Interactive movie and gaming experiences aren’t for everybody out there as some may say they’re too linear, include repeated cut-scenes and have no actual gameplay apart from pressing buttons at the right time and making choices on the screen. For these reasons alone, some players feel that a lot of the time you’re just watching a movie or story unfold and not playing anything, which is the same process when buying and watching a DVD or Blu-ray movie.
Since the introduction of consoles, handheld devices, online play, solo campaigns, co-op, multiplayer and VR as platforms and playstyles for video game entertainment over the various, vast genres and game types, surely now, there is enough space for games like this that will suit certain individuals, fans and gaming groups.
As one of those fans of these cinematic marvels and interactive, narrative games I feel that they still can be quite engrossing and playable if they’ve got a good storyline that keeps you in suspense or on edge.
Like with a movie you get to know the characters, form a connection with them and feel their emotions during specific scenes, but making the tough decisions for them tests your moral compass. Beyond Two Souls (2013) and Detroit Become Human (2018) from Quantic Dream is a clear example of this and shook my emotional resolve while playing them.
As well as the developer, Quantic Dream, who I favour and who have brought a few hits to the table, read my other article for more details on their titles, Supermassive Games also seem to be experts at the interactive movie genre of video games. They have produced wonders and hit titles all available below and have also created or worked on listed previous titles like:
Tumble (2010), Start the Party! (2010), Start the Party! Save the World (2011), Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock (2012), Little Big Planet 2 – Level Kits (2012), Killzone HD (2012), Little Big Planet – PS Vita (2012) and Walking With Dinosaurs (2013). Another title produced, Shattered State (2018) is available from Google Play.
Their interactive horror genre has worked well and the fear factor has been carefully researched and is heightened in-game by a brilliant use of camera perspectives, lighting, sound, quick reflexes and claustrophobic scenes. In April 2020, Supermassive Games announced and unveiled a second chapter in The Dark Pictures Anthology and the interactive horror genre.
Onboard the SS Ourang Medan
As a fresh new title in The Dark Pictures Anthology Games and since playing Until Dawn, I was captured by the facial quality and animations of the characters once again and the realism in graphics and presented atmosphere. Each step I took in Man of Medan was new, therefore every scare or jump was authentic. The story unfolded and got better once I set foot in the bowels of a rusty, decaying ship, the stuff of legends.
From the open sea to closed corridors and pipework, things got tight in there and my character movement slowed from corner to corner, room to room.
I experienced some shocking and unexpected outcomes but no matter what was happening with my characters, I continued to binge on and fulfil the carefully woven story and plot, trying to piece the mystery together from the various items and clues along the way.
The small rest bites of the curator (voiced by Pip Torrens) talking to me between intense scenes, were a breath of fresh air and although cryptic and informative I did find his tone and smirk amusing as he came across as someone who already had all the answers, knew how the tale would end and enjoyed watching you fail!
The solo campaign game, played alone and if you dare, in the dark brings to the table even more foreboding, tension and eerie danger resulting in goosebumps, a racing heart rate, holding of one’s breath, jumps and the urge to power off and hit the lights! The introduction of the movie night mode from Supermassive Games was a great idea that worked well, allowing multiple players to share the story experience.
My partner took over all the moves and decisions of the females and I took on the guys, each of our separate decisions affecting the others’ characters, game flow and end.
When I first played Man of Medan I was intrigued and did look into the legend on the web. I noticed that the game included a lot of the facts that were found behind the story, it was said for example, that everyone was found dead all of a sudden and showing signs of shock and fright. The game also plays on the conspiracies and the cause of the deaths being unexplained and with the possibility of a supernatural event or noxious gases seeping in from the ocean floor playing a part.
Also mentioned was something about a mysterious cargo, that could have been a hallucinogenic of some sort, mustard gas maybe, a scientific or weaponized product? To this day though what happened to the ship and the fate of the crew, remains a mystery.
O Ye of Little Hope
The story is mainly set in a present-day, New England town, but will visit two points in the past, centring on the townsfolk during the seventeenth-century witch trials of 1692 and a family during the year 1970. Both of these two timeframes have a unique, eerie connection to the new cast of characters in the story, which in this case are a group of students and a professor on a field trip in Massachusetts.
The town of Little Hope is a place with a dark history and paranoia that pervaded a settlement during these witch trials, which resulted in extreme punishments, brutal executions and countless deaths. After an accident in their bus, the characters find themselves stranded and lost in the town and as they explore the area looking for an escape, they try to get a grasp and understanding of these horrifying events, the route of the underlying evil and how their presence is connected to Little Hope.
Without giving away too many spoilers I’ll mention that the story unfolds and explores whether the townsfolk and people of the time were genuinely gripped by the fear of witchcraft or if there was some sort of evil or dark presence driving the accusers? Was it all who stood accused that consorted with the evil and it all was the other way around? Either way, all the death and misdeeds finally manifested into demons who carry with them the fragments of these tortured souls and the pains they endured.
Bringing Little Hope to Life
As big fans of horror, CEO Pete Samuels and the team behind Supermassive Games do like to create that historical authenticity in a title as they did with Man of Medan on their first voyage out.
As with movie-making, video games are also a big business and so it’s only right to get it correct if you’re creating something that is based on history. The more realistic the illusion, the more terrifying the game will be and hard research into the details is what brings a piece of work to life.
As the development team dug deeper into the history and research for the game, they found out that more people were arrested and accused of witchcraft in the town of Andover rather than Salem and after studying an old map of Andover this gave them the idea for the fictional town of Little Hope.
During the development, they contacted and worked with a British TV and film costume designer, in a quest for historical authenticity and got the information, sketches, garment samples and source material for the time the game portrays and which the creative artists could work with and model into the game.
