The Medium Xbox Series X Review

Game: The Medium Publisher: Bloober Team  Developer: Bloober Team Genre: Horror

Players: 1  Age Rating: 18+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox Series S 

Related sites: The Medium, Bloober Team

Polish developer Bloober Team have definitely become a developer known for their horror games, and even when they don’t make a proper horror game, they normally include some horror elements. Following the likes of Layers of Fear, Observer and The Blair Witch Project, The Medium takes inspiration from a number of classic horror games and is the most ambitious game that the company has ever made. 

As the title suggests, the game is very much about a Medium. Marianne is able to communicate with the dead and her talents extend to helping people who have passed away to move on into the spirit world. The game begins in the late 90s as she returns to her late foster father’s house to dress him for his funeral as well as to help him move on. It’s here where Marianne receives a phone call from a mysterious man called Thomas, which leads her to a derelict hotel filled with secrets. It’s definitely an interesting narrative, and one of the game’s biggest strengths, and with Marianne being alone for much of the game, it’s her lines of dialogue that add some character to the story. All the lines are delivered really well as well. 

If you’ve been following The Medium, you’ll know that this isn’t a game that would have been possible on previous generation consoles. One of the things that sets the game apart is its dual reality premise. This may sound like Silent Hill in theory, although it really does take the idea and run with it, particularly as you’ll see Marianne in both of these realities at once. This is all thanks to an interesting split screen idea. 

The Medium

Visually, the game looks really nice. Running at 30fps, there’s even some ray-tracing effects from time to time. Environments are also pleasingly varied over its running time.

One reality is the world in which we are all familiar with, while the other reality is basically the Spirit Realm, which comes across as a bit Hellish at times (thanks in part to taking inspiration from Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski) with its use of dusty oranges and grim surroundings of death and decay. Another difference here is that Marianne also has silver hair in this reality. The entire game isn’t played in this split screen mechanic, with the screen only splitting into two at certain points. It’s certainly an interesting idea, and when the screen is split down the middle, you have to remind yourself to keep an eye on both screens, otherwise you can miss something of importance, particularly with each reality looking so different from the other. 

As you might expect, the split screen mechanic also has some puzzling aspect to it, with actions in one reality helping you out in the other. Puzzles aren’t really that difficult, with many basically being about finding the correct item to use on the correct object, although a few of them did make me think a bit. Some puzzles have Marianne leaving her body, while others make use of spirit energy to shield yourself or as a blast of powerful energy. The puzzles may come across as a bit simplistic in some ways, which is disappointing given the amount of creativity that could have been placed into them with the gameplay mechanics, but they are still largely well designed and never block progress for an overly long time. 

The other portions of the game have you sneaking around the place to avoid an entity known as The Maw. There’s also moments in the game that you will be fleeing with the creature in hot pursuit, being that Marianne is frequently without any tools to fight back. It’s a chilling creature thanks to the size of it as well as the fact that it is often transparent, so isn’t easy to see. Then there’s Troy Baker’s brilliant voice performance, which really will send chills down many a spine. 

Compared to some of Bloober Team’s other games though, The Medium is less about the jump scares and more about the atmosphere. It certainly isn’t like, say, Man of Medan which attempts a jump scare over and over again. The game does have a very absorbing atmosphere though, with echoes (basically physical objects with snippets of story to tell) and documents also drawing you further into its spooky world. Sound design is also masterfully done and is fittingly spooky, while the music from Silent Hill’s Akira Yamaoka and Arkadiusz Reikowski is also really well done.

The Medium

As you can see here, both realities look completely different from one another.

Another effective thing about the game is its use of fixed camera angles. While such camera views aren’t always convenient in the way that you can find the controls feeling reversed upon the switching of a camera view, they are still very well used here, bringing to mind the likes of the older Resident Evil games as well as the Silent Hill series. 

The Medium may not be the deepest horror experience ever offered or the longest (it took me around 8 or 9 hours to complete) and feels like a slight missed opportunity from time to time, but it’s mostly effective in both its unusual mechanics, its cinematic presentation as well as for being a nostalgic throwback to horror classics from the past. There’s also a well-developed storyline, which has memorable moments and fantastic performances as well as a pair of beautifully realised dual worlds.