The Medium pushes PC hard

The Medium pushes PC hard

After spending some time with The Medium on Xbox Series consoles, we couldn’t wait to try the game on PC. It’s an awesome title that both pays homage to survival horror titles from years gone by, while delivering some awesome – and technologically ambitious – new features. Bloober’s dual-window rendering concept clearly presents a huge challenge to the graphics capabilities of Microsoft’s next-gen consoles, even the powerful X-series using dynamic resolution scaling that could see the title dip below 1080p. native – so how does the PC version handle this and what additional features are provided for those with more powerful hardware? And to answer the point made by many PC users who have played the game, is it really “unoptimized”? And if performance is poor, can Nvidia’s remarkable DLSS AI upscaling technology turn the tide?

In fact, Bloober uses both the DXR-based hardware accelerated ray tracing in The Medium and Nvidia DLSS comes for the ride, mostly to offset the added cost of using the RT features. But DLSS also improves image quality at native resolution. In fact, in the scenes we tested comparing the Xbox Series X running at a higher native pixel count to DLSS on PC, Nvidia’s AI scaling managed to deliver significantly more results. net. As an interesting side, The Medium is based on Unreal Engine 4 and therefore uses its own time scaling solution. It’s one of the best around, but DLSS still delivers a dramatically improved picture, even in its performance mode, where a 4K image is reconstructed from a native resolution of 1080p.

After picture quality, there’s the implementation of RT reflections, where the Xbox renders them at a quarter of the current native resolution (remember The Medium uses dynamic resolution scaling, with a very wide range from 900p to 2160p). If there’s one criticism I have of RT features on PC, it’s that there is very little granularity in the settings – so reflections are always rendered at full resolution: a sharp 4x increase in resolution. Bloober also uses a console-specific form of RT reflection by polarizing the reflections to look more like a mirror, making them cheaper to render. This feature can be enabled on PC, it is part of UE4, but you will need to use Unreal Engine Console Unlocker to get there. These are available features, easily changed, but I think the graphics menu option should open these settings to the end user.

The Medium on PC – yes you can improve the picture quality over console versions and there are more graphics features. But getting a consistent experience is currently impossible.

The PC version also has other RT benefits in that some features are simply disabled on the console versions – like translucency reflections on glass or clear plastic objects. It’s an expensive feature, it’s nice to have it, and it looks good – but I can certainly understand why it may not have made its way to the X Series version. On an RTX 3090 – the fastest GPU money can buy – in one scene, disabling translucency reflection results in 4K DLSS performance mode saw the frame rate drop from 33 fps to 76 fps. And remember that in this scenario, the actual internal resolution before the DLSS upgrade will be native 1080p. Beyond RT, The Medium on PC looks like the Xbox Series X, but there are other smaller changes as well, such as how the console version seems to perform at the medium setting for the quality of the. shadow and lower fidelity depth of field rendering. .

So at this point, despite relying on DLSS and rendering native 1080p to 4K on an RTX 3090, running this fully exploited game at consistent 60fps is not possible, so extrapolating that to a less powerful hardware – and especially to GPUs without DLSS – suggests a dark picture. Some might suggest it’s suboptimal in the sense that clear performance gains are possible, we just need granularity in the settings to fully access it – instead of digging deep into ‘hacks’ like Unreal. Engine Unlocker. But what really strikes the performance on the PC side is the double whammy of the dual point of view presentation, as well as the fact that there is no dynamic resolution scaler available. It’s pretty clear that drastic changes in resolution can stabilize performance in dual-view scenes, as we’ve seen it on consoles. Frame rate issues aside, The Medium not only performs at 30 fps on the X series, but manages to do the same on the S series. Not having this feature on PC is very problematic.

Our analysis of console versions. It’s pretty clear that the massive dynamic resolution scaling range is what makes this possible on the X series – and in particular the S series.

Running at maximum RT settings in dual-view areas makes maintaining 60 fps in 4K DLSS Performance mode nearly impossible on an RTX 3090 and may even have issues diving below 30 fps. Going down from ultra RT, 60fps becomes much more viable, but even without RT active at all, dual-point-of-view scenes can still drop below 60fps. Then there is the fact that the game has a stuttering issue in general which is related to a lot of in-game actions like changing the camera angle or entering a new view. These will affect all PCs in my tests – so 60fps is theoretically possible, but only if you ignore the frequent sporadic stuttering. I ended up capping at 30 fps for a consistent experience, but the problem here is that the internal 30 fps option has the wrong frame rate, which means more stuttering. You can make things better by using Nvidia’s adaptive half-rate v-sync, but even that has issues – something I’ve never seen with this feature before.

And even beyond that, there appear to be other stuttering issues, as the camera animation and the character animations themselves appear to suffer from irregular motion intervals. So even though you can tweak the game up to 60fps or get a perfectly consistent 30fps, the game will still stutter no matter what, apparently because of the way the characters and camera update each other. . All in all, The Medium takes a lot of work. Issues like this need to be addressed and more granularity in ray tracing settings would be very helpful for beginners. But in reality, it’s the omission of dynamic resolution scaling that ensures that whatever happens, The Medium will always have issues on PC.

Typically, in a Digital Foundry PC part, we like to offer optimized settings – the best value for money, if you want it. However, with The Medium, I don’t know how useful it can be. All I can say is that simple ray tracing mode should be turned on if you want these features, but beyond that I don’t think other settings tweaks will help as much. The problem isn’t the settings, it’s the content, which places extremely varying demands on your hardware, making it impossible to make a fixed recommendation of quality presets. To put that in perspective, on an AMD RX 5700 or Nvidia RTX 2060 Super, you can play over 100 fps at 1080p in a single view section, but then a dual window level can start, lasting up to ‘about 30 minutes, where you’ll be lucky to hold 30fps.

Ray tracing disabled, default settings. The Medium works extremely well – until the dual window scenes kick in, where the performance drops.

All of this brings us to a blunt conclusion – that a capped 30fps might just be the best way to get a consistent experience from this title. Even a variable refresh rate monitor running at a higher frame rate doesn’t produce a consistent experience, because to put it simply, the various stuttering issues make this impossible.

So how can the game be improved? First off, the ray tracing menu is somewhat simplistic, and there are relatively easy performance gains by changing internal settings. But basically, even with RT completely disabled, it’s clear that The Medium is built around dynamic resolution scaling as an enabling technology that allows the dual window aspect of the game to actually work with performance. constants – and that’s the missing piece of the PC puzzle. . DRS also opens the door to scalability – after all, the game performs very well on Xbox Series S, which in the context of what we’re seeing on PC seems like some sort of miracle. But in the here and now, The Medium on PC is hard to recommend wholeheartedly, because if we try to do that, we can’t get it to work properly – and that’s a shame, because there’s a lot to commend and to enjoy in this game.

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