Back in the day, full-motion video games were held up as one of the great examples of the future of gaming. An interactive movie! Can you believe it? Today, of course, we know that whole plan didn’t pan out as well as we’d thought it might, but titles like Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and Until Dawn have come along to import the “interactive movie” style of gameplay without necessarily incorporating the FMV side of things. The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan follows that script well enough…but it turns out that allowing you to play with a friend can make all the difference.
Alex has some big things going on! He’s going diving with his girlfriend Julia and her brother Conrad, for instance, as well as bringing his brother Brad along. That’s all a front, really, for his big plan to pop the question to Julia. Conrad, Brad and even Julia herself have their own reasons for coming along on this trip as well. Everything’s looking up for these guys! There’s definitely no spooky ghost ships, murderous spirits or anything of that nature in their future. No sir. Completely safe.
Yeah, I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that Man of Medan is, simply, a cooperative take on the narrative horror formula established by Until Dawn. That means heavily scripted exploration, dialogue and cutscenes abound, with the more intense moments being relayed via button-pressing quick-time events. As the terror ratchets up in intensity, you’ll need to make sure that characters are safe, as pretty much anyone can die and will stay gone once they do.
You’ll notice I specified that this is a cooperative game. Yes, you can play without a friend! No, as the game itself suggests by making that a secondary option, you probably shouldn’t! While there’s a fair number of scares to be found alone, the real charm of this game comes from getting a friend on Skype or the couch next to you and enjoying the game together. In particular, the way that online play splits the story between two players and presents distinctly unique scenes for both makes Man of Medan a great option for replay. You’ll want to go through this one at least twice. Trust me. Working together to escape from monsters is just the beginning.
Man of Medan looks pretty fantastic. Characters and environments look great and the creatures are appropriately terrifying. If you’re playing online, though (you really should be) then the real terror might be the framerate, which can be affected by the connection quality between the two players. This is a gameplay concern as well, since poor connections introduce lag which can affect the outcome of quick-time events. Man of Medan’s significant loading times can be a little terrifying as well, especially on a non-Pro PS4.
The odd technical hitches here and there aren’t enough to stop the first episode in the Dark Pictures anthology from providing some solid spooks and genuine thrills. Honestly, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan is enjoyable enough playing alone, but you’re going to get the best experience if you can rope a good friend into it. That is, if you’re lucky enough to have a buddy brave enough – and with a stable internet connection – to stick with you throughout the entire experience.