The Bloober Team (Polish studios behind Layers of Fear, Observer, and Blair Witch) continue with The Medium their horrific journey that began in 2016. This psychological and supernatural thriller carries on its shoulders the status of the first real Microsoft exclusive for the Xbox Series X / S as well as for PCs. Is this game finally the worthy representative of the ninth generation of consoles?
VOICES FROM THE VEIL
The Medium story begins in 1999 in the city of Krakow, and focuses on a woman of surprising aptitudes. From an early age, Marianne has managed in spite of herself to pierce the veil separating the material and spiritual planes and is the witness of many visions, one of which is particularly striking ... that of the murder of a poor child near a lake. Following the death of her adoptive father, our heroine receives a strange call from a man named Thomas who invites her to join him in the ruins of the Niwa hotel complex, once built in the woods bordering the Polish city. This mysterious character could according to his words bring him several elements of answers concerning the many questions which haunt the protagonist day and night. This is how The Medium begins.
The Bloober Team openly draws inspiration from '90s Japanese horror productions (Fatal Frame, Forbidden Siren, Resident Evil 3, Silent Hill 2) to instill fear in the hearts of gamers. For this, the Polish studios rely on preprogrammed cameras, a modernization of the stills formerly used in the games mentioned above. This choice of staging attests to the cinematographic ambitions of the creators, who appropriate codes and other characteristic shots of the genre to imbue the adventure with constant tension. It is undeniable that the teams behind this project have mastered their subject. The opposite would have been surprising.
Even if The Medium suffers in its first part from a notable lack of rhythm, the second half of this paranormal journey really gains in intensity, surprises before dragging us by force into a dark and sticky story where the worst faults of Man literally come to life before our eyes. The Bloober Team does not skimp at any time on the means, and also the cutscenes of good quality, to tell the misadventures of Marianne and to approach strong themes that leave no one indifferent. It's hard to get away without knowing the end of this story that can sometimes be improved, but oh so touching.
The special atmosphere that characterizes this psychological thriller makes it a singular work strongly inspired by Soviet architectural brutalism, already seen in Control, as well as the tortured paintings of Zdzisław Beksiński, a Polish artist specializing in ultra-detailed visions of death and death. decomposition. The alternation between these two artistic movements from Eastern Europe sets the tone and creates a tangible universe where the geometric and concrete realism of reality rubs shoulders with nightmarish and tortured entanglements of the spiritual plane.
PC version: ray-tracing and DLSS join the party (by Jiikaa)
The PC version of The Medium has a few technical advantages over its Xbox Series counterpart. Two words to remember: ray-tracing and DLSS. As usual, you must have a GeForce RTX card (from 2060) to take advantage of the two technologies, which are particularly inseparable here. Note that the Radeon RX 6800 / 6800XT are also compatible with ray-tracing, but do not have DLSS.
The Medium on PC is in any case pretty greedy: Bloober Team specifies that an RTX 2060 will be just enough to run the game in Full HD at 30 FPS at the “average” level of detail. If you dream of playing in 4K with ray-tracing at the cleat, you will need a GeForce RTX 3080 ... So the bill is salty.
Concretely, the ray-tracing in the game of Bloober Team essentially brings more realistic reflections, whether it is in the puddles or in the many mirrors of the game and that is about it. Let's be frank: the visual interest is inconclusive and activating ray-tracing, even with DLSS, wastes valuable FPS. Of course, The Medium is the kind of game that can quite handle 30 FPS, but the visual gain is, in our opinion, not enough compared to the loss of fluidity. When the RT is muted, the title otherwise spins without too much coughing from the GeForce GTX 1660 Super.
Akira Yamaoka honors us with her presence and joins the ranks of the Bloober Team. This composer who once made her talent speak on the Silent Hill saga now collaborates with Arkadiusz Reikowski (Blair Witch, Layers of Fear, Observer) to compose the soundtrack of The Medium. The result is often touching scores that harmoniously accompany the visuals. The Medium is a true work of art strongly inspired and inspiring knowing how to handle references before breaking free from them in order to create a style that does not belong to any other. Nevertheless, The Medium is not the long-awaited "Next Gen" technical slap, mainly because of its animations and its particle effects. The game remains pleasing to the eye and fluid (even on Xbox Series S) but never catches the retina by its purely technical prowess.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR
The Medium, from a gameplay point of view, is based mainly on a simple concept, that of the duality between two planes of existence. “The only thing more terrifying than blindness is being the only one who can see.” These words from Portuguese writer and journalist José Saramago perfectly sum up the Bloober Team’s vision for this project. Marianne's powers as a medium allow her to see beyond reality and to interact on a spiritual level. The heroine thus alternates between these two worlds to make her way through the Niwa hotel complex, an alternation governed by the needs of the narrative and also placed in the hands of the writers and not the players. In order to reinforce this impression of being constantly torn between two realities, the adventure is played out for a third in split-screen.
The main question about The Medium was the Bloober Team's ability to fully exploit its core concept… alternation…, and that promise has been kept. The adventure is punctuated by puzzles that require you to move from one plane of existence to another in order to progress. To do this, the heroine can rely on her heightened awareness of her surroundings, also known as “Vision” and her ability to detach her mind from her body to move freely in the spiritual world. The Polish studios are simply using their video game vision without being able to surprise. The Medium does not stand out at any time for its puzzles, which still have the merit of forcing Marianne to use all of her skills depending on the situations presented.
Marianne’s quest is not easy. The latter is frequently threatened by metaphysical entities. These embodiments of the negative emotions of human beings (sadness, guilt, shame, anger…) stalk wandering souls, but only ask to be released from their eternal suffering. Our heroine, however, has the respondent and can call on her psychic powers (Spirit Shield and Spirit Blast) to defend herself and repel the assaults of a particular enemy ... The Maw. This bellicose creature played by Troy Baker (Death Stranding, God of War, Marvel's Avengers, The Last of Us Part II) acts as a nemesis, and relentlessly pursues Marianne both materially and spiritually.
In the physical world, psychic entities are invisible. Only a keen sense of observation, concealment, and diversion is then able to save a heroine deprived of some of her powers. Unfortunately, as intense as these sequences are where death is close to Marianne, they are far too sparse to manage to capsize the players permanently. Yes, these moments of pure tension have nothing to envy to another survival horror but delivered in a trickle, the latter certainly lose their influence over the rest of the adventure and ultimately become anecdotal.
The Medium Review, the conclusin
The Bloober Team delivers a psychological and supernatural thriller with multiple controlled influences and a story that is both dark and touching. The Medium is an artistic work in its own right, both visual and musical, whose universe deserves to be explored. The Polish studio also manages to take advantage of this playful duality between the physical and spiritual planes without necessarily innovating too much during a linear adventure. The threat weighing on Marianne, as intense as it may be at times, loses too often in intensity to permanently mark the players. The Medium is ultimately an “arty” horrific experience like the developers' previous productions.
For more information, please make sure you visit The Medium official website for more details. If you have any comments about this game, feel free to send yours below this post.