Man of Medan is ready virtually solely at sea on an infinite, deserted boat. Loosely based mostly on the real-life thriller of the OSS Ourang Medan, which grew to become a shipwreck within the late 1940s after its whole crew have been misplaced below mysterious circumstances, Man of Medan can also be the primary a part of Supermassive Games’ proposed Dark Pictures Anthology–a collection of quick, branching horror narrative experiences within the vein of its super 2015 shock hit, Until Dawn. If you’ve got performed Until Dawn, you may know what to anticipate. But regardless of a wise on-line co-op mode, Man of Medan’s weak narrative in the end makes it a disappointing first installment.The sport’s plot jumps between 5 totally different playable characters who’re all experiencing the identical occasion. You’ll decide their final fates by making selections for them, in addition to responding to quick-time occasions. There are reportedly 69 totally different potential deaths you may expertise (together with these of non-playable characters), however it’s additionally solely potential that your complete crew will survive. Alternatively, they could all die. Man of Medan’s essential promoting level is that your selections will have an effect on how issues play out, how the relationships between your characters will develop, and what you may uncover and expertise alongside the way in which.In conversations, and at pivotal factors within the plot, you may typically be given three choices, one among which is all the time to say or do nothing. So centered is Man of Medan on its story, there are not any puzzles to resolve or fight methods to grasp exterior of those decisions, simply a number of exploring and quick-time occasions. However, the sport is stricken by a giant central downside: a essentially weak plot.The story is not partaking, because the participant is given little motive to care in regards to the characters and the horror tropes being explored largely really feel hackneyed and uncreative. After a short prologue scene set within the ’40s, you spend Man of Medan’s four-hour (give or take) runtime within the current day. The story opens with the crew planning a dive to a beforehand untouched sunken fighter aircraft from World War II, which in the end results in a collection of occasions that sees them trapped on the Medan, a seemingly haunted deserted ship, held captive by a pirate gang who’re satisfied that the ship–which is riddled with lifeless bodies–contains treasure. Naturally, issues begin going bump within the evening, and the gang finds themselves coping with varied ghouls and terrors too.There are plot holes and character inconsistencies all through, some minor, some extra blatant. It’s maybe straightforward to forgive the questionable presence of rats everywhere in the boat, nonetheless gnawing on hunks of meat which were on the ship because the 40s, however it’s much less straightforward to excuse how blasé the characters act in regards to the horrifying conditions they discover themselves in. They’re largely unlikeable, too–There’s the cool however insecure Alex, his dorky youthful brother Brad, Alex’s outgoing, rich associate Julia, Julia’s obnoxious however well-meaning brother Conrad, and Fliss, the captain of the small boat the 4 have chartered on the story’s opening. The dialogue is mostly not superb; at instances it efficiently recreates the sensation of watching a fun-but-silly teen slasher, often hitting that good-bad sweet-spot as a personality awkwardly refers to one thing as ‘lit’ or flirts awkwardly, however it may also be annoying when the 5 central characters’ interactions sound stilted and unrealistic. Without spoiling something, the story additionally explains a little bit an excessive amount of about what’s occurring on the Medan in a method that makes repeated playthroughs a lot much less satisfying.There’s additionally an over-reliance on bounce scares, which cheapens the horror expertise. One standout sequence halfway via the sport that does an ideal job of getting below your pores and skin, as Brad finds himself caught in a looping hallway that grows only a bit weirder each time he travels down it, however in any other case Man of Medan is reliant on spring-loaded cats and many suddenly-morphing faces. On the plus facet, it seems to be tremendous–the character fashions generally is a bit waxy, however the ship is extraordinarily detailed and creepy, and the sport successfully communicates how disagreeable the act of exploring a creaky rustbucket stuffed with darkish corners and rotting corpses should be. The trade-off, at the least on a base PS4, is that animations incessantly stutter, breaking the temper as frames slip away.There are pacing points, too, particularly with the extraordinarily gradual opening part that weighs down repeat playthroughs. While you may see totally