Supermassive Games had a hit on their hands back in 2015 with the release of Until Dawn, an adventure game that also doubles as a schlocky interactive horror feature. It was an excellent time, especially if you could get a bunch of friends in the same room to either pass the controller around or to simply act as backseat gamers. They tried to push the group play aspect with 2017’s Hidden Agenda, but that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. This time around, they’ve gone back to basics in The Dark Pictures Anthology, and, if you haven’t picked up from the “Anthology” in the title, there’ll be more of these down the line.

The first installment, Man of Medan, draws heavily from the mystery of the S.S. Ourang Medan, a military freighter found adrift in the middle of the Strait of Malacca. The circumstances of its discovery are even more grisly, as the entire crew has been found dead by search teams that responded to a recent distress call. It’s compelling stuff, and I really recommend that you look it up. But enough of the real-life basis, let’s get to the game.

Players coming in from Until Dawn are instantly going to feel right at home with how Man of Medan plays. You’ll be exploring various environments, making dialog choices, and engaging in various quick time events — all of which can influence the outcome of your playthrough in a number of ways. Failing a button prompt or responding a certain way could result in the situation getting worse for your character, or in extreme cases, death. And in games like these, you’ll want to keep the entire cast alive until the credits roll.

Man of Medan’s story revolves around a young group of friends on a diving expedition. After a run-in with some pirates, the entire cast finds themselves on the titular haunted freighter. From there, your actions determine who survives and gets off the boat, or meets a gruesome fate at the hands of whatever’s lurking in the dark corners of the Ourang Medan.

The story starts out as a slow burn, with the first hour or so spent introducing players to the cast and their respective personalities. It’s an admirable move on Supermassive’s part, but the cast ultimately doesn’t have the same amount of charisma as Until Dawn’s. However, there’s still enough in there to make you want to keep them alive through your run.\

Man of Medan controls largely like its predecessor, with mostly fixed camera angles and slow, deliberate movement. The variety of mini-games and quick time events has seemingly been slimmed down, too. I see this as less of the game being dumbed-down and more like an emphasis on giving you context-appropriate things to do, depending on the type of scene. A simple rhythm mini-game is easily one of the best as it’s used at the right moments to ramp up tension. Getting it right is already nerve-wracking as it is, but imagine doing this in a room full of screaming friends on a Friday night.

Online multiplayer is present in Man of Medan, where you’ll take control of two separate characters as you navigate through their respective scenarios. It’s a neat concept on paper that we unfortunately didn’t get to test. However, for fans of pass-the-controller play, Supermassive took note of how people played their previous games and included Movie Night mode, which prompts you to hand control to another person in the room. It seems superfluous considering you’d actually do it even in single player, but it’s nice to see the devs acknowledging this style of play.

Being set largely on an abandoned freighter doesn’t do Man of Medan’s diversity of settings any favors. You’ll find yourself traversing dimly-lit hallways, catwalks, rust-covered rooms, and all the usual places you’d expect to find inside a haunted ship. That said, the game still looks great. There’s still a great sense of atmosphere despite the singular setting, the game makes the most of it. We definitely recommend playing this with the lights out.

With branching paths and a multitude of possible endings, Man of Medan’s got legs in terms of replay value. Being able to go back and select chapters from the main menu helps in redoing scenarios that you think you messed up helps avoid the tedium of starting all over again. You’ll want to play with different groups of friends, family or co-workers to keep things fresh and varied, though. Getting all those people in the same room to play a horror game with you is a tall order, but that’s the bar that Supermassive set with Until Dawn. And while Man of Medan doesn’t quite reach it, we’re still stoked for the next release in this promising anthology, Little Hope.

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan (PS4)
Graphics80%
Gameplay75%
Controls75%
Sound85%
Replayability80%
Story75%
The Good
  • Great sense of tension and atmosphere
  • Short length demands replays
  • Streamlined QTEs and minigames
The Bad
  • There's a little bit of uncanny valley in the graphics
  • Certain character choices and outcomes are questionable
  • Cast isn't as strong as Until Dawn's
78%Overall Score
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