I would first like to say this will be a spoiler-free preview of The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan. The PC beta that Supermassive Games provided takes place 1 hour within the game. I am fully aware that this gameplay has been streamed on YouTube and Twitch, however, I am also aware that there are many gamers avoiding all exposure to the story. In this preview, I’ll be focusing on gameplay, co-op mode and provide a brief back story to this classic ghost ship tale.
It’s said that in June 1947, a Morse code distress message was received by all ships off the coast of Malaysia. The message is as follows:
“All officers and crew including captain are lying dead in chartroom and bridge, possibly whole crew dead”
A few minutes later one last message was received that simply said: “I die”.
After some time it was discovered this S.O.S message was sent from the Dutch freighter S.S Ourang Medan. A merchant ship named The Silver Star was first to the Medan and upon boarding were instantly horrified. Dead bodies lay everywhere on deck. They dead men’s faces looked frozen in fear with eyes open and arms stretched out as if to grab something or someone. The Silver Star crew searched the ship to find more of the same throughout. The radio operator was also found lying dead with his hand still on the Morse code device.
No cause of death could be determined. There were no physical wounds on any of the bodies including one dog. The Silver Star crew decided to tow the Medan back to shore for further investigation. Shortly after attaching towlines the crew saw smoke coming below the deck of the Medan. Before the crew could reboard to investigate a large explosion occurred which sent the S.S Ourang Medan to the bottom of the sea. There are multiple versions of this eerie tale and it looks like we are not only going to hear one but also partake thanks to Supermassive Games.
The key feature we were looking forward to trying was shared story co-op mode. This allows you to play online co-op with one other friend. Right below is “Movie Night” which was locked. This mode supports up to 5 players. Each player takes control of a character and one controller is passed around among the group. This is an ingenious idea. Supermassive Games previous horror title “Until Dawn” quickly became a popular streaming game due to its true horror movie feel and creative decision making gameplay that actually altered the story and introduced us to permadeath in a way never experienced before in this genre. Until dawn also became a popular house party game in which people were doing exactly what “Movie Night” is now offering.
Once we started a new shared story a few new options appeared. We were presented with multiple options based on different character perspectives as well as the option to select our playable character. I’m assuming this section will only appear once a level/episode is completed so that you can go back and try a different approach but for the sake of testing these options were already available. While playing in co-op we did not see each other’s decision making options or choices.
The only indication that your friend was in the process of making a decision is displayed on the top right corner. A message will show your friend’s gamer tag and says “making a decision”. The fact that we can’t see what choices are available and what decisions are being made adds an entirely new level of suspense and unpredictability. Is your friend going to help you? Does he or she even have the option to help you? Your decision making is done in the form of a compass. Left, up, and right describe different actions your character can take and like “Until Dawn” taking no action is in fact an action.
We also noticed that you would only see from your character’s perspective. So if your friend was in another room having a fight or intense altercation then you will not see any of it. Instead, you will be performing your own actions. I recall one moment in which my character took a serious beating and when I returned to the holding room my friend was shocked. When he played from that perspective he had no physical altercation or option to do so. Besides decision making, we also encountered QTEs (Quick time Events).
However unlike “Until Dawn” these QTEs are no longer static but randomized. During our multiple plays, the QTEs button response would change. This adds a new element of unpredictability and requires you to remain alert when replaying sections. Side note, while looking over the game settings I found an interesting one in accessibilities pertaining to QTEs. It’s labeled “Disable QTETIMEOUT”. According to the description, it will disable QTE timeout (single player only). Pressing the wrong button will fail the QTE.
When word came out that Supermassive games were adding co-op and a multiplayer mode, I saw the concern from the horror game community. There was fear that Man of Medan would lose that isolating feeling from “Until Dawn” but instead it’s actually added to it. By playing in co-op you are losing control of a character and hoping your friend doesn’t make horrible or backstabbing actions which could lead to a character’s death or severely alter the story. I’m really looking forward to playing the game when it releases on August 30th and I highly recommend that everyone should do their first playthrough in co-op.
Are any of you looking forward to The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan? Please feel free to let us know in the comments section below.