The Medium often feels like a theme park attraction. I'm not talking about the thrilling adventure of Space Mountain at Disneyland, but something more in line with a slower dark ride attraction such as The Haunted Mansion. Bloober Team's latest title, one that aims to utilise the Xbox Series X|S' horsepower to a large extent, is a gorgeous visual treat which slowly pushes you deeper into its narrative from one set piece to the next. But it also feels hands off in some respects, making you feel like an observer of its surroundings rather than being directly involved, which both works for and against The Medium.
It's evident Bloober Team has focused on The Medium's storytelling rather than pushing for action packed moment-to-moment gameplay. For that, The Medium generally succeeds as it places you in the shoes of Marianne, a young medium who works on helping lost souls move to the other side. Haunted by dark visions and greeted by a mysterious phone call, Marianne is propelled on a psychological narrative which explores many dark themes with twists and turns.
The narrative takes a while to gain momentum, as an incredibly dull opening hour drags its feet across the floor, slowly introducing you to the game's mechanics. Marianne's movement speed is extremely sluggish, even while running, further adding to the tedium of the game's opening, which really should be trying its hardest to grab the player's attention. Thankfully, the narrative quickly ramps up after one early horror-fuelled set piece and it never truly lets up from there, with a central engaging mystery that comes packed with huge emotional payoffs.
Marianne is voiced beautifully, adding moments of fear when needed and the odd touch of humour to break the palpable tension throughout. Troy Baker also stars as the terrifying antagonist, The Maw, embracing the full "monster under your bed" vibes with his deep, foreboding voice that can instantly raise the hairs on your neck as he whispers to you in many of the game's environments. In fact, The Medium's entire voice cast really throw themselves into the role, dialling up the emotion and creating a stark contrast from their previous work on Blair Witch, which ultimately felt quite stale.
Unfortunately, the facial animations fail to capture the fine voice work on display, often feeling stoic and lifeless. It's a shame, as the narrative in certain beats is attempting extremely hard to elicit an emotional reaction, coupled by a fantastic soundtrack by Arkadiusz Reikowski and Akira Yamaoka, the latter who previously worked on the Silent Hill series. Despite its attempts, it never successfully lands those beats due to unconvincing motion capture.
Outside of its facial work however, The Medium is an absolute stunner, portraying arguably the best use of next-gen hardware right now. Each environment feels meticulously detailed with incredible lighting effects across the board. On numerous occasions I found myself just soaking up The Medium's environments, especially those in the spirit world which manage to be extremely vibrant, despite their gruesome setting.
In a next-gen launch which has delivered very little in exclusive titles, The Medium is undoubtedly a visual showpiece and worth playing through for the spectacle alone. With that said, it's evidentially pushing the Xbox Series X to certain limits, with dual-reality sections in particular having an array of graphical glitches, frame rate drops and texture pop-in - at least in our pre-release experience. It's an issue which is found to be more prevalent in the game's second half, clearly working the Xbox Series X into overdrive. Hopefully this is something that will be rectified in a day one patch (note: Bloober Team has told Digital Foundry that some visual issues are currently in the process of being fixed).
While The Medium may be a looker, none of that matters unless the gameplay loop itself is engaging. It has a few tricks up its sleeve, including the previously mentioned dual-reality, which simultaneously runs two game worlds in split-screen, giving you direct control over both. Marianne can also leave her body and freely roam the spirit world, interacting with the environment to make a path for real world Marianne. It slowly evolves over time, delivering more interesting puzzles, with one involving a doll house and mirrors being a standout.
With a six to seven hour playtime, The Medium never overstays its welcome, but it never truly marries the narrative and gameplay to the level it could. Outside of dual-reality, Marianne can interact with the environment to view flashbacks, summon a spirit shield to push through deadly bugs, or complete a variety of puzzles. Each of these elements feel boxed off from each other, and it never feels as though there's any experimentation with its systems, instead placing small gameplay moments to break up what is essentially a walking simulator.
One notable example is an early situation which involves a chained up door, requiring Marianne to find a pair of bolt cutters to continue forward. After an elaborate, yet easy puzzle to complete, the bolt cutters are presented. From that point forward, multiple doors require the bolt cutters to be able to advance, but add nothing new to the gameplay experience. It's puzzles like these which prevent The Medium from perfectly balancing an intriguing narrative with compelling gameplay, instead making it feel like window dressing. It's not until the game's final hour that puzzles become more involved, by which point the credits begin to roll.
