We’re worried The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan is getting overlooked by gamers. It’s an unusual title, but perhaps it would make more sense if we say what it really is - Until Dawn 2. It’s the next horror adventure from Until Dawn creators Supermassive, except it’s got a lot of its own ideas too. It’s basically a game version of The Twilight Zone - oh, and the big shock is: it’s got multiplayer.
We recently attended a hands-on event with Man of Medan, and became some of the first players to try out the new multiplayer. There will be two types - two-player online/local co-op (which we played) and a 2-5 player ‘Movie Night’ mode, where everyone gets to control a specific character and tries not to mess them up. They will.
The Dark Pictures is an anthology series, which means that every game Supermassive releases in it will be completely separate to each other - but be connected by themes of horror. It is essentially The Twilight Zone, and it’s even introduced by a Rod Serling-like presenter called The Curator. The demo begins with the Curator warning us that actions will have consequences, and things might not go well for us. Probably correct.
If you’ve played Until Dawn or one of Quantic Dream’s adventures such as Heavy Rain - or to a lesser extent, Life is Strange or Telltale’s The Walking Dead - you’ll be right at home. You can explore the area at will, and actions are based on QTEs and thumbstick movements (or mouse movements on PC). Locations are generally fixed-camera perspective and your goal is just to explore and survive. And now, if you want, there’s potentially other people doing it too.
How it works - at least in two-player - is that players take control of different characters at different moments. We don’t know if they’re randomised, however, as at one point two of the characters went for an exciting dive to a shipwreck - but both of us actual players were stuck on the boat drinking beer and threatening local scary fishermen who reaaaaaaaallllly shouldn’t be screwed with.
Players can explore the areas at will, look at what they want, and make progress however quickly they want. Players can either work together or go off and have their own adventures, but there are consequences for both. Some players will get jump scares, others will find interesting lore or information - or even hints about how to proceed without getting killed. We got the first jump scare when a creepy kid ran across the screen and honestly, properly jumped.
As for the actual game, we played the first hour of Man of Medan - which actually begins with a story set in World War Two, introducing players to the titular USS Medan and the very bad things that happened to it. It also had some neat ways of introducing players to the game’s mechanics, with some cute carnival games and a creepy fortune teller. Then we cut to the Medan at sea, where something bad seeps out of an Ark of the Covenant-like box and things go very wrong for the crew.
After that the game cuts to the game’s five main characters, who are diving for shipwrecks as a mini-holiday - but the character played by Shawn Ashmore pisses off some locals so badly (in a cutscene) that they come back later and try to kidnap them. They then run into a bad storm, which eventually leads to the ghost ship Medan. Sadly that was where our demo ended, so other than the all-hell-breaks-loose beginning we didn’t get to play aboard the ghostly bits.
Nevertheless the story was nicely building, and the options presented to the player were great - there was very rarely a choice that would have no consequence. Even a seemingly-nice choice, such as saying yes to helping your brother out, can lead to something bad. Supermassive is very good at teasing out bad choices, and sometimes the dialogue options are hysterical - we made note of one in particular, where the options were to act either “pompous” or “belligerent”.
Multiplayer worked very well too, we have to say. By constantly changing characters you never got too bogged down with making one particular character good, and gave you incentive to keep everyone alive. There’s never any particular item or moment which is marked as a “move plot forward” thing, so when it happens you’ve both usually explored a fair bit first. The only silly thing created by multiplayer is when your partner has to make a decision, and if they take their time to think about it you’re just stuck staring at a character’s face making goofy expressions. It’s not a problem though.
Man of Medan, the first game in The Dark Pictures series, is out on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on August 30. The next game in the series will probably come out around 6 months from now.
Until Dawn was a smart and innovative take on the horror genre and the adventure game, and The Dark Pictures isn’t just looking equally as cool - with the multiplayer side, it’s just as innovative. While you totally can play Man of Medan or the other games in the series as offline solo stories, co-op adds a really interesting new dynamic to the story and the scares - and we can’t wait to experience it further.
The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan is only out next month, so luckily we’ve not got long to wait.
Most Anticipated Feature
We quite fancy trying the 5-player Movie Night mode, although guaranteed we’ll die first.
About Chris J Capel
Chris joined us in 2011 and loves Star Wars, comics and bad videogame movies.