The Dark Pic­tures An­thol­ogy wants to tell a dif­fer­ent type of hor­ror story

SU­PER­MAS­SIVE’S PITCH FOR A RE­TURN TO ITS UN­TIL DAWN GLO­RIES…

Games TM - - CONTENTS -

“IT IS SUF­FO­CAT­ING, A THRILLER THAT LEANS ON IN­CRE­MEN­TALLY IN­CREAS­ING TEN­SION RATHER THAN STRAIGHT-UP JUMP SCARES”

FOR­MAT: PS4, PC, XBOX ONE | PUB­LISHER: BANDAI NAMCO GAMES | DE­VEL­OPER: SU­PER­MAS­SIVE GAMES | RE­LEASE: TBC 2019 | PLAY­ERS: 1

Did you know that it has only been three years since the re­lease of Un­til Dawn? It feels like it hit a life­time ago, doesn’t it? We can’t be cer­tain as to why that’s the case, al­though if we were to haz­ard a guess it might be be­cause Un­til Dawn threat­ened to re­de­fine how sto­ries could be told across in­ter­ac­tive spa­ces – lessons pre­cious few de­vel­op­ers have em­braced in the in­ter­ven­ing years.

In­stead, we’ve been forced to wait pa­tiently for Su­per­mas­sive Games to pick up where it left off and be­gin it­er­at­ing upon the ideas pre­sented in its ex­per­i­men­tal hor­ror game. That pa­tience hasn’t paid off ei­ther. The stu­dio’s flir­ta­tion with VR has been di­vi­sive, to say the least, while Hid­den Agenda (the ti­tle de­signed to take the Un­til Dawn model and ap­ply it to a co­op­er­a­tive-driven Playlink ad­ven­ture) failed to meet ex­pec­ta­tion.

With its lat­est project, it feels as if Su­per­mas­sive is ask­ing for an­other chance to prove it­self in this space. Though, given its re­cent out­put, the de­ci­sion to cre­ate some­thing as broad in scope as an off-kil­ter an­thol­ogy series has also been met with some trep­i­da­tion. It’s a cute idea, but then all of the stu­dio’s cre­ative en­deav­ours since 2015 have been in one way or an­other. That said, we could hardly pass up the chance to play through a hand­ful of scenes from the first en­try to The Dark Pic­tures An­thol­ogy, Man Of Medan. At its core, this is the first game to launch in a series of stand­alone, cin­e­matic, branch­ing-nar­ra­tive ti­tles that will span the sub-gen­res of hor­ror; Su­per­mas­sive is aiming to lean on its pas­sion for cin­e­matic sto­ry­telling within in­ter­ac­tive en­vi­ron­ments here and we see that re­flected in the setup to Man Of Medan im­me­di­ately.

A group of young Amer­i­cans head out to the South Pa­cific Ocean in search of a good time and ru­moured WWII wreck­ages. It doesn’t go to plan – the ex­pe­di­tion, not the party – and they get lost within a storm and even­tu­ally find them­selves trapped aboard a ghost ship. You know, a typ­i­cal week­end out at sea with the crew.

It’s dif­fi­cult to not be im­me­di­ately im­pressed by the vis­ual fidelity; the in­te­ri­ors of the rust­ing ship are at­mo­spheric and evoca­tive, ef­fort­lessly es­tab­lish­ing an un­der­cur­rent of ten­sion through­out our time ex­plor­ing the ship; the fa­cial and body an­i­ma­tion is among some of the best we’ve ever seen, too, fur­ther ce­ment­ing the stu­dio’s am­bi­tion to cre­ate ad­ven­tures wholly driven by char­ac­ters rather than in­puts. The change, from Dec­ima en­gine (used for Un­til Dawn, the pro­pri­ety sys­tem en­gi­neered by Guer­rilla Games) to the Un­real 4 En­gine, has worked won­ders in this re­spect.

The demo it­self was some­thing of a slow burn, which we be­lieve will be in­dica­tive of the full, fi­nal re­lease. You move from room to room un­der con­stant duress in search of your friends and a few an­swers, the walls slowly clos­ing in around you as you do. It is suf­fo­cat­ing, a thriller that leans on in­cre­men­tally in­creas­ing ten­sion rather than straight-up jump scares. In­ter­ac­tions are made much in the same vein as Un­til Dawn or Hid­den Agenda, in that you are largely left to your own de­vices, free to fol­low your in­tu­ition and ex­plore what­ever odd­i­ties catch your at­ten­tion.

It’s cer­tainly in­ter­est­ing as a con­cept, but what this demo failed to show­case was the de­gree of choice and con­se­quence that will ul­ti­mately run through Man Of Medan. Nei­ther did it do a good job of cap­tur­ing the de­grees of va­ri­ety that will be of­fered through play. Su­per­mas­sive prom­ises that there are more branch­ing paths in this ti­tle than in any of its previous games – that there are mul­ti­ple end­ings and sce­nar­ios that emerge based on the de­ci­sions you make – but we are yet to see that in ac­tion. Given that all of the playable char­ac­ters can sup­pos­edly live or die by the de­ci­sions that you make, with the nar­ra­tive bend­ing around these in­evitabil­i­ties, we’re ea­ger to see this in ac­tion.

The Dark Pic­tures An­thol­ogy is an in­ter­est­ing prospect, but there are ques­tions that need to be an­swered. Man Of Medan – from its pre­sen­ta­tion to its pac­ing – is slow and cal­cu­lated. How this plays out across a full-length ex­pe­ri­ence re­mains to be seen, but we’re cer­tainly ea­ger to see Su­per­mas­sive give the for­mat a shot.

Above: Man Of Medan has no re­lease date but we’ve been as­sured that the stu­dio is on track to get the game out in 2019. Be­low: the fa­cial an­i­ma­tions are par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive. these char­ac­ters are able to ren­der a pretty im­pres­sive amount of emo­tion, which only helps to sell the ter­ror of the sit­u­a­tion they’ve been thrust into.

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