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The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan (PS4) Review

October 1, 2019 | Posted by Marc Morrison
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan
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The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan (PS4) Review  

I’ll admit that I didn’t actually finish Until Dawn. While I liked the characters, and Nichole Bloom (Emily) is always a delight to watch, I just didn’t find the core gameplay compelling and thought the controls of the characters was bad. Well, Man of Medan doubles down on certain annoying aspects of Until Dawn and couples it with a story that is both completely unexplained/stupid along with a mystery that Scooby & the gang could knock out in 20 minutes.

Man of Medan is very much a spiritual sequel to Until Dawn. It’s the same type of gameplay (fixed camera, QTE-driven), same character relationship system, same graphical style. But while everything in Until Dawn seemed fresh and interesting, most of Man of Medan fell a bit flat for me.

While I won’t spoil the story much, it opens with two characters in World War 2 heading back to their ship after a night of carousing. Something gets aboard the ship (the Ourang Medan) and kills everyone aboard. The game then flashes back to the present day when a group of intrepid college kids, and their somewhat scantily dressed female ship captain, find the abandoned ship due to some circumstances. It then begins a scenario where you are trying to keep all your characters alive amidst some growing psychological problems.

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One problem is the characters. There are five of them, and only one of them, Brad, is worth a damn at all. His brother, Alex, can be alright but is a bit too “bro-like” for my tastes. The other three main characters are worthless. I generally like Shawn Ashmore as an actor, he’s been in good stuff and he seems alright as a person, but he is insufferable here. A lot of the characters personalities are alterable, to a point, but from the second he opened his mouth I didn’t care about him at all.

The women don’t get a ton to do either. And there is a weird imbalance of men and women in the game. There are, ultimately, 9 men in the game (heroes and enemies) and 2 women. While they are a part of the story, to a major degree, it’s a fairly dude-heavy game.

To be blunt, there are really only three types of actual gameplay systems in the game. They are as follows:

1. Quick Time Events – Usually guiding a cursor to the prompt and hitting the right button, hopefully within the allotted time frame

2. Breathing game – You have to press X in time with a heartbeat graph as it scrolls by

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3. Conversation – There are plenty of sequences where you talk to your compatriots or a few other people in the game. This can have an adverse or positive effect on your relationships with other characters or to the overall story of the game

There are a few other things you can do but they are barely worth pointing out. You can pick up some items in the game and examine them using the R stick, but it feels incredibly cumbersome to do so. You can also find pictures in the game to give you occasional glimpses into the future but these last about 4 seconds and are somewhat useless.

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I was bored through most of the time playing Medan. Most of the QTE’s or the Breathing game didn’t really bear a lot of impact to the story. In one very late sequence, a bad guy is freaking out because of events on the ship. You are hiding from him and the breathing game occurs. I failed it, and the guy ran off and my story continued. I reset the game, completed the mini-game correctly and the guy still just ran off, this time for no real reason.

There isn’t to say that things don’t go bad for your characters, I did have one of my guys die near the end of the game due to a failed QTE (on my own part), but it seemed just arbitrary, as opposed to something that built up over the course of the game.

There are two cool things about this game and the reason I stuck with it, the first is multiplayer. You and a friend can play the game together, where each player performs different actions. So, while a few characters might be up on a boat just talking to each other, another group of characters can be underwater on a dive.

This is kind of neat but there were two problems my friend and I ran into. The first is that the game just assigns completely random roles to each player. In one section I might be playing Julia while my friend was Conrad, but in another section, he could be Julia and I would be Alex. If they had designed a system where each player got an option of who to pick, that would be a lot more interesting and worthwhile than the randomness it currently uses. There is an alternate, local-only multiplayer mode where you and four other people each have their own specific character, but honestly, what are the chances that you are ever going to have four people over to play the game?

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The second problem is that there (seemingly) isn’t a way to access the character menu when playing co-op. The usual button is R1, but if you press it in multiplayer, it just pauses the game. The character menu is slightly important since it tells you the traits your character has, or their relationships with the other characters.

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So, online cooperative multiplayer is one cool thing. The second cool thing about Man of Medan is Pip Torrens. He portrays the slightly supernatural Curator character, who introduces the story and comments on your progress through various points in the gameplay. He’s in the vein of a Rod Serling in Twilight Zone or the Crypt Keeper in Tales from the Crypt, archetype. His sneering and ambiguous dialog was something that was nice.

Aside from these two things, the game is completely ordinary. You just walk (painfully slowly) throughout a few ship locations, all the while a simple horror story is being told. If any of these people had watched George Romero’s “The Crazies” film, they could have figured the mystery of the ship out in about five minutes. Kids these days just don’t watch classic horror films these days, and they end up in stupid situations because of it.

5.0
The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
While I did want to like Man of Medan, the gameplay is just painfully boring and the story is even blander. If you have a friend, don’t mind shelling out $60 (for two copies) and want to kill three or four hours together, then it’s worth a purchase but that’s about it. The next game in the franchise looks slightly more ambitious but we’ll see if it manages to be a good game or not.
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