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The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan Review for PC, PS4 & Xbox One

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan Review for PC, PS4 & Xbox One

The first title in The Dark Pictures Anthology, Man of Medan sends us to the heart of the South Pacific to meet a WW2-era ghost ship — where things went badly, and you may not escape with your life…

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan Review for PC, PS4 & Xbox One

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan was initially revealed during Gamescom 2018, and one year later it has arrived to make you shudder. It is the latest title from Supermassive Games, who previously brought us Until Dawn and VR title The Inpatient.

Published by Bandai Namco, Man of Medan is the first title in a series of eight narrative-based games under the banner of The Dark Pictures Anthology. According to Executive Producer Pete Samuels, each will illustrate a different trope in the horror genre, and have their own stories and characters. Multiplayer will also be present from the start.

The common point that will serve as a link between the eight games lies in the Curator, played by The Crown’s Pip Torrens. He takes on the role of narrator, speaking directly to the player and dropping clues here and there — a presence strongly reminiscent of Peter Stormare’s psychologist in the aforementioned Until Dawn.

In Man of Medan, we accompany a group of five playable characters who discover a ship abandoned in the Pacific Ocean after World War II, the crew of which was completely decimated. Your task is to not only unravel the mystery of this cursed ship, but also to survive. However, this depends entirely on your choices.

  • Genre: Interactive drama horror game
  • Release Date: August 30, 2019
  • Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Developer: Supermassive Games
  • Publisher: Bandai Namco
  • Price: $29.99
  • Review Version: PC

It’s in a Manchurian port at the end of World War II that the story of Man of Medan begins. On the wharf, soldiers load the USS Ourang Medan, a Dutch cargo ship, with coffins draped in the U.S. flag and crates bearing a skull. Meanwhile, at the market, two soldiers named Joe and Charlie enjoy a local beer one last time before returning home.

Back on board, they argue over an insignificant 50 cent coin, and start fighting. An officer takes care of Joe, who ends up in the ship’s infirmary, while Charlie is sent to isolation for drunkenness.

Once at sea, the ship gets caught in a storm. Struck by lightning, the charge spreads to these mysterious crates, causing a leakage and a strange green haze to spread. Joe is woken by the noise, and hears an airplane engine, gunfire and screams before discovering the corpse of the doctor who was tending to him.

Quickly freeing Charlie from his confines, they discover that the dead are piling up, and those remaining are panicked. They soon follow suit, Joe seeing and hearing strange things before literally dying of fear. No crew member would survive.

The USS Ourang Medan. - Millenium
The USS Ourang Medan.
Joe, confused as to what is happening. - Millenium
Joe, confused as to what is happening.

The credits then roll, brilliantly punctuated by the American metal band Khemmis. During these, we are introduced to the Curator, a collector of stories who proposes writing ours according to our choices. He insists on the passage of one of the symbols of the game, which is found inside a compass representing the different paths a story can take.

The story we are interested in today takes place in French Polynesia. A young couple (Alex and Julia), each accompanied by their brothers (Brad and Conrad), depart for a diving mini-cruise aboard the Duke of Milan, helmed by Captain Fliss.

Following the introduction of Brad, the intellectual of the group, they board a WW2-era plane that sank and is previously unexplored. During the dive, they are visited by a group of fishermen — who return once night falls to take the group hostage.

Discovering that the group were searching for a lost treasure, they decide to join the soirée. Despite the night and a raging storm, they head towards some previously-mentioned GPS coordinates and come face-to-face with an abandoned cargo ship — where a series of frightening events awaits them.


If there’s one thing that can’t be taken away from Man of Medan, it’s the cinematic quality of its graphics. Whether the eyes or the mouth, both usually difficult to credibly transpose into a game, everything is photorealistic. The rendering of light, water, animation? Simply fantastic work.

With the game having to adapt scenes to our choices, and whether the characters are alive or not, some sequences can be abrupt or overly long. Overall, however, everything is well done.

Similarly the dialogue is of a very high quality, and the soundtrack knows how to make its mark in distilling an eerie atmosphere and raising the hairs on our arms. Apart from a few unexplained volume drops and the very short loop that turns too much in the introduction of the Curator, there is not much to complain about here.

All in all, the audio design and the dark imagery is highly effective. A few beams of light and ominous sounds create a frightening atmosphere, and Supermassive have managed to deliver a game which is true to the horror genre and genuinely makes us jump at times.


The story is gradually revealed to us through the items we discover on board, and we often have the impression of being confronted with an interactive cinematic work. This is where it becomes even more effective, because even though we don’t know what’s behind a door, it’s on us to open it and see.

This all increases the fear factor even more, and it’s as much about the sound design as the visual — a certain feeling of claustrophobia created by the narrowness of the dark and dilapidated places in which we find ourselves.

Technically speaking, the game runs almost perfectly. We have to criticize a few unimportant artifacts, certain ‘secrets’ which systematically appear, or invisible doors on the screen that show us what lies beyond. However, it should be noted that this only happened during one part of the game, and the door was present for the rest.

