Final Score 5/10 - An average not scary adventure that pales against its predecessor. Reviewed on PS4 PRO.
Supermassive Games quickly became a developer I followed and cared to monitor with they break out game Until Dawn. Until Dawn was one of the first games I played on PS4 and is still to this day one of my favorite horror games. Supermassive Games remind me of one of my other favorite developers, Quantic Dreams, in that they are one of those developers who have graphical wizard powers, capable of pulling off ultra cinematic games. These are games in the cinematic narrative genre like Heavy Rain, Detroit Become Human and Supermassive's Until Dawn. Some games that are telling a dark, scary, and dimly lit story are also visually unimpressive for the same reason. However Until Dawn was visually incredible and a beauty to look at. It was incredible to just be able to stare at ultra high-rez, near photo realistic character renders.
(Man of Medan Trailer)
So when I heard that Supermassive was working on a new anthology series, creating an entire series of scary stories in the vein of Until Dawn, I was elated. Man of Medan was on my list for 2019 with much excitement, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this story. However what I was met with was a sad shell of Until Dawn.
Man of Medan fails to achieve the same story telling, character development, sense of horror or dread, as its predecessor let alone evolve upon it. By downsizing the size of the cast, it did not compensate by adding depth or realism. Everyone felt way more robotic with limited conversational choices. The player is often made to feel like a robot, forced to make quick decisions with little insight as to the implication of its meaning. It is one thing to not yet understand the consequences of your decisions, that's just a reflection of imitating real life; but it is another thing to not understand your choices. You often times didn't know if one dialogue choice was favorable or negative to the person you were talking to. It is hard to feel weight in your consequences if your decisions felt forced, random, and made for you.
While it is true your choices do affect who lives or dies it felt like greater player death weight was given to quick time events than choices. Two of characters died because of quick time events or a poorly implemented "heart-beat mechanic" rather than any decisions I actually tried to make.
I did run into some graphical issues with the facial animations and the player models where there were some issues. I will say subjectively the game looked worse than Until Dawn despite being several years newer. The world also felt way smaller, more claustrophobic, and far more linear. Whereas in Until Dawn there were several character story arcs in several locations that felt more open and "real" this game often saw you alone, given only one path forward.
Man of Medan also just was not that scary. It relied almost 100% on jump scares and just got predictable. Until Dawn had suspense, shadows, creepy characters in the distance, and managed to make Horror tropes feel fresh and scary. It chased you, freaks you out, and makes you scared to enter the next room. Man of Medan just has you walk through creepy ugly ship and occasionally something jumps and tries to scare you. One felt like a well thought out horror game while the other is just a glorified haunted house.
- LESS THAN FOUR HOURS LONG -
While I do acknowledge that the game was reasonably not released at normal AAA full price but at 30$, it still was over priced for its content. The entire story took me less than four hours to get through, and while I could play through again with some different choices, I don't feel the re-playability experience will have much to be gained from doing so.
While I cannot help but compare to Until Dawn as a superior game I was enjoying myself. While the characters were not as well developed or likable, I did care enough about them to want to keep them alive. Even though I felt the graphics were less than Until Dawn I have to still give credit to this game for its visuals. These characters look better than what we get in some other AAA games from far bigger studios. The detail of rain running down a characters face or body was pretty impressive, and picking up items in the world really added some great detail and depth.
There also was a mystery to be solved as to why the ship was abandon, what happened to the crew, and the cause of the mysterious things the players sees. These mysteries did help keep me engaged in wanting to finish the game.
*Contains Minor Ending(s) Spoiler*
I will end on saying that the ending left much to be desired. The twist as to what was happening on the ship was obvious and boring. My biggest complaint about the entire game was what happened based on my specific choices. So in my play through two of the characters who were dating got engaged; however, she died in the end shot by one of the enemy characters. The fact that she "can" die is not really too much of a spoiler because the premise of these games is they end somewhere between everyone lives and everyone dies based on your choices. What shocked me is what happened after she died and just how quickly the game ends. So after roughly two hours of slowly walking through this creepy abandoned boat, she gets killed. When the finance's brother regroups with the others, there is no conversation about her death. There is no scene where he informs him she died. It is supposedly handled off camera? They skip straight from her dying to the brother being back with the survivors. The fiancé is seen talking about finding water or something while waiting for rescue. He seems fine? There's this robotic lack of care that his fiancé just died. It was one of the weirdest moments in bad writing I've seen. Honestly if you can't handle having branching stories then cut some of them. Don't have it so a character can die but forget to write that her fiancé should give a damn about that. A woman he proposed to 2 hours ago is now dead, and he's fine moments later. It was weird. Then the game just ends. A helicopter shows up and flies them away. They are inexplicably in prison after as well. The ending last for moments. It was rushed and just ended. Honestly the game could have been a bit better if a few more months were added to the ending's development. In a game that is so short already, the story needs to be great from start to finish.
My final recommendation is to only play this game if you are a hard core horror and/or cinematic narrative genre fan and definitely wait until it is heavily discounted. Even with a better non rushed ending I would say this is a 10$ game at best.