Man of Medan Review: Horror Movie Night Comes Alive

Everyone loves a good horror movie, but don’t you hate it when the characters make really stupid decisions? “Don’t go in there!” you yell at the screen, though you know it won’t make a difference. But what if you were the one deciding whether to go down the dark hallway or open the closet? And what if the person yelling at you was your spouse or best bud?

The Dark Pictures Anthology is a series of choice-based horror games developed by Supermassive Games and published by Bandai Namco. Man of Medan is the first of eight planned interactive horror movies in the Anthology, each of which is a separate story. In Man of Medan you, and up to four friends take control of the story’s protagonists as they set out on an ill-fated expedition, searching for the wreck of a WWII-era plane.

Man of Medan is a thrilling interactive horror movie night for up to five friends, offering jump-scares, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and cinema quality characters and dialogue.

Gut Instincts and Split-Second Decisions

At the outset, the players divvy up control of the characters, and will make decisions for their characters throughout the story. Early on, gameplay is primarily through selecting dialogue-choices and exploring the environments. These choices impact the strength of the relationships between characters, which may have consequences later down the road when crises arise. In choose-your-own-adventure-book style, major decisions arise, and will substantially impact how the story plays out. The players can review their choices in the menu at any time to help decide what to do next.

Thorough exploration will help open up options to you later on–there’s lots of reading materials available for a deeper dive into the mystery. Exploration happens in third-person perspective with fixed camera angles à la Resident Evil. The controls are similarly clunky, with characters having a hard time with corners, and struggling to get into the exact right position to interact with objects.

When the action heats up, gameplay transitions into a few kinds of minigames. These include quick time events, where you’ll need to quickly hit the right button, “keep calm” events where you have to rhythmically tap a button to control the character’s heartbeat, and simple combat events. In combat, you control a cursor to aim and attack with the right trigger to stab or punch an enemy. Overall, the controls are fairly accessible, even fairly casual gamers shouldn’t have much of a problem. That’s a good thing, because you’ll want to play with as many people as you can. You’ll only need one controller if you’re playing local (online co-op for two players only is also available) as the game gives control of one character at a time.

Creepy Locales, Jump Scares, and Edge-of-You-Seat Suspense

You won’t mind taking turns on the controls, as watching the game is almost as fun as playing it. The visuals are largely fantastic, with expressive character models that channel strong performances from the cast. Environments are very creepy. Artfully chosen camera angles frame the scenes very well, though I did notice some low quality textures in places. Man of Medan is Xbox One X Enhanced, offering 4k resolution and HDR10. HDR really shines here, offering deep blacks and nice shadow detail which is perfect for an interactive horror movie game. This really is movie quality acting and writing. Expect to get attached to some of the characters which makes your decisions concerning their fate all the more exciting.

It helps that the game is also very well paced. Unlike dialogue sections in some games that seem to drag on endlessly, the scenes in this game don’t overstay their welcome. The game zips along energetically, offering a tight 3-4 hour run time. Try to play Man of Medan in one sitting, if possible. I was often impressed by just how filmic this game was, the jump scares are just as effective as in a quality horror flick; if you scream during scary movies, you will almost certainly scream playing this game.

Some of the scenes are very intense, particularly where you’re trying to hide from the villains, and it got my heartrate up a bit. Be sure to play with the lights down and the volume turned up. You’re never quite at ease exploring the game’s environments, as you never know when you’ll need to respond to a quick time event which will decide the fate of your character.

An Intense and Memorable Interactive Movie Night

I went into this game knowing basically nothing except the general premise, and that’s how I recommend you play. Don’t go reading up on the story beforehand. Man of Medan offers solid replay value, as you explore making different choices and finding different endings. The excitement of uncertainty and the desire to unravel the game’s central mystery made Man of Medan a thrill. I’m very much looking forward to the next installment, Little Hope, which is coming this Halloween Eve.

At $30 MSRP on the Microsoft Store, I might hesitate recommending a game that’s only a few hours long–but that’s where Game Pass comes in. This is an awesome addition to the impressive Game Pass library and everyone with Game Pass and a few people to play with should give interactive horror movie Man of Medan a try.

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