Republished on Wednesday 29th June 2022: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of July's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Maybe it's just because our Dad let us watch Jaws when we were six, but we've always been skeptical of the sea. It's wet, and there's weird things in there. Man of Medan – from Until Dawn dev Supermassive Games, and the first in an anthology of horror games falling under the Dark Pictures banner – sees four friends foolishly heading out to sea looking for fun of a nautical persuasion, and finding nothing but misery instead. Seriously, don't go in the water, people. No good can come of it.
Despite us shouting at the telly repeatedly to stay out of the damned sea, our four heroes casually sit around in a boat without a care in the world, drinking beers, and making clumsy passes at the salty French sailor lady they hired to be their guide. Eventually, they run afoul of some pirates – that's the Captain Phillips kind, not the shiver-me-timbers kind – and everything goes to pot. You'd think being sea-mugged by pirates would ordinarily be the low point of your day, but by the time things take a somewhat supernatural turn, we'll bet these kids were all wishing they'd listened to us and stayed firmly on dry land.
Over the course of six hours or so you'll control different characters in Man of Medan, making choices that will affect the whole group, and the story will be molded to suit your decisions or lack thereof. In 2019, this isn't exactly revolutionary, but where Man of Medan – along with Until Dawn – stands apart from most of the crowd is that nobody in this game is safe. You can get everyone killed if you choose poorly, and that does lend the proceedings an air of danger that keeps you on your toes.
Unfortunately, if you don't care about the characters then whether they live or die is not really of much consequence, and this is one of the big problems for Man of Medan. Our heroes come in two flavours: personality-less, or profoundly annoying. And all of the characters are cursed with genuinely, distractingly awful dialogue.
Until Dawn had similarly cringe-inducing one liners and a thoroughly unlikable cast, but it got away with it because they felt right at home in a homage to the cheesy teen slasher movies of the '80s and '90s that inspired it. Man of Medan – while undoubtedly campy – is played straighter than Until Dawn, and so without the game seemingly being in on the joke, the flimsy narrative, paper-thin characters, and shocking writing are both more noticeable and more problematic. The only exception here is a character called The Curator: a well-dressed gent who pops up between scenes to tell you how well or badly you're doing, and is the perfect mix of creepy and charming.
Another issue for Man of Medan is that it's a horror game which is frighteningly unscary. It takes an age for the story to get out of first gear, but once things actually start happening it amounts to little more than a few telegraphed jump scares. There's literally half a dozen different variations on you opening a door, or a drawer, or a locker, and something popping out. For long stretches this is a narrative-based game without much of a narrative, and it's all very tedious, to the point where we actually found ourselves intentionally trying to make bad decisions just to see if anything would happen.
There's also the technical issues to consider. Man of Medan looks fantastic at times, but it's constantly besieged by framerate drops, freezing, and weird animations. We're not being melodramatic here, folks. It's constant. You'll be watching characters talk and for a split second the visuals will freeze, but the audio continues without issue, meaning that the lip-synching is out for the rest of the conversation. One time it froze during a QTE which resulted in one of the cast meeting a grisly end, which was kinda hilarious, but obviously not right. Facial animations are frequently sketchy, with one character in particular often locked in a permanent pout/grimace combo that looks utterly bizarre. We were even blue-screened on two occasions, and forced to reload.
This is all starting to sound rather negative, and that's because we don't really like the game. But that's not to say it doesn't do anything right, or anything interesting. The inclusion of two different multiplayer modes could certainly help you get a little more mileage out of Man of Medan if you're the sort of person who likes spending time with other people for some reason. You can play online with a friend – and only a friend, no randoms – if you so desire, which sees you each taking control of different characters at the same time, both making decisions, but with the story fundamentally unfolding as in the single player experience for the most part.
Movie Night mode is a couch co-op version of the game in which up to five people are assigned characters to control, and the pad gets passed around between them at the appropriate times. While you could do this quite easily without having a dedicated mode by just handing your mate the pad, the game at least tells you when to pass the controller and who to.
While we wouldn't recommend Man of Medan for the story, scares, characters, or writing, if you like the idea of getting your pals round, opening a bottle of claret and a pipe of Pringles, and having a massive argument when your mate accidentally gets his character killed because he was looking at Twitter on his phone, then the multiplayer modes here could offset the weaker aspects of the package.