different scenes or expertise distinctive outcomes with every playthrough, some scenes can be primarily unchanged every time, which may shortly grate. You’ll additionally often need to examine in on ‘The Curator’, an omnipresent suited man who’s clearly meant to be the mascot for and host of the Dark Pictures Anthology. He’s a pompous model of the Crypt Keeper (from Tales From The Crypt), however with none of the “good evening, boys and ghouls” merriment you need from a horror anthology host, and consequently, he would not fairly match.Multiplayer is Man of Medan’s large addition to the method laid out by Until Dawn. There are two types of co-op: Shared Story, through which two gamers deal with the sport collectively on-line, and Movie Night, the place as much as 5 gamers can play collectively offline, enjoying via the chapters of whichever characters they’re assigned firstly. Playing collectively on the sofa is maybe meant to evoke that “don’t go in there” feeling of watching a enjoyable horror film with pals, however Man of Medan’s comparatively easy stage designs, which by no means make it appear harmful to wander off-path and discover the open doorways and alternate pathways you encounter, do not notably facilitate this. Death is extra typically all the way down to a failed QTE somewhat than a dialogue alternative you made or since you determined to analyze one thing spooky. In reality, proper close to the tip, a mistimed button press will be the distinction between everybody surviving and everybody dying–being answerable for that in entrance of your mates is extra embarrassing than it’s humorous.However, so lots of the sport’s points really feel like a lot much less of an issue once you bounce into the sensible and revolutionary on-line mode. It is, surely, the definitive solution to expertise Man of Medan, particularly should you’re enjoying with one other one that is accustomed to the fabric. Shared Story sees you each enjoying on the similar time, taking management of various characters as their scenes play out concurrently. You’ll each, ultimately, get a flip with each character (in the event that they dwell lengthy sufficient), and sometimes your paths will diverge. Once the 5 essential characters meet after the preliminary prologue, Shared Story instantly affords a extra partaking expertise than the single-player marketing campaign can.Early on, for example, I performed via a sequence the place two characters dived down to examine one thing underwater, whereas my co-op buddy stayed on the boat and skilled a special a part of the story. In single-player, you may nonetheless see each scenes, however one can be vastly truncated. In on-line co-op, some scenes are expanded, otherwise you would possibly often see components of the story, or make decisions, that can’t be accessed in single-player.This led to the 2 of us conspiring to make sure issues occur, to bend the sport’s story to our will. We have been extra profitable with some outcomes than others (a failed quick-time occasion led to an sudden dying early on), however working collectively to attain dramatic satisfaction, and selecting when to disclose what simply occurred and when to let the opposite participant strive to determine what we might executed in our scenes, was a delight. Each participant will not see each scene when enjoying this manner, and it is solely potential to play with out ever speaking, which makes the plot extra unpredictable.No matter how a lot or little you select to share, although, Shared Story is totally the correct solution to play the sport. It’s very properly designed; my co-op associate and I by no means discovered ourselves ready for the opposite participant to rush up and set off the subsequent cutscene, and with the ability to see how your buddy is attempting to direct a scene, and deciding whether or not to assist or hinder them in that, is great. It feels such as you’re working collectively to wring as many attention-grabbing outcomes as you may out of the sport, and successfully doubling the variety of potential decisions results in a a lot stronger sense of selection.Man of Medan remains to be telling a weak story, although, as a lot as Shared Story plasters over this with its glorious tackle co-op, which helps you to plan issues out and work collectively to craft the narrative you need to inform (and kill the characters you discover essentially the most annoying). If you may manage a session with another person who owns the sport and play via the entire thing collectively, it is a superb expertise; however should you’re after one other single-player horror narrative expertise just like the one provided in Until Dawn, it’s extremely disappointing. As a present of the potential for the Dark Pictures Anthology, Man of Medan is essentially successful, however as a primary episode, it leaves lots to be desired.