Photo Credit: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment/Supermassive Games
Photo Credit: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment/Supermassive Games

Developers Supermassive Games were celebrated back in 2015 following the release of their horror title Until Dawn, thanks to the game's branching decisions and 'butterfly effect' gameplay, that meant any of the characters you played in the title could make it to the end alive, or suffer an untimely death.

So, when it was revealed they'd be delving deeper into the genre than ever before, with a brand new project titled The Dark Pictures Anthology, fans couldn't wait to see what they were going to cook up. Promising a whole selection of standalone horror stories, the studio announced Man of Medan would be their first release, taking place aboard a yacht before moving to an eerie ship.

One of the biggest differences with these new games when compared to Until Dawn, is that they're all designed to be played online with a friend. That's how BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment are encouraging everybody to get involved, joining a buddy for their first experience at least, before going it alone. The option to indulge as a single player is available right from the get-go of course, but if you can play with a friend, then do it. Not to forget 'Movie Night' mode, where up to five people can pick a character each in local co-op, and the controller is passed around as each try to survive.

Players are served up a playable prologue ahead of the main chunk of cinematic narrative in Man of Medan, which also serves as a short tutorial for those who may not be familiar with the workings of the game. It allows not only a succinct introduction of what's to come in regards to story, but brings you quickly up to speed with the mechanics of gameplay. After that, all rules are thrown out of the window and the brakes are removed entirely. It's up to those holding the controllers to decide how their story will play out.

I cannot lash Supermassive with enough praise when it comes to the differences in personality you can come across in separate gameplays. In one for example, Conrad (Shawn Ashmore) was a major douchebag, with cheesy attempts at pick-up lines and no chance at scoring any romantic points with yacht captain Fliss (Ayisha Issa). In a second run, he turned up the charm and dialled down the cockiness, leading to an early locking of lips that I would never have seen coming.

Photo Credit: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment/Supermassive Games
Photo Credit: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment/Supermassive Games

This is just one small example of all the different narrative paths a player or team can go down, based on their conversational choices and actions throughout the game. As pirates capture and chase the group of four wannabe divers and their captain, things get very weird for all involved, leading to some cheeky jump scares that I'll admit made me yell out more than once. One in particular even got me in a second playthrough, despite me knowing it was coming.

If there are a couple of niggles to be had about Man of Medan, it's the abrupt conclusion to the story, and the technical issues.

Just as the action and chaos is ramping up to its highest level, things come to a close. It took my friend Megan and I just over three hours to make it through our first playthrough - and that's with attempts at exploring every nook and cranny possible. Still, with this being an anthology entry, and new games expected every six months, we shouldn't have been expecting adventures to be too much longer.

With immersion being one of the most important aspects of a horror game, it was a shame to see some textures not load properly in one scene to the next, and one character even lose their head completely in an extremely important moment. A floating body is worth nothing if it's not explained beforehand! Frame rates would drop on occasion, but the acting talent did their best to ensure everything kept moving. Facial animation is stellar, and seeing your characters up close and personal as they panic, or think through their next move, is a stroke of genius on the part of developers.

Three of five leads made it out alive in my first run. It's an experience I'll never forget. Screaming that I was being chased by a "creepy nurse", whilst my friend told me that I should trust her and wait for her to catch up to me, was one of the craziest gaming moments of my life. I'm thankful for it, and Supermassive Games should be given the credit they deserve for building such a beautiful foundation for pals to enjoy. Bring on the next one!

Photo Credit: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment/Supermassive Games
Photo Credit: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment/Supermassive Games

The Dark Pictures Anthology - Man of Medan is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Female First were supplied a code for Xbox One in exchange for a fair and honest review.

MORE: Shawn Ashmore discusses his "rude" Man of Medan character, who can be moulded by the players

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