The Medium – Review of Bloober Team’s new game

The Medium - Review of Bloober Team's new game

Silent Hill fans will no doubt be eager to see Bloober Team The way, a psychological horror game that proudly wears its inspirations on its sleeve. In this 2021 horror adventure, the player must float between realities, being careful not to spoil their strides during many unexplained hauntings. It’s creepy by design and one of the most ambitious Microsoft exclusives of this year. The game launches January 28 on PC and Xbox Series X and S. It will also be available on Xbox Game Pass at launch, if you’re a subscriber.

If you don’t like reading, we’ve prepared this awesome video review as well.

Next Generation Horror

Although I am not very familiar with Silent Hill, I am a fan of old school adventure games, and The way positions itself between these two inspirations with its fixed camera, its tank controls and its remote puzzles. But while it can pay homage to the past in so many ways, The Medium certainly looks like the future.

It really is quite a striking game, especially when you focus on one of the two realms. The fabric work and lighting effects are really impressive, at least on PC – I was running the game at 1440p with an RTX 3080, and everything was smooth. You can appreciate many beautiful 3D elements up close, turning and studying every little detail that makes them up – even if it’s like inspecting old pairs of shoes, at times.

Twice the realities, twice the horror

Where it gets really interesting is when the game introduces the Insight mechanic (accessed by pressing LB) which allows you to look beyond pallor to unravel clues and solve puzzles. Eventually that develops and you move on to your abilities as an eponymous medium, where you can literally see between worlds.

The screen splits in half and you have the spirit world on the right and the material world on the left. To complete puzzles, you must use what you can see in the great beyond to clear paths and move forward in real life, and vice versa. It is a fascinating mechanism, very pleasant to watch and extrapolating to some intelligent systems. For example, you can engage in an out-of-body experience, where you leave your real body behind and walk the spirit world to a new location and complete a puzzle. Others allow you to reassemble a Spirit Shield to protect Marianne from harm, or channel a Spirit Blast to power broken machines.

Ghost detective

When you’re not engaging your abilities, most of your time is spent playing a paranormal investigator – looking into forgotten spaces to unravel the tragedies that once defined them. It’s great fun, especially if you can cope with the strong gloom. Don’t expect rainbows and roses, as The Medium can be extremely dark. His characters are often tortured by something, and this is reflected in their unique conceptions of the spirit world, flexing viscera and muscle tissue to shock the player.

The game is narrated by the main character Marianne, which helps The Medium maintain such a melancholy atmosphere. In that sense, he does a great job of monkeying the fear so present in the games that inspired him, like the Silent Hill series. One thing that may not land well with some players is the protagonist’s intermittent jovial tone – Marianne often spouts out irreverent banter and unnecessary exposures that can sometimes disrupt the thick atmosphere that the game works so hard to create.

Akira Yamaoka master class

On the flip side, the way The Medium uses its fixed camera angles to frame danger and completely frighten its players with weird flair is seriously effective. This is certainly helped by the beautifully made Brutalist Polish buildings that you also find yourself traveling in.

But by far my favorite thing about the game has to be the soundtrack, composed by Akira Yamaoka from Silent Hill. Unusual instruments fill the space in these vast and decrepit environments for a thrilling effect. It’s a soundtrack that constantly plays with your expectations, and I felt that tied the whole experience together. As for sound design, cutting the flayed skin open to access new areas with a bone razor is just as disgusting as it sounds, with similar weird engagements augmented by meticulous audio work. Helmets recommended… if you dare!

The Medium launches January 28 for PC and Xbox Series X and S and the Steam version is available now on the Green Man Gaming store.

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