Certain situations also call for stealth, but again, are presented in the most generic way. Rooms will be set up in deliberately placed situations, as the enemy maintains the same walking path around the environment. As with the puzzles, they're incredibly easy to bypass, adding zero tension to the moment and instead being a hinderance rather than a meaningful inclusion into its gameplay. The gameplay shines brightest when it allows you to simply explore, picking up notes and other items that flesh out the narrative, or using the world itself to tell a story.
That said, a few set pieces do manage to ramp up the tension, with heart racing chase sequences and genuinely terrifying story beats. Unlike previous work such as Blair Witch which had you fumbling around the woods feeling lost in its setting, or Observer, which provided you with a whole futuristic apartment complex to explore, The Medium is the team's most focused work yet. Even with the lack of engaging gameplay, it's a funnelled, thrilling horror that manages to keep you invested in its narrative and world, despite the shortcomings.
As a narrative focused experience, The Medium generally impresses. In terms of gameplay, it often just feels too easy and lacking in depth. But even with criticisms towards the latter, if you're looking to embrace a horror game for one dark night or two, The Medium is a worthy choice. It's clearly the vision of a team who loved the concept and wanted to take players on a narrative driven adventure, filled with dark themes and systems such as the dual-reality mechanic that feel integral to the story. If you can accept The Medium for the experience that it is, you're in for a good time, but dial back your expectations for the actual gameplay.
Oh man, I was kinda hoping this game did better. MS needs an Uncharted exclusive, not a Days Gone.
Still planning to play this, but if this is a reflection of the final Metacritic, this won't budge the niddle on Xbox desirability.
@Tharsman It's something you could have expected from the developer, they can't make anything above certain level.
I didn't expect anything more tbh from these kind of horror games, the evil within and resident evil have set the bar too high with expectations
Metacritic score of 72 aswell, definetlty not worth full price but around £15 and this game will be worth the pay, not the timed exclusive everyone was hoping for though
Coming out of left field here, cyber shadow is on game pass and my god, is it a faithful recreation of ninja gaiden games of yore. If you love classic 8bit games, from the sound to the graphics to the difficulty, this game is for you. Felt like I was in my decepticon pjs, in front of a crt tv.
I hope people don't go by only one review site. This game is getting mixed reviews. IGN gave it an 8, GameSpot a 9, Eurogamer recommended it while other sites are giving it a 6 or 7. I think it's going to boil down to whatever your tastes are. I personally wasn't expecting much from this game, but it's nice seeing some respected gaming sites scoring the game quite decently.
I hate to bring politics but I was going to play this until I looked at their webpage and learned that the studio is heavily funded by the EU, meaning taxpayers' money going to a private company and I don't support that :/
I will be giving this a shot eventually!
Ultimately boils down to
After an engaging story/horror experience - 8 or 9/10
After something original on the gameplay front - 5 or 6/10
I'm the former thankfully, but sounds like a love it or hate it kinda situation.
Ironically exactly like their last game was.
I am definitely playing this game! It looks right up my alley.
I just watched the Digital Foundry dive into the game's tech and the developer has been notified of the technical issues and are already looking into them - one was already being worked (something to do with shiny pixels in textures)
I’m gonna try it just for the graphics and I’m fine with it feeling a bit dated, I’ve been looking forward to this one. You could tell from the previews it looked a bit janky with stiff movement and facial animations, but the graphics and sound seem really good, I’m guessing Blooper had a limited budget and have done what they can.
This game was never going to be a masterpiece that was obvious, 6/10 is kinda disappointing but this game was put on a pedestal it should never have been on.
@Tharsman this is a AA game, I feel it’s unfair to even compare it to other AAA exclusives. You’re not wrong though either, MS needs a big hitter, Halo’s still nearly a year out.
Looking forward to giving this a go.
Damn, That's pretty disappointing.. This game had alot of hype.
@davidko going to play devils advocate and ask - aren't most game companies like that? They get tax breaks - more in different countries. Isn't that also like saying you won't watch a bbc programme as thats pretty much the same thing - a tax to pay for programmes? Just wonder where your line is drawn for these things - and not criticising your decision to do this btw?