There’s a need to replay the game several times if you want to discover everything about this cursed ship, its history, and what happened to the crew. What we do find out depends on our actions and our choices during dialogue, which are often humorous. The actions of each character impact the group as a whole, including the premature departure of certain people — anyone can die at any moment. As the Curator reminds us, death is an inevitability for all of us, right?

Dark corridors everywhere... - Millenium
Dark corridors everywhere...
The Curator - Millenium
The Curator

Gameplay in Man of Medan is essentially based on choice, especially during dialogue. You are given the choice between two answers, depending on that character’s traits, as well as the option of remaining silent. While your choice is sometimes of no great importance, other times it can be crucial to the outcome of the story. Trajectories, represented by the compass, can even be set in motion.

Apart from this, and despite the immensity of the ship and its disorienting corridors, the game follows a clear path. We can move away from it to visit a few surrounding rooms, if we wish, but we are under no obligations. However, we strongly recommend taking the time to do so, in order to discover just what happened to the Ourang Medan.

As you approach items or documents, they will become identifiable by a light outline. These will tell us more about the events of 1947, and you can grab them to take a closer look. Some items are ‘secrets’ that are then found in the inventory, even when you launch a new game. There are fifty in total, and you won’t be able to find them all in one playthrough. There are also paintings to find and collect, which reveal a premonition of an event that could await us, depending on our decisions…


As for the action, we sometimes have to aim and hit, but largely it comes in the form of quick-time events (QTEs). Sometimes it’s a matter of just hitting a button rapidly, or following a beat to stay calm, or reacting quickly by pressing the correct button. In the latter case, there are two issues.

First is the brevity of the time allowed, since these events happen without warning — too often leading to frequent failures in fits of panic. At the same time, it also represents a possible connection or anecdotal element, but sometimes it can also lead to the death of a character.

The second concerns PC players. It’s advisable to play with a controller, but if that controller isn’t used for a period of time (such as during a long cinematic), the indicator on the screen will be for a button on the keyboard. You must then quickly move the stick on the controller to see which button it corresponds with. As time is limited, this complicates things immensely, especially since we only have one opportunity to succeed.

The relationships that our choices create between the characters are also important, and modify the scenes we see. Will Conrad the flirt be able to seduce the beautiful Captain Fliss, for example? What’s embarrassing is that some characters may die without anyone really knowing why. Similarly, some events remain unexplained — why Alex is worried, what happened on the boat during the dive... However, these must be seen in the presence of two multiplayer modes.

The first, Movie Night, consists of going through the adventure with 2 to 5 players, each playing one or more characters through the controller being passed around. Shared Story, the second co-op mode, allows online play for two people at the same time, each playing a different character in the same scene and then hearing what the other says, or in alternating scenes.

For example, the players will play as the two soldiers (Joe and Charlie), or later, one will dive while the other remains on the boat. Each scene had to be adapted so that the two players would then meet in comparable time. It’s an original and rather nice idea.


This is most probably the origin of the Curator's Cut mode — available immediately for those who pre-ordered the game, or by the end of 2019 otherwise. It allows several people, in Movie Night mode as well as solo, to redo the game at the controls of other characters (say, Charlie instead of Joe, stay on the boat instead of diving) in order to see the other points of view.

This way, we witness new scenes or the same ones, but through the eyes of another character. This means the decisions we made in the role of the initial character are imposed on us here, as if we were an asymmetrical cooperative part of the Curator. It’s an ingenious idea and a version not to be missed after playing the Theatrical Cut if you want to understand everything.

Finally, let us conclude by saying that the Curator intervenes several times during the game to take stock of the situation, comment on our choices and possibly give us clues. Bonuses are also to be unlocked, such as a short film on the history of anthological horror, an interview with Shawn Ashmore (Conrad), the developers' journal on the creation of the Curator, and the Secrets of Ourang Medan — two volumes unlocked by discovering the 25 copper ‘secrets’ for the first and all 50 secrets for the second.

Some may be unhappy at the game being a little short (five hours as announced, just as will be the case for each episode in The Dark Pictures Anthology). However, as mentioned above, you will have to start over several times in both the Theatrical Cut and the Curator's Cut versions to try out the different decisions and see their consequences, and if you want to find all the ‘secrets’ and all the premonitory paintings.

During the closing credits, the Curator encourages us to try again to do better, and also teases the next episode of The Dark Pictures Anthology.


For this first episode in The Dark Pictures Anthology, Supermassive Games has fulfilled its mission — to provide us with a game that effectively reproduces horror movie tropes. The quality of the graphics and sound is undeniable, even if it sometimes looks more like an interactive film than a game, and it gives little freedom. Man of Medan achieves its goals by effectively and intelligently managing to frighten us — it's just a shame that the QTEs sometimes make us angry.

Quality of graphics, especially with its light effects
Ominous atmosphere thanks to sound design
Frights are effective and chills guaranteed
Asymmetric co-op multiplayer
The Curator's Cut version
Quite short
The instability of key designation on PC
More interactive film than game?
Deaths a priori unexplained
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Written by Nyam HazzTranslated from the French by Millenium.

Millenium Rédaction

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