As mentioned above, in this story we focus on a student field trip that went wrong and they end up in Little Hope. The five protagonists are left stranded in the small, abandoned town after surviving a bus accident and are surrounded by a dense, mysterious fog that stops them from leaving.
Remember those days of the strange, fog and walk into Silent Hill (1999) from Konami, same sort of thing and influence here and which you can agree, creates the start of a good horror atmosphere.
The game features plotlines influenced by the Andover and Salem witch trials and the recounting of these events in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The more obvious, literary influences for the game though will include, The Witch (2016), Season of the Witch (2011) and The Blair Witch Project (1999). Other strong noticeable influences are Hellraiser (1987), Hellbound Heart (1986) and similar works of Clive Barker. Samuels adds that two of his personal favourite influences are It Follows (2014) and The Omen (1976).
Two-time British Academy Award-winning composer Jason Graves haunts us once again with his musical talent and produces an atmosphere of sound that adds to his long list of TV, movie and video game score credits. Jason’s original music score is featured in the first game trailer of The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope, which runs at almost two minutes, thirty seconds and is available online. This is a rare case when an actual original score is used in the trailer and promotion for a game.
Game Information, Features and Improvements
The team intends to create a series of intense, interactive, cinematic horror games that are all stand-alone stories and aren’t connected to the previous titles in any way, apart from the curator character bobbing his presence in here and there throughout your unfolding story offering up his hints and thoughts. The cast and story in Little Hope are new as are the new horror subgenres and settings.
Samuels has slated the release for Little Hope as 30 October 2020, it ties nicely to the Halloween season and it will be available on PlayStation 4 (PS4), Xbox One and PC. He also interestingly informs us that the actual Supermassive studios aren’t too far from the Guildford Cathedral, which features in Richard Donner’s 1976 classic version of The Omen, as mentioned above and quite apt in their game influences.
For this upcoming title, the team have listened to the player feedback and The Dark Pictures community and have incorporated some tweaks and improvements on top of their visual presentation masterpiece. A wider range of camera systems and walk speeds have been implemented while moving around and investigating, that will fit better to the environments and narrative.
The controls and interface have been improved to provide clearer context, improve the players understanding of the world and events and increase the engagement in the story through improved pacing and fluidity.
The context for Interacting with objects in the world has also been improved as have QTE (quick time events) notifications, giving players a heads up on an upcoming event or action. The character animations and transitions are more fluid and this is a welcomed improvement in my books as I did find Man of Medan a little laggy on character animation or scene changes.
An initial playthrough of the game lasts similar to the first in the anthology at around four to five hours but because of the branching storyline can be a different game per play and so adds to the playability.
There are the same modes of play fans are familiar with that include a solo play, online co-op shared play and the movie night mode which I favoured. There is also a curator’s cut version of the game that lets you play from a different character perspective in solo play and features different story elements, alternative scenes usually only accessible in the online co-op mode.
Voiceover Talent and Motion Capture Cast
So who is behind the pixels? With the likes of recent technology and development breakthroughs, it’s not that hard to recognise a face in a video game now. I’ve sourced and put together a list of the voice talent, cast and featured characters within the game and have contacted Supermassive Games for further information and confirmation on the details presented here.
Character: Andrew (Student)
Voice Talent & Character Actor: Will Poulter
Known For: The Maze Runner (2014), We’re the Millers (2013), Detroit (2017)
Character: Angela/Anne (Mature Student)
Voice Talent & Character Actor: Ellen David
Known For: Goon (2011), Assassin’s Creed II Video Game (2009), 18 to Life (2010-11)
Voice Talent & Character Actor: Scott Haining
Known For: Waterloo Road (2011), The Innocents (2018), Enemy Lines (2020)
Character: Mary (17th-century young pilgrim)
Voice Talent & Character Actor: Skye Burkett
Known For: Bicycles and Blackberries by Sheila Newberry (front cover) (2016), Tesco TV commercial (2018), Just Eat TV commercial (2018)
Character: Carver (Town Reverand in 1692)
Voice Talent & Character Actor: David Smith
Known For: Beyond the Fire (2009), DCI Banks (2010), Electricity (2014).
Character: The Curator
Voice Talent & Character Actor: Pip Torrens
Known For: Pride & Prejudice (2005), Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) and Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).
Character: Taylor (Student)
Voice Talent & Character Actor: Caitlyn Sponheimer
Known For: April in Autumn (2018), The Boys (2019) and Kitty’s Naughty Knickers (2019)
Character: John (Professor)
Voice Talent & Character Actor: Alex Ivanovici
Known For: 300 (2006), Outlast (2013) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).
Character: Daniel (Student)
Voice Talent & Character Actor: Kyle Bailey
Known For: Rabid (2019), The End of War (2014) and Bitten (2014).
Departing Little Hope
It’s going to be interesting to see this title when it surfaces and I like the fact that we’ve gone from cold colours and a nautical angle to seeing the stuff of long ago circa 1692, the surroundings, the culture and the dress code of the day. We’re not getting any kind of sequel here and just an amazing new original story, full of new characters, new music and a new kind of evil. This is also the appetiser to think and get excited about.
I enjoyed Man of Medan and you get so engrossed in the story and wondering what happens next and the outcomes to come, you keep on hacking at it and before you know it, you’ve reached the ending of one of many perspectives of the story and simply want more. The hours of gameplay fly by!
I’ll keep my eye out for this one and can only hope that the improvements and features mentioned do tally up to a more fluid game, and can only assume that the latest technology since the last title created will have Little Hope looking and feeling realistic as hell.
Thank you for reading this article, I hope you found it of some help or interest. Please feel free to drop a comment about this forthcoming title and your thoughts on it, the written content here or even your own experiences with this genre of game.