Regarding the game - this is disappointing. Was hoping this would be the game to get a series X for but alas its probably not. Probably for the best. Had a Seriex X in my Currys basket this morning, entered card details and payment failed as they all sold out in the 1 minute they became available. Would have been extra hard to take if this had 10/10 Must Buy reviews...
So it's the new Alone in the Dark 4. Or Cold Fear, if anyone remembered that game. Not bad, spheric... but meh.
@StonyKL look I'm being taxed over 60% each month and I don't like the fact that private companies are funded with this money, that's all. If the studio is openly bragging about this with the EU flag next to their logo and even a section dedicated to EU funding on their website, that's where I draw the line I guess. I'd much rather support an independent studio that's unable to reach for this type of funding. But as I said I don't want to bring politics here and I genuinely hope you all have fun with this game!
@davidko if you don't want to play something based on taxpayer money, you might never play anything again. Tons of studios get tax credits (it's the same with a different names) from different layers of government simply to keep their business at a given location or incentivice employment.
A lot of video game studios exist in Montreal, Canada, just because of that reason (do you play any Ubisoft game?)
@davidko 60% - where do you live?!? Norway? If so tough sh** - I'd pay 60% tax to live there
But it is an interesting point. A lot of industries gain tax benefits just to keep the work in the country - difficult balance I guess.
Would you play the game on Game Pass so you aren't contributing to their income but at least getting something you've technically paid for?
I expected as much. I tried Layers of Fear and Blair Witch from these guys and didn't like either of them. Low budget walking simulators. I will try it, but only because it's on Game Pass. No big deal to me, though. I've got way too many games to play as is.
@StonyKL I live in the Czech Republic and yes I understand many private businesses are funded by taxpayers' money, I was just triggered by how Bloober Team is bragging about it, it would just ruin the joy for me knowing that the game was involuntarily funded by my fellow European citizens. By the way, I'm subscribed to Game Pass so I'm already contributing to their income with my subscription plus my tax money, I just won't play it for the reasons above. But that's just me being grumpy.
@davidko don't be playing anything from those criminals at Activision then
@davidko And AFAIK, CDPR is partially owned by the Polish government. It really is good enough for government work!
I'm Polish and as far as I know CDPR gets subsidies from the government but I don't think the governement has any stake in the company. I will say, though, that our government sure likes to brag about Polish gamedev and games (as if they had a hand in it).
@gollumb82 Interesting, I'm trying to think of where I'd read of the partial stake in the company.... It was a while back, but perhaps it wasn't true.
A government bragging about game development sounds either insane or refreshing depending on how I think of it. Especially when we go back to the 90's and Howard Lincoln of Nintendo going after Sega through U.S. Congress' witch hunt into basically how gaming is the evil scourge of our youth. Or even more recently, early in the Obama presidency a speech or statement containing the phrase "put down the Xbox controller...." as if to vilify gaming as a distraction damaging kids potential. I'm offended he didn't say Dual Shock. That'll give you carpal tunnel for life!
Well, Polish people, despite our successes are still suffering from an inferiority compex.Thus, whenever we achieve excellence in anything our government likes to bask in the glory of those involved. Take Iga Swiatek as an example. Every single time a Polish sportsperson wins something they end up having breakfast with the president the next day... It's so sad it's almost funny.
How on earth did we get from digesting a game review to politics.
Only in gaming eh 🤣
Game review: 6/10
Risk: 0/10 because it's on Game Pass
Likelihood I'll play it anyway because Game Pass: 10/10
as the first truly next gen game I was looking forward to this a lot. still gonna enjoy playing through and having the experience and hopefully more next gen gems are to follow
@Tharsman well Days gone was panned by Critics but loved by fans who played it.
The game was a product of a flawed and buggy build that reviewers played at least a month before official release without patches. The day one patch mostly resolved the majority of issues listed in reviews.
That said, The Medium being the only big Xbox game for a while might find great success being on GP. And could see itself as being what Days Gone did become, a critically panned but beloved game by fans.
Honestly I never really had any interest in this game anyways, this is more of the type of thing that the PS fanbase is usually into, might try it one day on Game Pass but I am in no rush to do that.
