For several years, Bloober Team has graced us with a number of psychological horror based adventures, with the latest being The Medium. Originally announced back in 2012, the original game was scrapped for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and even Wii U, only to finally release on Xbox Series X/S and PC. A big motivation for the return was improved technology and development, along with experience, but with so many eyes on The Medium, was it worth the wait, or were they right the first time? Here’s our The Medium Review.
The Medium follows the story of Marianne, who is called a medium, that has the ability to communicate between the spirit realm and the physical world. The game starts off with Marianne having a vision of a little girl getting shot in the head. Without knowing the identity of the little girl, anything about her or this supernatural ability, she assumes the two things are connected.
While searching to find any information on the girl in her vision, Marianne starts looking for clues in an abandoned Niwa resort in Poland. In this resort, Marianne travels between the spiritual and physical world solving puzzles. All of this takes place in relatively real-time in a mechanic Bloober Team refers to as ‘dual reality’ and the two settings impact one another.
Despite horror games exploring this setting before, such as the iconic Silent Hill franchise, The Medium does a fantastic job with the setting. Where Bloober Team takes things to another level is showing both worlds, simultaneously via a split-screen, whenever Marianne uses her ability. From there, puzzles are solved by looking at the two worlds and figuring out what needs to happen in both worlds to progress. In addition to this, on the spiritual side, Marianne has the ability to shield herself from powerful foes but there is little to no way to actually engage them in combat.
As you progress, you’ll eventually meet a spirit named Sadness who will help you transverse this new world. She is invaluable in your quest to figure out what happened in the past and help you find lost souls that need help finding the light. For better or worse, the difficulty is rather inconsistent for puzzles. Many are fine but there are a few that involve a number of steps and backtracking to complete. Sadly, there are times exploring can get annoying due to tanky controls and how slow Marianne moves even though she is supposed to “run.”
Between puzzles, there is a disfigured creature referred to as ‘the Maw,’ who terrorizes Marianne between both worlds. Since you have no way to stop the creature, your only options are either shielding yourself or completing a wide variety of rather flawed stealth sections. Despite the sections working most of the time, they’re held back by bad camera angles and the Maw occasionally not loading, resulting in a frustrating and unexpected death.
Like their previous titles, The Medium has a fantastic story that takes time to really shine. Initially, things are confusing for one reason or another, with later revelations and details adding context to those older scenes. Fans of lore will also want to find postcards and listen to the optional dialogue, both of which add a lot of context and explanations as to what occurred.
Visually, The Medium looks phenomenal on Xbox Series X. The environment and vistas provide an eerie atmosphere that builds on the horror setting. Not to mention that voice-overs are done very well that helps to bring life to the characters. Their emotions feel believable and it’s a guarantee that players will get attached to the game’s characters. At some point in my playthrough, there was one bug that I encountered that wouldn’t let me press a button. Luckily by simply restarting it, the bug went away and I was able to continue through the game. As far as texture pop-ins, it’s there but to a lesser extent. Additionally, The Medium’s soundtrack is co-created by Akira Yamaoka, the man behind the phenomenal soundtrack of the Silent Hill games, invoking a similar experience to the beloved franchise.
The Medium Review – Verdict
Overall, The Medium is able to evoke the same kind of feelings you might expect from a game like Silent Hill. There are tense scenes and an eerie atmosphere that is engaging from start to finish. Naturally, there are some flaws, such as difficult puzzles, clunky controls or subpar stealth mechanics, but the deep story through the two worlds more than makes up for it, making it start as a strong showing for Xbox this year.
[Editor’s Note: The Medium was reviewed on the Xbox Series X and a review copy was provided to us.]