Said story is actually a fairly simple one, at least on paper. A series of unfortunate events (just how unfortunate is ultimately up to you) leads a group of friends to become stranded on what appears to be a ghost ship, and the majority of the game takes place on this derelict vessel. But that feeling of responsibility for these characters raises the basic narrative setup to new levels, and your decisions can take the story to some very dark, very strange, and very creepy places, both knowingly and otherwise.
These pseudo-static viewpoints allow for each area to be built more like a movie set than a game level, replete with mystery nooks and crannies that avoid the gaze of the lens and even foreground objects where focus is pulled away from the player character for dramatic effect, a technique rarely seen in gaming but one that works brilliantly. A 'fixed' camera does of course mean there are screen transitions and as is often the case, these can prove fiddly from a control perspective from time to time, but it's rare enough that the benefits far outweigh the occasional drawbacks.
It's impressive how differently each scene can play out, and even seemingly minor interactions can have major repercussions later on. These key events are tracked in the Bearings menu, which plays into the nautical theme to serve as a literal moral compass and let players know which actions might be turning the tide, not unlike Telltales prevalent use of openly stating that a character 'will remember that' in response to a crucial diverging point in the action. As in Until Dawn, this system is backed up by a handful of collectables that offer premonitions, brief glimpses of a possible outcome in the future that might also sway some of your decision making, if you can follow what they're trying to tell you.
It's highly likely that you'll lose someone on your first playthrough, but the relative brevity of the game and the way scenes can change so substantially makes it ideal for multiple playthroughs – in a brilliant twist, you can even round up a few friends and take control of one or more characters each in the ingenious pass-the-pad Movie Night mode.
- Outstanding presentation
- Multiplayer horror is great fun
- Player choices really do matter
All At Sea
- Exploration can be clunky
- Some harsh QTE sequences
- Occasional performance issues
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man Of Medan Review (PS4)
Man Of Medan is billed as the first horror short in The Dark Pictures Anthology, and it's safe to say that this new series is off to a fantastic start. Refinements to the studio's tech deliver a structure and engine fit to power a collection like this (especially with a few tweaks between releases), and the game itself is an entertaining choose-your-own-adventure horror movie with some fantastic twists and turns, most of which are dictated by your own decisions.
Movie Night mode is a fantastic and novel way to experience a story like this together and shape it in whatever wonderfully chaotic way you each choose to play your roles. But even playing alone, the branching storyline and pursuit of the best (and possibly worst) outcomes for the group make this a game with the potential to last well beyond its regular runtime. Couple that with the mid-price RRP and The Dark Picture Anthology looks set to be onto a winner if this debut is anything to go by.
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