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The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan Review - One To Play Until Dawn?

With Until Dawn's great success, it went without saying Supermassive Games were just getting started. Fast-forward to today and we have a brand new adventure with The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan. The question is, does Supermassive Games' latest stand up to its predecessor, or has the ship to success already sailed?

Until Dawn was an absolutely brilliant game and so when I heard Supermassives' next big adventure was set on a Ghost Ship, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Man of Medan. At the time, I wasn't aware it was about to become an Anthology, though as the spiritual successor to Until Dawn, it made sense. Until Dawn was a very contained story and so the next logical step was to create a universe where all of these stories can take place - A little like The Twilight Zone.

In the original teen outing, Peter Stormare (of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Minority Report fame) played the role of The Analyst - A sort of hybrid between a Psychiatrist and the story Narrator. The roles he's played have always been a little creepy and a little sleazy, so it goes without saying that he of course was a perfect fit for such a mysterious role. This time around however, we have Pip Torrens playing The Curator - A mysterious figure who seems to know all and see all. He's also the host of Man of Medan's story.

The Curator is your guide for this adventure and whether you trust him or not, it's safe to say he knows a lot more than he's letting on, sharing clues and offering the right amount of information at the perfect time to ensure you remain invested in the story. Though not as prominent as the Twilight Zone narrators, if you look hard enough, you'll realise he's a lot closer to you than you first thought. You could be walking through a cramped corridor when suddenly lightning strikes, and there he stands for that brief moment before he's once again gone, as if he were never there in the first place. I won't spoil too much, but he can pop up in some of the most unexpected places and whether benevolent or malevolent in nature, it's subtly implied he's always there, watching, like a trans-dimensional deity of sorts.

Conrad letting curiosity get the better of him.
Note: All screenshots were captured during my playthrough. 

Like Until Dawns' Hayden Panettiere , Man of Medan continues the trend of including at least one famous, stand-out character, and this time it's Iceman from the old X-Men films, Shawn Ashmore. Shawn plays Conrad - A privileged bachelor on a trip to find lost treasure buried at sea, with his three friends Julia, Alex and Brad. After having hired Fliss, a Captain of questionable experience and the owner of her small diving boat named the Duke of Milan, things quickly take a turn for the worst.

Will everyone survive the events that are about to transpire? That's up to you, but you'd better believe your decisions matter, because whether you act on impulse, logic or emotion, the lives of these characters rest entirely in your hands.

While this is true, I didn't feel like I was going to lose them at any moment, and even when I did, I felt very little for these characters. Man of Medan didn't have the same impact on me as Until Dawn. This could be because it's a little more predictable than its predecessor, or even because it feels noticeably easier, but I feel the characters just aren't as likeable and could have done with a lot more development. This isn't to say Man of Medan is a bad game - It's more Until Dawn is the superior title.

This screen shows your bond with others and your key personality traits.

Regardless of this, it still feels pretty good to get all of your characters to the end of the game in one piece and though there appear to be far less consequences this time around, certain situations that I didn't quite clock until it was too late can result in you killing the characters yourself without even realising it. This is all part of the mystery of Man of Medan and you likely won't get the full story until you've played through the story several times.

Speaking of which, I only lost one character on my first run and the same again (different character this time) on my second run through. What was interesting however, was that by making a slightly different choice at the start of the game, the following chapters played out very differently, even revealing an entire character segment I never knew existed before. This gave a fresh perspective on one of the characters I hadn't really had the chance to familiarise myself with the first time around.

It should be obvious by now that Supermassive Games are experts at creating flawed, but incredibly lifelike characters and Man of Medan certainly maintains that reputation. Facial expressions are realistic and always appropriate to the scene, while character reactions and the way each individual moves feels natural and believable. Add the brilliantly executed voice acting and you have a game of film-like quality. It truly is like watching an interactive movie, and one that feels comparable to films like 2009's Triangle, only with a more logical and far less convoluted plotline.

Julia being relatively carefree, but is Alex a little...overprotective?

On the whole, Man of Medan's plot isn't too clich├ęd, but I do feel it fell a little short and that the main mystery of the plot was revealed a little too soon for my liking. Still, Man of Medan had a lot to live up to considering Until Dawn set the bar so high and this latest outing is pretty good, just not the best we've seen.

Disappointingly, none of the characters stand out to the level of Until Dawn's cast, though to be fair, none of them really had the opportunity to be as heroic as Mike in the original title. Man of Medan also isn't a sequel to Until Dawn, and is more a spiritual successor that stays true to the core mechanics of what made Until Dawn such a uniquely standout experience.

Also worth noting is that Man of Medan isn't without its fair share of problems, with both console and PC versions of the game having a considerable amount of reported performance issues. Coincidentally, I'd just purchased a new gaming laptop when our friends at Bandai Namco sent over a review code for this, so you can imagine how frustrated I became when first loading up the game, only to discover it had severe framerate issues and was running at about 12 frames per second. Even more problematic was how unresponsive the menu and controls were, to such a point that it didn't even register my button presses during some of the earlier QTE's.

The in-game camera angles offer some truly breathtaking moments.

Thankfully, somebody had set up a blog page specifically fixing most of Man of Medan's performance issues and after a fair bit of time spent messing around, I eventually got the game running nigh on perfectly. There was no longer a hideous delay between my PS4 pads input and the on-screen button prompts, and playing about with my Radeon settings helped to keep things stable. If you're on PC and have similar issues yourself, you can find the blog here. The user known only as "Admin" is the real hero here, so thank you Admin.

Once I had resolved the initial start up issues, I found the game worked excellently with my PS4 pad and recommend anyone playing on PC stick to using a controller. That said, it certainly needed to, because the button prompts for a majority of the QTE's are pretty fast - Sometimes too fast.

If you're looking for an immersive and engaging title, then this is definitely one for you. Aside from Man of Medan's opening segments, the entire game is set at sea and largely takes place on an abandoned Sea Vessel. Characters, models and textures are graphically outstanding, but as atmospheric as Man of Medan can be, the OST does little more than keep you immersed and isn't something you'll be listening to as a standalone feature.

Hell hath no fury.

Overall, Man of  Medan is a great experience, lessened only by performance issues and it's predecessor overshadowing it. Completionists will be happy with a large number of hidden photos and secrets to find, along with a naturally evolving story where every decision has the potential to drastically shift the plot. You also have the addition of two co-operative play modes, plus extra content in the form of video documentaries which I found to be really enjoyable. These include actor interviews, the history of horror and two "making of" videos, unlocked only by tracking down the many hidden secrets and photos dotted about throughout the main game.

You can also load your game from any chapter and continue from a point where all of the characters are still alive, and while this may be good for unlocking trophies, I feel it somewhat ruins the fun and challenge. Once you know what you're doing, the game is pretty short, so there's no excuse not to replay it.

Man of Medan is another solid entry and a notable addition to Supermassive Games' ever expanding library, and though it's not without issues, it's hard to go wrong at a respectable price of £24.99. There are certainly some entertaining moments here and the plot may even have you surprised at times, but if you go into this expecting it to be as solid and memorable as Until Dawn, don't, because it's nowhere near as satisfyingly intense to play through. Perhaps Little Hope, the next entry in The Dark Pictures Anthology will do better.

Will you be the next person to uncover the secret of the Manchurian Gold?

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