch automatically characters depending on where you are in the game) handle sluggishly too, akin to the original Resident Evil (PS1) cast. You’ll want to carefully explore the locations, as they contain clues on what happened to the abandoned ship (in the form of documents and other objects) that can interact with.
Hell, you’re encouraged to find everything too, as it unlocks two (out of five) awesome special features that you’ll want to watch. That luckily adds to the replay value.
While the game is short (it’s about the length of your average movie), you’ll want to replay it numerous times with making different choices to see all the outcomes and endings.
There’s even a ‘Curator’s Cut’ version of the game that has alternate scenes and secrets, but that’s only currently available to those who pre-ordered the game.
A short but replayable ride.
I honestly think it sucks to gate content this way for those who bought the game on release day (or later) but the good news is that the mode will be unlocked for free later in the year for everybody.
That’s good news (if you’re planning to replay the game) but bad news if you want to see everything the game has to offer now.
No matter what version of the game you’re playing, it’s undeniably scary but the jump scares start to grate after halfway through. They’re very predictable (most of the time) and are just a cheap way to get you shocked. Like a summer blockbuster, Man of Medan is loud, brash and proud, which isn’t something you might be looking for in a horror game.
It’s a damn shame as the game is otherwise dripping with atmosphere.
The ghost ship (the name of it is a major plot point so I’m not saying it) is one of the best settings in a horror game yet, with its rusting interior (you’ll cringe thinking of how easily you can get tetanus in there) and decomposed bodies.
The game genuinely raises the hairs on the back of my neck when I explore, especially when it chooses to play its mind games.
Shadow figures can suddenly step out of darkened recesses you just passed, weird figures may be standing in the background (that nobody in the game notices), objects that may suddenly change from one camera angle to the next (and back again)…it’s delicious and makes you question your own sanity as you’re playing.
Sadly, the visuals can detract a bit from that.
While it generally looks good, there are some issues with the game streaming in assets on the fly.
Scene transitions can be stuttering, as new data is being spooled in. Texture pop-in is prevalent throughout the game, with low resolution, placeholder textures taking a while to be replaced with the appropriate ones. I’m playing on a PS4 Pro with a FireCuda hybrid drive, so it’s certainly not the hardware.
However, on the occasions when everything clicks together (which is about 90% of the time), the game is awesome to look at. Character models are great and decently animated, though unlike Until Dawn (which had Rami Malek before he was famous), the faces used in the game are all unknown to me.
The bottom line.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Man of Medan. It’s a great horror game (though not in the way you’d expect) with a decent plot, great visuals and awesome atmosphere. It’s a bit short for my liking and incredibly linear, but replaying it should give it some decent legs.
The technical issues do detract from the overall enjoyment, but you’ll easily learn to overlook them and enjoy yourself. Plus, the problems might be patched out down the road; the majority of Until Dawn’s technical issues were, so it might be the same here too!
I can’t wait to see what Little Hope (the next entry in the Dark Pictures Anthology) offers since Man of Medan is as good as it is.
Fun horror game but short and a bit uneven technically. Still worth a play, especially at its budget price.
– Moody setting with great atmosphere.
– Genuinely creepy at times.
– Great Special Features.
– Very short.
– Technical and visual issues.
– Jump scares get predictable.
– Sluggish controls.