Horror can never truly be inflicted when you have a pistol and health packets dropped around. Resident Evil series is not exactly the most terrifying set of videogames but they do set the atmosphere and mood and The Medium tries to cash on something similar and send you spiralling down its twisted, confusing and purely linear campaign.
It’s a movie. Pretty much everything about The Medium can be summarised as a playable movie but not exciting enough rub shoulders with Naughty Dog’s cinematic bangers. No sir. The Medium is, in its own way, a story-first videogame with simple movement and simple game mechanics
Oh, I don’t have a gun, what do I do? What can you do? The story is about a woman who is a Medium. What is a Medium? Only Cole Sear can best describe it, and to quote his iconic words - I see dead people. A Medium is someone who can see dead people or lost souls who need a ticket out of here.
The eight or so hours of gameplay starts off really slow. The game only kicks into full gear after the first four hours which is to say the first half is either too bothersome or the second half is hella exciting. Either way, the game spends too much time letting to stroll through the many corridors of an abandoned vacation resort which reminded us of Silent Hill’s hospitals. Just less dreary. The atmosphere and level design reminded us of Silent Hill games too in some ways and the static camera angles are quite reminiscent of the old Resident Evil games.
But unlike the old horror games, The Medium doesn’t rely on jump scares or any such conventional methods to spook you. It’s the story and the ‘creepy other side’ that really sends your mind fumbling into thoughts. This other side is triggered throughout the story and you’re allowed to interact with both worlds at the same time. The game even renders the two together with a split-screen. Actions in one world affect the other and so this opens the door wide open for puzzle mechanics.
It’s not as complicated or intense as we thought. Puzzles are simple and the only thing you can do is walk around the place interacting with objects and places of interest before you understand the puzzle. You do get a spirit blast and shield but they’re not used for combat. The game simply takes you through an interactive session of a really nice movie. Well voice-acted too. Although some cut scene animations could’ve been better, especially the one where Marianne (the main character) has a conversation with Sadness (A lingering spirit of a child).
The game is lurking in the depths of the Xbox Game Pass so if you’re rocking the new Series X, the Medium is decent enough to try once. Replayability is not an option since it relies heavily on the story and spoiler-free approach. No matter where you play it though, the game needs good bug fixing. Even on our RTX 2080 Ti, we barely managed 50 to 60 frames on 2K resolution and on the RTX 3090 it went up just a wee bit.
The game definitely needs some optimization for PC. We even tried the game on Dell G3 and it scraped through just fine. Because it doesn’t have bombastic scenes like Capcom’s Resident Evil, you can expect it to not completely toast your laptop but be warned, it’s plagued with frame drops and inconsistent frame rate.
Graphically it’s not the most alluring videogame of this generation. Especially for an Xbox exclusive! It does render two scenes at once, which is quite a toasty approach but we could’ve had it better with optimisation.
PC storage used for review: WD Black SN750 NVMe M.2 Internal SSD
The Medium Verdict
Play it if you must but The Medium only kicks into high gear after the first four hours. If you manage to scrape through the tedious first half, the game starts to get interesting especially if you’re interested in twisted murder mysteries with an itch for bizarre supernatural incidents.
It’s not your typical overly-gruesome and stacked-with-jump-scares kinda scary. The psychological horror of The Medium is subtle and intriguing enough for a try. Especially if you’re sitting on an Xbox Game Pass.