The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan (Playstation 4 Review)
There’s a part of our brain, often referred to as our reptilian brain, that controls our more instinctual responses. Fight or flight, namely. Developers Supermassive are more than aware of it, in fact many of their titles prey upon it like bird circling its prey on the hot sands of the desert. Dark Pictures: The Man of Medan is no different.
From the get go, players are introduced to heart racing frights coupled with split second decisions and reactions. It’s precisely why people play these games and the genres biggest flaw. With Man of Medan, the need to respond to these rapid onscreen prompts is hindered by ropey frame rates and even ropier texture popping.
For a cinematic experience, it also feels low budget – and not the Evil Dead 2 charming kind. There’s a level of frustration to failing quick time events(QTEs) out with your control that only the fantastic accessibility options can save you from. Therein lies the solution, allowing players to opt out of time based QTEs. It also boasts an impressive selection of different font sizes and subtitles too.
Furthering this accessibility is the ability to share the experience with friends. Wherein a set number of players calls dibs on the small cast. It sounds almost perfect on paper, but more experienced players will realise that not only does that pass the pad integration break immersion and cause numerous delays, characters don’t always stay for the game’s duration.
Like, how many groups of teenagers are we willing to watch march in to the jaws of oblivion as a group and bet on each and every person’s safe return? The Man of Medan is exactly the scenario we’ve seen time and time again. A group of teens/young adults succumb to their desires and act the goat at sea, only to find themselves captured by pirates (not the yarrrrgh kind). Shortly thereafter the journey is matched with that of the prologue and the group find themselves on a ghost ship based on the Ourang Medan; a post WW2 boat on which the entire crew died mysteriously.
Regardless of your choices, you’ll always end up on the ship and you’ll sure as shit want off just as quick. Mysterious figures loom in the distance, jump scares seemingly crawl out of the woodwork, and you pirate captives add a real world tension to what’s pretty much a ghost story. It’s riveting and the implementation of choices alongside premonitions found throughout your time on the ship will have you agonising over every ultimatum.
And that’s it. You either get off the boat or you don’t. Realistically, the ending isn’t half as valued as the journey with so many eventualities presenting themselves. The Man of Medan will be over before you know it and leave you wanting more – as well as a stability patch. Supermassive clearly know their audience and how to keep them enticed. You know what Dark Pictures has in store and you’re there for it. There’s not much else to see beyond that it’s good and could be better.