@Nerdfather1 The game has a 72 Metacritic. nuff said. Sure some people may like the game but its far from a hit many xbox fans were hoping for.
@swedetrap chance you'll actually enjoy yourself: 7/10
@Tharsman I tried warning this game would be another blooper from the Bloobers as the gameplay trailers looked obviously boring and uninspiring. But I guess the "exclusive" status drove more hype from the xbox fans than the game deserved.
On the bright side, Destruction Allstars will be on PS Plus in a few days. We'll see how it does with critics but at least it looks fun!
@Jacko11 The only difference is bugs can be fixed- which they were. This game suffers from boring gameplay and a poorly narrated story, something that cant be fixed.
This has all the hallmarks of a future cult classic, imo. Not much audience outside of its genre, but loved by its fans. I for one am looking forward to playing it.
Why are you here? Your comments suggest you're trying to put some salt into the wounds of Xbox fans who are disappointed with what this game turned out to be. Does that amuse you? Go back to Push Square and play some Godfall or some glorious remakes (Demon's Souls) or glorified DLC (Morales).
Was looking forward to trying it this morning but I can't play it still, even though it's the 28th. I'll give it a go again after work I guess.
@12TerribleFLOPS in your opinion yes. But you’ll find the general consensus is that most gamers actually really enjoyed the game. As I said above.
Each to their own. I have friends who thought as you did for sure.
@gollumb82 my comments triggered you that bad you had to make a hater out of yourself just to get at me? The games you named were actually hits with better ratings than this broken mess.
I said Godfall would be trash just like I said this game would be too. Fanboys hype these games for their exclusive status but you could just tell from the gameplay trailers they were both meh and the consensus proves it.
Stop hyping games b4 they release then there won't be an open wound to burn
@gollumb82 man don’t even bother with him his name gives away his game. I’m gonna give the medium a go this weekend I think it’s a game I’ll enjoy. A linear 8 hour story driven game that looks great sounds good to me.
Days Gone had similar sorts of reviews, and while a different type of game I ended up enjoying that too.
Nah, your user name contains more hate than my post. I don't see you posting here unless it's something you can bash Xbox with. I played Spiderman on my PS4 PRO 6 months ago and thought it was average at best. Batman:Arkham games blow it out of the water. As for Demon's Souls- I hate soulslike games so I don't care. Anyway, I'm just going to push that "Ignore" button.
Can't wait to play this. May finally pull me away from Fallout 76, which I've been thoroughly enjoying. Game Pass is the greatest thing to happen to gaming in years.
Really bummed that it's not as great as it sounds on paper
Kind of sounds like most recent first party Xbox games to me honestly. I thought this one would have so much potential due to the dual-reality concept and the Silent Hill-esque atrmosphere.
Welp guess it's down to Halo now
@gollumb82 you came at me bro lol. and you still trying to hate on PS games lol. Demons Soul is still the highest rated game of this gen so what does your opinion matter? bye hater try not to cringe playing The Mediocre.
It controls a lot like a mix between old resident evil games and the point / click genre and it looks really awesome.
Yeah, I'm not feeling the 6/10, even if I only played a little while of it. This is a very good horror experience. Sure you don't have full camera control and the movement is lacking, but that is what made those old horror games great.
Because of this & the ACG review pretty low expectations.
Now 2 hours in and I am enjoying my time with it so far. Really want to know what happens next.
I'm a few hours in and absolutely loving it. I wasn't expecting a AAA experience nor am I disappointed because a few reviews say it's mediocre. Just turn the lights off, soak up the atmosphere and give it a go.
@gollumb82 Iga Swiatek is brilliant, been following her career since she was about 17 as I happened to see her playing in a random tournament on the TV and the fact she was younger than me blew me away. Crazy to see her win a Slam.
I wholeheartedly agree I recently watched a tv documentary about her and when I saw her training routine I was blown away. To be able to do what she does at her age is nothing short of spectacular.
The sound director and music in this game is absolutely perfect ._. I’m throughly creeped out now though.
I wasn't expecting a 9/10 blockbuster and I'm still tempted to give it a go. In all honesty, generic gameplay and easier puzzles kinda makes it more appealing somehow.
@Tharsman days gone is a surperb game just like uncharted
Tap here to load 52 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...