The Moderate Review
When Microsoft first started releasing games for its Xbox Series X console, one of the first was The Medium from Layers of Fear studio Bloober Team. While still a horror game, The Medium is a big departure from Bloober Team’s previous efforts, ditching the company’s first-person viewpoint for a third-person angle that calls back to the glory days. of old-school survival-horror. As one of the first exclusive games of the Xbox Series X console, The Medium has higher expectations than normal, with many early adopters looking to it to show what the system can do. In terms of graphics and many other metrics, The Medium lives up to expectations as Bloober Team’s best game to date. Medium’s environments are gorgeous and take full advantage of next-generation hardware. The level of detail is stunning, with Medium’s ray-tracing graphics bringing everything to life with realistic lighting. The game also runs smoothly, with no performance hiccups or technical issues for players to worry about. Overall, The Medium is one of the better next-gen games available right now. But while The Medium is a great horror game, there is one area where the visuals will let players down, and that’s with the wooden facial animations. Honestly, the relatively weak facial animations wouldn’t bother most games, but they’re boosted here by how good the rest of the game looks. This can be distracting and hurt the immersion for some players whenever a cut-scene plays. Most people will be able to get past this one issue, because otherwise The Medium is a game that delivers the goods in terms of next-gen visuals. It uses lighting and shadows to create an intensely immersive environment, which in turn helps the game’s scarier moments land as they should. There’s a particularly memorable moment at the beginning of the game, during one of the first encounters with The Maw, where players see the creature emerge from the darkness and lumber at the enemy Marianne at full speed. It’s one of the scariest things that happens in the game, and it’s also one of the game’s standout visual moments. The Maw is the main antagonist of The Medium, voiced by Troy Baker. It is a monstrous monster with demonic wings that pursues Marianne relentlessly whenever it finds her in the spirit world. To survive The Maw, Marianne has to move around the environment, strategically holding her breath in time to avoid capture. Many horror games tend to make stealth sections feel frustrating or overwhelming, but they are used so sparingly in The Medium that they’re actually a welcome change of pace to the usual gameplay and should be enough to keep players on their toes. their fingers. When players aren’t hiding from The Maw, they’ll be exploring The Medium’s game world, looking for clues and solving puzzles. Medium’s puzzles take direct inspiration from classic survival-horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, which often revolve around collecting objects and figuring out where to use them to proceed. None of the game’s puzzles are weak or really challenging, which may be frustrating to some, but the upside is that the game maintains a fast pace and players should never get stuck at the point of frustration. Medium isn’t shy about its Resident Evil and Silent Hill inspirations. Aside from the puzzles, The Medium’s influences spill over into other parts of the game as well. Famed Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka worked on the soundtrack, and the game also uses fixed-camera angles to great effect. However, The Medium’s fixed-camera angles feel modern, with the camera following Marianne as she explores the game world, giving the game a certain cinematic feel that wasn’t found in horror games back then. past Where The Medium differs from its inspirations is through some of its gameplay mechanics. As the title suggests, Marianne is a medium, meaning she is a psychic who can communicate with the dead and the spirit world. Marianne’s various abilities are gradually introduced to The Medium players as the game progresses. Some of the main ones include the ability to sense useful things in the environment as well as the ability to communicate directly with the dead. Marianne’s psychic abilities in The Medium become more complicated when the spirit world itself is involved. It features The Medium’s dual-reality gameplay, with the game using split-screen to show what Marianne looks like in the real world while simultaneously showing how she appears in the spirit world. Actions taken in one world can affect another, and this is where the game’s more interesting puzzles are highlighted. Medium maintains its frame rate at the moment, which is a testament to the next-generation technology at work as before, most games drop their frame rate in split-screen. While in the spirit world, Medium protagonist Marianne can use a psychic shield to protect herself from butterflies that block her path, and that’s basically all the “battle” there is in the game. There are a few other, slightly more action-oriented moments later on that we won’t spoil here, but even those are relatively benign compared to other games. Medium doesn’t need to have Marianne running around guns blazing to be entertaining though, and luckily the more lowkey gameplay is still a lot of fun. The Bloober Team has created a terrifying world in The Medium that is, oddly enough, a joy to explore. It’s fun to explore the game world, find clues that reveal more details about the story, and progress from one puzzle to the next. The game has an almost Life is Strange, “walking simulator” quality to it as Marianne mentions the various things players find, and thanks to some great voice work and writing, these tidbits are interesting -want to listen and it’s fun to find them. Plus, more impatient players can skip all the voice text if they want, even if they’re missing. Unfortunately, The Medium fails to maintain this narrative momentum throughout the experience. Medium’s story is interesting for the most part, though things start to unravel near the end and the ending itself will leave many players feeling disappointed and lacking. It’s too open-ended to be satisfying, and while there’s a hint at what players can expect from a potential Medium sequel, it’s not enough to make up for the lackluster conclusion. Medium’s replay value is another area where the ball is dropped. Like Resident Evil, Medium is a short game that can be completed in around five hours or so, or even faster if players just sprint through everything to get to the end. But where The Medium differs from classic Resident Evil is that the latter makes sure to load itself with a ton of replay value, making it worth it for players to keep playing the game. Medium is not, and in fact, it is possible to 100% the game in a single playthrough if players explore the environment extensively. If players miss out on some of the game’s collectibles the first time around, they’ll likely be disappointed to discover that The Medium has no chapter choices of any kind. This means that if players miss something late in the game, they will have to replay it from the beginning if they hope to unlock all of The Medium’s achievements and complete it completely. The bright side is that the ability to skip through dialogue makes it relatively easy, but it’s an unnecessary hassle. Then again, the old survival-horror games are probably the same, so maybe this is another design decision meant to pay homage to the classics, even if like the tank controls, there might be some aspects of old-school survival-horror that’s better. left in the past. Medium is a short game that doesn’t offer much in terms of replay value. Normally this would be a serious problem, but Medium is available through Xbox Game Pass, and so its short length isn’t nearly as pressing an issue. It’s short but mostly sweet, and will definitely appeal to fans of classic survival-horror games. This is easily Bloober Team’s best game and something that Xbox Series X owners should check out as soon as possible. Medium launches on January 28 for PC and Xbox Series X. Today Technology was provided with an Xbox Series X code for this review.