Man about Medan

Those crazy kids from behind Until Dawn, Supermassive Games, are at it again it seems. This time around they’re swapping out a creepy cabin in the woods for a ship in the middle of an ocean – well, if the demo we played is anything to by anyway.

We only played the opening 15 minutes or so but we saw enough to see that all the things that made Until Dawn a new kind of horror game are very much present and accounted for in Man of Medan. A captain by the name of Fliss is stuck couriering a group of 20-somethings across the ocean to explore a shipwreck and, by some series of events, Fliss and one of her passengers, Brad, are being escorted through a part of the derelict ship at gunpoint.

Man of Medan delivers the same film-like quality in its design, so expect those fixed camera angles, slow walking, and last-minute set pieces before you leave an area to return. Until Dawn’s visuals took our breath away when it came out in 2015 and Man of Medan builds on that in subtle ways. Textures look bloody marvellous, they looked good in Until Dawn, but this time around the devil is in the details. The rust of the ship you explore bleeds into the rest of the surroundings superbly, and when you begin inspecting dead bodies that are littered around, the way the flesh has rotted away or the way the dim light makes wounds glisten are all little tweaks that send an extra little shiver down your spine.

The gameplay is pretty much the same as Until Dawn (why fix something that’s not broken?) and this become very clear early on, with a distorted voice coming in through the radio asking how you deal with problems; emotionally or rationally? My first playthrough went with the rational and then choosing the emotional choice after with each having small aesthetic changes. The rational branch sees Fliss being held at gunpoint alone before joining up with Brad whilst the emotional choice sees you accompanied from the start. We saw similar changes based on meta-choice in Until Dawn and its a mechanic that looks like it’ll play another big part in Man of Medan – just how much of an effect it has on changing up the gameplay remains to be seen though.

Premonitions also make a return, acting as smalls insights into the future to help you make decisions – though they can just as easily hinder and end up costing you a body. Rather than being totems, the premonitions are now found in mouldy boat pictures but they’re still just as cryptic as you remember. The one we saw showed Fliss reaching out and grabbing an arm but whether or not she was saving or being saved – and whether it was a warning or not wasn’t clear. It was a great feature in the first game and its inclusion this time around looks like it’ll add an extra bit of thought to every action.

Okay yes, Man of Medan doesn’t offer anything wholly new that we didn’t see in Until Dawn. But there are two things to keep in mind; one, it seems like Supermassive are looking to round off the features that worked well in their first effort. Everything seems smoother, looks better, and decisions look like they’ll have a bigger impact. And two, we only saw the very early parts of the game, so it’s entirely plausible that there are a few new treats in store for later in the game. At moment though, it looks like Man of Medan is set to offer up another lesson in staying alive; whether or not it strays from the Until Dawn formula in some ways still remains to be seen.