Also worthy of note are the array of extras Supermassive Games has included here. As you play through the game you can find secrets which in turn unlock videos, ranging from a short documentary on the history of horror anthologies, to interviews with the cast and crew. These aren't earth shattering, but they're a pleasing addition, and you can tell that a lot of care went into this, regardless of how disappointed we were with the game itself.
Man of Medan kicks The Dark Pictures Anthology off with a whimper rather than a bang. The format has a lot of potential, but this was undoubtedly the wrong story to showcase it. The narrative is slight and rarely gets out of first gear, the characters are annoying, the scares limp, and the dialogue unnatural. There's constant technical hiccups. In fact, the scariest thing about Man of Medan is how it ever went gold in the state that it's in.
Sounds like similar issues I had with Until Dawn, unfortunately. I guess I'll be passing on these.
This is why we need another Until Dawn, with Emily cussing everyone to kingdom come.
Well... to say I'm disappointed is a bit of understatment!
Really not one for the style of games like Beyond Two Souls or Detroit (Maybe because David Cage is not the greatest of storytellers) but Until Dawn really grabbed me for the pulpy tone it had so quite sad to hear that this isn't up to snuff!
Seeing as it's an anthology of different horror stories and tropes hopefully the next one will be much better 👍
I had high hopes for this one. I'll get it anyway, but this is a bit disappointing.
Glad I decided to cancel.my order last week after playing hidden agenda , one fantastic game and two poor ones.
@Ralizah I had no issues with Until Dawn ran perfectly for me & was a great game I thought.
@David187 That's nice. I noticed lots of little performance hitches and strange animation issues, though. I don't usually care too much about stuff like that, but the hyper-realism of the art-style meant that the technical issues were just enough to take me out of the experience and plunge these characters into the uncanny valley for me.
Also hated the characters and the misdirection of the plot. To see the story devolve into mindless monster mayhem was more than a bit disappointing, especially when the game goes out of its way to make you think it's more of a realistic slasher.
Oh no, this is a real shame.
I'm still eager to try this myself on Friday because I love the format. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't massively disappointed reading this.
A lot of these problems sound like they were very avoidable, and maybe it's yet another rushed Supermassive game.
Ditto, been hopeful of an Until Dawn-like return to form for the devs too...Heavy Rain never had a super noteworthy dialogue yet I enjoyed it for the overall story...but a bit disappointing. Might still look at it...
I'll probably enjoy this off PS Plus on the PS5.
Bah, really disappointed. Until Dawn was good campy fun but I was really hoping for something more grown up this time around. Definitely a pass for me but will keep an eye on future games in the series.
They've studied 39 horror genres for inspiration, but they forgot to make their own.
Major oof. I pre-ordered this for PC a few weeks ago because I figured it would be a good horror game. Now buyers remorse is slowly creeping in...
@johncalmc "... pipe of Pringles..."
I mean... tube, can even, but pipe? Never heard that.
Also, good review.
@RBMango Horror achieved!
Sounds good to me! I loved Until Dawn and all the criticisms in this review are applicable to that game as well, so I'm looking forward to Friday!
@ShaiHulud Not that I'm trying to dampen your excitement or whatever, but I loved Until Dawn, too. This is not Until Dawn.
Welp....crap. That's no good now is it?
Oh wow I am so disappointed with this.I was sure it was going to get a decent score..
I absolutely loved Until Dawn and and I preordered this digital as soon as I was able.Been excited for it ever since but now..not so much..
And I guess a 4/ 10 for me as I have no friends..damn.
@johncalmc Noted, but I didn't read about any significant differences in the review between the two games. Eurogamer review is also quite positive so I'll have my pint half full until my own playthrough tells me otherwise
@ShaiHulud I'll be interested to see how it goes 👍
@johncalmc This is what I'm curious about! Would you say the shorter game span of this vs Until Dawn makes a difference regarding the "care" factor about the characters? Eg: Campy though Until Dawn's tropes were, i couldn't help but want to keep Mike & Sam alive in Until Dawn, whereas if not for the keep em all alive trophy, I'd happily have left Ash check that ghostly voice out (She knows what she did! Snake in the grass! )
@Robocod Certainly, more time helped the cast of Until Dawn who I thought were totally unlikable in the beginning but some actually grew throughout the game. Some still sucked. But some developed. The shorter play time of Man of Medan doesn't allow for that.
