Man of Medan is ready virtually totally at sea on an unlimited, deserted boat. Loosely based mostly on the real-life thriller of the OSS Ourang Medan, which turned a shipwreck within the late 1940s after its whole crew have been misplaced underneath mysterious circumstances, Man of Medan can be the primary a part of Supermassive Games’ proposed Dark Pictures Anthology–a collection of brief, branching horror narrative experiences within the vein of its great 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 recreation’s plot jumps between 5 completely 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 completely different potential deaths you possibly can expertise (together with these of non-playable characters), but it surely’s additionally totally doable that your entire crew will survive. Alternatively, they could all die. Man of Medan’s fundamental 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 at all times to say or do nothing. So targeted is Man of Medan on its story, there are not any puzzles to resolve or fight programs to grasp exterior of those selections, simply numerous exploring and quick-time occasions. However, the sport is affected by an enormous central drawback: a basically 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 quick 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 useless bodies–contains treasure. Naturally, issues begin going bump within the night time, and the gang finds themselves coping with numerous 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 have been on the ship for the reason that 40s, but it surely’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 companion 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 usually not superb; at occasions it efficiently recreates the sensation of watching a fun-but-silly teen slasher, sometimes hitting that good-bad sweet-spot as a personality awkwardly refers to one thing as ‘lit’ or flirts awkwardly, but it surely can be annoying when the 5 central characters’ interactions sound stilted and unrealistic. Without spoiling something, the story additionally explains slightly an excessive amount of about what’s occurring on the Medan in a means 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 by the sport that does an excellent job of getting underneath 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 appears tremendous–the character fashions is usually 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 filled with darkish corners and rotting corpses should be. The trade-off, a minimum of 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 sluggish opening part that weighs down repeat playthroughs. While you possibly can see completely different scenes or expertise distinctive outcomes with every playthrough, some scenes shall be basically unchanged every time, which may rapidly grate. You’ll additionally sometimes must test 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 does not fairly match.Multiplayer is Man of Medan’s huge addition to the system 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, taking part in by 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 right down to a failed QTE reasonably than a dialogue alternative you made or since you determined to research one thing spooky. In reality, proper close to the tip, a mistimed button press might be the distinction between everybody surviving and everybody dying–being answerable for that in entrance of your pals is extra embarrassing than it’s humorous.However, so most of the recreation’s points really feel like a lot much less of an issue while you bounce into the good and modern on-line mode. It is, certainly, the definitive option to expertise Man of Medan, particularly in the event you’re taking part in with one other one that is conversant in the fabric. Shared Story sees you each taking part in on the identical time, taking management of various characters as their scenes play out concurrently. You’ll each, finally, get a flip with each character (in the event that they stay lengthy sufficient), and sometimes your paths will diverge. Once the 5 fundamental characters meet after the preliminary prologue, Shared Story instantly affords a extra partaking expertise than the single-player marketing campaign can.Early on, as an illustration, I performed by 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 distinct a part of the story. In single-player, you may nonetheless see each scenes, however one shall be drastically truncated. In on-line co-op, some scenes are expanded, otherwise you would possibly sometimes see elements of the story, or make selections, 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 surprising dying early on), however working collectively to realize dramatic satisfaction, and selecting when to disclose what simply occurred and when to let the opposite participant strive to determine what we would finished in our scenes, was a delight. Each participant will not see each scene when taking part in this fashion, and it is totally doable 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 completely the correct option to play the sport. It’s very effectively designed; my co-op companion and I by no means discovered ourselves ready for the opposite participant to rush up and set off the subsequent cutscene, and having the ability to see how your good friend is attempting to direct a scene, and deciding whether or not to assist or hinder them in that, is superb. It feels such as you’re working collectively to wring as many attention-grabbing outcomes as you possibly can out of the sport, and successfully doubling the variety of potential selections results in a a lot stronger sense of selection.Man of Medan continues to be telling a weak story, although, as a lot as Shared Story plasters over this with its wonderful 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 probably the most annoying). If you possibly can set up a session with another person who owns the sport and play by the entire thing collectively, it is a superb expertise; however in the event you’re after one other single-player horror narrative expertise just like the one supplied in Until Dawn, it’s totally disappointing. As a present of the potential for the Dark Pictures Anthology, Man of Medan is basically successful, however as a primary episode, it leaves a lot to be desired.