The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan review for Xbox One, PS4, PC

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Supermassive Games
Medium: Blu-ray/Digital
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan hit consoles and PC last Friday, marking the first in a planned series of horror titles from developer Supermassive Games and publisher Bandai Namco. Essentially a follow-up/spiritual successor to Supermassive?s PS4 exclusive Until Dawn, Man of Medan features a lot of familiar elements if you?re a fan of their initial horror outing. It also brings with it a few new ideas, including local and online co-op, while unfortunately being plagued with a host of technical issues. Overall, Man of Medan is an uneven experience, at least on consoles, that manages to take a little wind out of the sails of this anthology series at the start.

The beginning moments of Man of Medan serves as both a set-up for the major set-piece in the game, namely a World War II naval vessel abandoned on the high seas, and as a tutorial for new players. It?s not the best start to the game, in that it focuses on two characters who are entirely disposable, meaning that the dialogue/action choice selections given that make up a large chunk of Man of Medan?s gameplay don?t really have a meaningful impact here. Also, it?s immediately where you?ll notice severe framerate issues that remain throughout the game, or at least they did for me as I played through on an original Xbox One.

However, once you get past this initial tutorial, the story at least picks up and you?ll get introduced to the main cast of characters. Man of Medan is a smaller game in scope when compared to Until Dawn, so you?ll only have 5 main characters in your group, along with a few antagonists that pop up along the way. It?s also priced accordingly, and as an anthology series, I expect the future games to clock in at a similar length, around 4 to 6 hours per playthrough. Man of Medan does feature reasons to replay, namely collectibles, different endings, and a variety of choices that create branching story pathways to follow. Just like Until Dawn, most characters are at risk, meaning that you can lose people unexpectedly due to either poor dialogue choices or missed quick-time event button prompts.

The multiplayer element introduced in Man of Medan works well and is probably the best way to experience the game. You can opt to play online with friends (no random matchmaking), which has you and your friends selecting the character they want to play through. So instead of having the game move between characters in single-player, you?ll be dedicated to a single character throughout, provided your character doesn?t get beset by tragedy down the road. This opens up additional scenarios and story segments that you might not see in the single-player mode, helping to bridge the gap between moments that would normally have been transition points from one character to the next. Local co-op is similar to a degree but adopts a pass the controller type set-up instead.

While I don?t think anyone will argue that Man of Medan?s overall story and plot is amazing, it serves its purpose well enough, emulating a B-Movie horror film in a manner not unlike Until Dawn. The ghost ship set-up here is fun, and once you?re exploring the main section of the game, the atmosphere is certainly creepy. Man of Medan does rely on jump scares throughout, but they?re not too telegraphed and pretty effective overall. The voice actors do a pretty good job with the material at hand, but the dialogue often feels a little hokey for some of the characters, and the small attempts at humor didn?t do a thing for me. There are often lines that just feel unnatural and are a disservice to the overall immersion here.

By far the biggest issue I have with Man of Medan is how poorly the game runs. Framerate is an absolute mess right from the start, with even the intro video chugging at the onset of the game. I absolutely failed quick time event button presses due to framerate issues and freezing screens, which resulted in two deaths on my first playthrough that I?m confident wouldn?t have happened otherwise. I?ve also experienced issues with the audio going out of sync with video (which did autocorrect eventually), loading screens freezing, and I had to restart the game a couple of times after getting hit with a black screen that wouldn?t progress. These issues were consistent throughout, and looking through impressions from other players now that the game was released, it appears I?m not alone with these problems. Ideally, some of this can be patched, but right now, Man of Medan isn?t in the best state on consoles.

Due to that, I can?t wholeheartedly suggest checking it out. As a fan of Until Dawn, Man of Medan certainly scratches a similar itch and has moments that remind me of the PS4 exclusive. The multiplayer modes are a welcome addition, making Man of Medan into a bit of a party game in a way that I would never have expected going in. Unfortunately, the host of technical issues really impact the fun here, in a very negative way. So, provided these things can be fixed, then I would say Man of Medan is worth your time. However, I would absolutely hold off on a purchase until we hear of or see improvements down the road.

Note: Bandai Namco provided us with a The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan code for review purposes.

Grade: C+