More than anything I think it's the tone that hurts it. If Until Dawn had been played straight it would have been unbearable, but as a homage to cheesy slasher movies it felt like the characters and writing were intentional in order to give it that I Know What You Did Last Summer or Urban Legend vibe. Having played Man of Medan I'm wondering if that was just a happy accident.
There's no levity here, and it's more serious which means awkward dialogue is just awkward dialogue and not a wink at the camera if you get my meaning. It's about reading the room. Queen could get away with ridiculous guitar solos or operatic vocals because that was how they rolled. Can you imagine if Radiohead had We Are The Champions on OK Computer?
The characters and writing just stand out more in comparison to Until Dawn because Man of Medan doesn't seem to think it's silly.
@johncalmc Thanks for the heads up mate! Hmm, might hold off 'til it hits a sale a bit later on then...if memory serves, Until Dawn had (film) horror writers write the script up? Could be a factor why the devs have gone in a bit of a Telltale pattern since of rushed games & not using the same sort of creative crew as far as the story-telling side of things are concerned.
Reviews for this seem to be all over the place, ranging from “great” to “awful”. Given my love of Until Dawn, I’m going to go ahead and gamble and see what the experience is like for myself. Granted, I may end up having to admit that I wasted my money, but I’ve been curious about this title since it announced, so I’m willing to take the chance.
After PushSquare gave Control a 7/10 I don't know if I can fully trust their reviews. Bought Control yesterday and so far a 9/10 experience.
Ive read at least 6 or 7 big gaming site reviews. All of them range from 6-8 scores. Push Square is the only 1 so far to give a 5. Me thinks they underscored it,even FREAKING GAMESPOT which underscores every game ever made gave it a 6. Ign a 7,playstation lifestyle an 8. This game sounds like a 7 to me.
That's disappointing, I was hoping this would be much better. It seems like there's quite a variety of opinions about it, so I might still check it out at some point if I get an itch to play this kind of game.
@hulkie Reviews are a weird beast. You're taking a persons opinion, plus the sites scoring criteria into account. Someone who is indifferent to a game on one site might give it a 7 because that's the review scale on the site, while at another it'd be a 5. All the permetations of that mean scores can be all over. Ultimately it's the text of the review that matters and what people are saying and whether you trust them - even still a game might review poorly but you might love it. All you can do is take what we have to say as our take and then make up your own mind.
From the other side of the fence, as someone who regularly reviews games, I often read other reviews of games I've written about after they go live to see how other critics felt. I'm not surprised by the mixed response or the Metacritic score, obviously since I didn't like the game, but I am surprised that other reviewers didn't seem to mention the technical issues as much.
From the little I seen of someone doing a playthrough, the voice acting is a little off with some, but not others. I'll just continue watching and see how it is.
Not sure if this really fits here but I'll comment anyway.
What's with this embargo that's letting sites and content creators stream the game already even though it's not out til Friday? I guess they hope it'll build hype but it seems kinda reductive.
Now I wonder if the game will sell less because a lot of people will just watch the game instead of buy it.
Just seems a bit odd for a game of its type imo.
This is why Sony should not buy this dev. QTE games can only go so far as well. Until Dawn was cool but no need for a sequel or more games like it. Same with Quantic Dream, they just become noval and gimmicky. I did not even finish Until Dawn.
@ShaiHulud Eurogamer is trash imo.
@johncalmc That was the charm of Until Dawn which worked in its favor. Being cheesy was a homage to 80s horror movies and made the game enjoyable. Trying to be serious but still having the tone of Until Dawn will not succeed so I was never interested in this game because of it. Until Dawn also had a Scooby Doo feel and being a huge Scooby fan it had me hooked.
@roe They do that a lot and did it with Control, which is how I knew about the very bad frame rate. The people who got Control early are still having those problems after the day one patch. Its a good thing for us consumers and now I saved money instead of buting Control. Not saying its a bad game, but after watching a few hours along with the technical issues I am not interested.
@GodGamer I highly disagree. But these type of games are only as good as their story, characters and setting. If those are not interesting, the rest of the game will suffer, since the gameplay is not substantial.
@jFug Yes, I agree and that was my problem with Detroit: Become Human. Especially once they revealed the poorly executed plot twist. I felt disapointed in the end.
I think you were talking about my QTE games comment?
