Supermassive knows its horror.
From the tense and unsettling intro to Man of Medan, through the sedate build-up of its first act, right through to the ghost ship-inspired payoff, you can tell the studio lives and breathes horror.
Drawing on elements from the rich vein of horror movies and TV that has come before, Man of Medan manages to fuse tropes from the most claustrophobic of home invasion thrillers to the supernatural horror of Stephen King-like pulp so deftly, you'd think this sort of thing has been the norm in games for ages.
But it hasn't. It's brand new – Man of Medan would make waves (pun intended) in the horror genre if it was released as a film or TV show, so the fact that it's a game is, in itself, even more impressive.
And following on from Supermassive's previous horror hit, Until Dawn, we can't say we're surprised.
- Man of Medan: How Supermassive distilled the perfect horror movie experience into a game
It helps that the performances of all the characters are well-realised and come in at the highest end of videogame acting we've seen in a long time.
You know, for example, that Shawn Ashmore's portrayal of Conrad is spot on because within minutes of meeting the character you know he's a cocky, loathsome snake.
It takes a good performance and good writing to make you have that response so rapidly, and Ashmore nails in from the first beat.
Taking control of this bougie, cocky monster, though… we can't help but try to guide him to safety.
Thanks to a series of menus and extras that allow you to smell out certain storylines or narrative threads, you can 'gamble' on different interactions. Do you want to try attacking the pirates that board your ship? Or are you better trying to sneak around them and nick their boat?
Do you want to investigate that terrifying sound of a child's laughter down in the brig of the ship? Or would you rather head elsewhere and avoid that at all costs? Generally speaking, the game's logic is fair and you're never punished simply for being curious.
The game might 'correct' you at times via harsh words from The Curator who likes to cut in every now and then to tell you how you're doing with some vague hint, wrapped in a riddle, but otherwise the risks you take and the actions you push characters have reasonable consequences.
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Man of Medan does a wonderful job of setting up The Dark Pictures Anthology – it's an ambitious, well-produced, amazingly written project that will easily be held up as a classic horror game in generations to come.
With jaw-dropping graphics, some remarkable performances and a choose-your-own-adventure setup that's frankly embarrassing to any other contenders in the industry, Supermassive proves its got the capability to define horror gaming for this generation and the next.
The Dark Pictures Anthology – Man of Medan: 5/5
Reviewed on Xbox One X
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan is a must-play for anyone that appreciates horror gaming at its finest, for anyone that enjoys picking away at how a game is put together, for anyone that's got even a passing interest in finding the best storytelling vidoegames have to offer.
• Incredible graphics
• Impressive storytelling mechanics
• Great replayability
• Intriguing premise/setup
• Fascinating multiplayer
• Solo mode not as transparent as 'Don't Play Alone'
• Slight drop-off in pacing in the second half of the game
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