Platform: PlayStation 4
The Dark Pictures: Man Of Medan Preview - E3 2019
We play through a quick demo of the upcoming horror adventure
The PS4 horror game Until Dawn was a runaway success for developers Supermassive Games. While not their first title, it was one that can be looked back on as being their biggest breakthrough. So it makes sense that the team will want to continue to build on this success, but this time they have partnered with Namco Bandai to bring their next game to more platforms. Billed as a multi-part adventure series, titled The Dark Pictures Anthology, the first game is called Man of Medan. We had a chance to play through one scene of this title at E3 2019.
The plot of Man of Medan follows four young Americans, who set out on a diving trip to find a rumored WWII wreck. It goes without saying that they do find it, but things go south when mysterious circumstances begin to occur on board. The demo began with a man named The Curator speaking to the player, talking about having a moral compass, how not every decision has a clear right or wrong answer. The similarities to Until Dawn come early, and they come often.
We take control of Fliss, a young woman who is seemingly being forced through the wrecked ship at gunpoint, by a man named Danny. It's unclear who Danny is or how he got there, but he seems very spooked and generally uneasy. As Fliss, we navigate through a few narrow hallways of the ship; the camera uses static angles to produce a cinematic viewpoint. We come across a few skeletons, presumably of the original crew. At one point, we see one of them move through a well positioned camera angle for the player, but of course the characters miss this. We also see someone's hand quickly pulled away from the corner of the screen.
There are a few more fake-out jump scares in the demo, like a pipe bursting. We also come across a few items that can be picked up and looked at, much the same as Until Dawn, down to the animations and view angles. After a few more corridors, Danny suddenly starts to lose it. He begins to panic, pushes Fliss aside and rushes into the next room, where he fires a few shots. When Fliss goes after him, she only finds his flashlight and baseball cap.
Now alone, Fliss continues into the ship, where suddenly Brad appears. He acts too casual about the situation, and dodges Fliss' question when we make a dialog choice to press him further on how he got down here. The two continue into a slightly larger storage hold, where we guide Fliss to a side path where she discovers a knife, and takes it with her. Brad continues to act way too casual.
In the next hallway, the floor is covered with water. When Fliss begins to cross, a few hands suddenly reach out and grab her, dropping her to the ground. More hands appear from the water and begin to try and drag her head towards a menacing looking face below the surface. Here we must use QTEs – either mashing a button, or pressing it quickly enough, in order to keep Fliss struggling and alive. Although one or two QTE's are missed, we hit the one that lets Fliss use the knife she had found earlier. Likely, this optional item helped save her life, as she stabs the scary looking face and frees herself from the grasp.
Getting back to her feet, she hurries away from the hallway; looking behind, zombies begin to give chase. She suddenly also sees Brad – he has been grabbed. Once again, we get a choice to leave or try to save him. We choose to go back for Brad, but then a cutscene plays where Fliss is apparently unsuccessful at freeing him, and instead we get a first-person jump scare of Brad having turned into one of the zombies. On this, the demo concludes.
When you find a formula that works, you want to stick to it, and with Man of Medan, the similarities to Until Dawn are simply uncanny, and it feels like a direct sequel rather than a new adventure. We didn’t see a single new mechanic or gameplay element. Even other narrative games, like the many series from Telltale featured some level of variation in its mechanics. Plus, when it comes to horror and building tension, a lot of Until Dawn's success was due to the mystery unraveling well into the later sections of the adventure. With the Man of Medan demo, while it's unclear at which point in the game the action took place, it seems the developers are OK with completely spoiling the fact that there are, indeed, actual zombies and supernatural elements, in broad daylight, so to speak.
But it is just an E3 demo – perhaps the full version of this horror adventure will have plenty more tricks up its sleeve. Cinematic horror fans can look forward to taking the journey to sea when The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan arrives this August on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.