@jFug Its the opposite for me. Days Gone was better than the majority of the reviews said so but this is why I just trust what I see for myself, barred any technical or design issues. Just proves that reviews should not be used when determining to buy a game.
@johncalmc That is my point. Control clearly has technical issues but sites like Gamespot did not mention it as they did with Days Gone. They also played gender politics and were reviewed by feminists showing their bias. I have no problem with any reviewer's opinion, but they need to keep it on the game and not bring in personal feelins or politics.
@GodGamer Yes I was referring to your comment on QTE games. But I do agree with you on reviews, which are for the most part someone's subjective opinion, which will not be everyone's experience.
@GodGamer " Eurogamer is trash imo."
Care to elaborate?
Im buying it anyway got a lot of good reviews too. Metal Gear Survive 8,5 never forget. 😋
But its also proof that multiplatform can bring a game down. Atleast on the technical level.
I just finished this, and I'm astonished by how bad it was. Boring, silly, awful writing and acting, and an unbelievable nothingburger of an ending. I'm shocked this came from the same team behind Until Dawn.
Damn shame about Man of Medan, I had really started to enjoy Until Dawn before I stopped for reasons I forget.
Plan to pick that back up eventually and finish it, despite being spoilered by the ending and villain's identity.
As for this game, will wait for ~$10-$15 price range or free with PS+.
Not for me. Really dislike games which are ‘on rails’ like this, until dawn, those David cage abortions...
Replacing gameplay with large amounts of exposition and QTEs really defeats the purpose of playing a game, for me.
@Flaming_Kaiser this statement makes little sense and is pure speculation.
@roe these games have so little actual gameplay , I imagine that watching someone else play would be even more dull than playing it.
Dialogue in these type of games (and games in general) is C-Grade film fare at best. Games are different than film for sure, but we really don’t see mature, complex, nuanced writing in games, even the critically lauded ones. Games have a long way to catch up.
My point is, hire people who are professional writers at the top of their league. The Coens, Aaron Sorkin...
We definitely need better writing in games.
Damn, I really hated the sea when I was writing this.
“Until yawn” made me laugh entirely too hard
Played half an hour of this one and called it quits, it's like the developer was unfamiliar with how human social interactions and faces work
Have the technical issues since been ironed out?
I actually really enjoyed reading through this review. It was written just loose enough to channel how the game was perceived and how enthusiastic the reviewer probably was playing it.
I’m playing through one of these games now and although it’s definitely fun and we’re going to finish it, you can really see some jank and stupid dialogue in it. It’s just good enough to finish at this point.
i enjoy these games good story and when you get used to the controls it becomes sooooo good. part if the 5 games to play round Halloween 🎃 but of a nightmare i forget im playing a game i enjoy the movie side to. looking forward to more!
I understand this website hates this type of game but the reviews are just unprofessional. A 5/10 for heavy rain, the quarry & now this? Fair enough this game isn't great but the other 2 are good games.
I played this game earlier this year on PS5 and I didn’t experience any technical issues. Have those been fixed since this 2019 review? Seems unfair to just repost the review. I did find the characters cheesy and the story was just ok. I love narrative games like Detroit, Heavy Rain, etc
@Ryany Heavy Rain is one of my favourite ever games, but I can completely see why anyone wouldn't enjoy it. Also, it doesn't matter what Pushsquare or anyone else thinks about the games you like, as long as you enjoy them!
I think it's unfair to say they're unprofessional just because they have different opinions. That's all it is - a difference of opinion. I wouldn't take it to heart.
It only took 3 years but I can finally claim this thru PS+ lol...despite already owning a physical copy from a $15 sale awhile back.
I thought it was better than little hope that ending was so cliche it was really lazily written lol
I'm hoping after the last Dark Pictures game is out they bundle them all into one physical package.
@Dman10 i just tried the demo on std ps4, it ran well, looked technically amazing even.
But it's just the 1st part on the starting boat.
@Ryany If it's any consolation I gave House of Ashes an 8.
@ApostateMage How prophetic
This review is a little harsh now. The technical issues have largely been fixed, other than the occasional frame rate drop.
The story does take too long to get interesting, and but then the mystery is solved very quickly. It's an interesting enough plot though.
The characters can irritate a little, but overall they're not too bad.
Worth a play through for Supermassive fans and horror fans in general. 7/10.
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