It is last May XNUMXth and in the heart of the Inside Xbox the trailer for yet another cyberpunk video game has just finished. The screen blackens followed by a "World Premiere" and the trailer with the Game Pass label starts, meanwhile the familiar notes of all survival horror lovers begin to play: a sad arpeggio accompanies fast and painful images of a pregnant woman and a man in a snow-covered city, figures overwhelmed by a storm that crumbles whatever comes within range, generating excruciating landscapes.
Another fade and here it is finally The Medium, but the new psychological horror of Bloober Team does not even give us time to assimilate the name that the screenwriter Andrzej Madrzak lets us know that in the creation of the game is involved none other than Akira Yamaoka, historical composer of the Silent Hill saga.
Eight months later we are in the review of The Medium, a promising title but which immediately demonstrates thegroundlessness of those comparisons with the Silent Hill saga only served to generate a hype that went far beyond the actual potential of the game, creating a short circuit between expectations and gameplay for what was to be the first Microsoft exclusive of weight capable of flexing its muscles thanks to the mechanics of real-time rendering of the two worlds, That real and that spiritual.
To clarify the matter, I spent the last week in a room in the dilapidated Hotel Niwa, wandering around the rooms looking for information for the review. I didn't come back empty-handed, but if you are among those who expected the new Silent Hill I have some very bad news.
XNUMXs, Krakow. Marianne is a young woman tormented by the recurring nightmare of a girl killed with a gunshot on the edge of a lake, a vision linked to her powers as a medium that allow her to help souls stuck between the real and the spiritual plane.
"IT ALL STARTS WITH A DEAD GIRL"
POST-SOVIET POLAND IS ONLY PART OF THE NIGHTMARE
While mourning the disappearance of her adoptive father, she receives a call from a certain Thomas who asks her to reach him urgently at the Niwa, Soviet period hotel closed for years on which they circulate rumors of a massacre never confirmed but Marianne is still convinced to join him after the mysterious man reveals that he is aware of his powers and that he can reveal the secret behind the dream.
Once on the doorstep of the building in front of Marianne there is a huge monolith bursting with socialism from every pore as gray now as it was in the days of the USSR, wrapped in a sinister blanket of sadness, remorse and anger. That feeling becomes reality when, for a brief moment, the hotel becomes one hellish view of the spiritual world that gives off a very strong energy. This is definitely the place we were looking for, once you cross the doors there is no turning back.
With these premises The Medium opens up to the player letting himself be appreciated for his narration as cinematic as it is linear, without fear of dealing with mature topics - as long as they endure a few twists on the phone - investigating the psyche of characters all deeply tormented by their own demons with whom one has to deal. And speaking of accounts, for this purpose the use of double reality on screen does not bring particular thrills to the story, really a shame.
The plot is carried out through really well shot cutscenes and many papers and fragments of past events to be reconstructed that broaden the picture of events, too bad for the complete lack of crossroads, totally optional areas or choices that they demolish replayability by The Medium. Marianne, Thomas and the tenants are all looking for something, but as they say “be careful what you want, you might get it”.
This lesson could also be a warning for Bloober herself, who in her attempt to emulate Silent Hill's "golden age" atmospheres runs into some real floor settings that they already know, in particular some corridors and rooms of the Niwa (it is still a common hotel). But the cunning of the Polish team lies precisely in overturn this static with the addition of the double simultaneous dimension, which consists in playing both the real and the spiritual planes at the same time with both versions of Marianne.
If on the one hand the reality is disturbing but cheap on the other the spiritual level is dominated by the surrealist and gloomy vision of the artist Zdzisław Beksiński, most influential Polish artist of the last century famous because he portrayed hell in his paintings that he had seen with his own eyes during the three months of coma into which he had fallen due to an accident. And here is the otherworld of The Medium acquires the characteristics of Beksinsk's hell: dark colors, immense sandy expanses, cemeteries full of blood and deformed corpses whose hands cling together in search of life, a triumph of death that finds ample space in the story of Marianne.“THE WALKING MEDIUM”
OR HOW TO ELIMINATE THE SURVIVAL HORROR ELEMENT
If for the atmosphere the game of the "double" manages to give its own connotation to the work as regards the gameplay we are in the field of a dull simplification of survival horror formulas. The Medium is practically a walking simulator, it is good to say it right away. Marianne cannot counteract the threats of the real world but she can use her defensive powers in the spiritual one to create a shield of light that protects her from moths or a burst of energy to slow down the antagonist we will have to deal with throughout the game. : the Maw.
The mechanics revolve around this hideous creature (voiced by Troy Baker) who craves to wear us stealth of the game. Whether we meet her on one level or another, the Jaws represent the number one threat to our protagonist, although the encounter with her is limited to short sections not too frequent in which (poor) AI will make a certain lap in a room and we will have to crouch down holding our breath so as not to be discovered. It is not necessary to be too cautious as on two or three occasions the beast literally touched me without noticing me.
Between one chase and another to continue the investigation, The Medium puts us in front of sections of taste vaguely platform such as balancing on a plank or on a ledge holding the analog stick in place, occasionally proposing interesting puzzles that intertwine both planes of existence and need the utmost attention to be solved.
In these situations we must be attentive to the surrounding environment and evaluate which of the two planes to focus on in order to unlock the obstacle that prevents us from progressing in the other plan. The switch between the real and the spiritual world is not at the discretion of the player but imposed by the game, depending on whether we are in one dimension or another we have a series of objects and skills to be exploited to advance in the story.
In the real world, the only defense isbe silent in order not to be chased by the Maw, here we must collect concrete objects such as pincers, cranks and other puzzle elements that are often very banal or uselessly used to lengthen the soup such as the spasmodic use of tongs in a short stretch or finding the petrol tank necessary to continue a stone's throw from where we are.
In the spirit world, the puzzles are about finding energy sources o exiling lost souls remained in limbo discovering its history and identity.“YAMAOKA IS WRITTEN, IT IS READ
LOVE "- MUSIC OUTSIDE THE WORLD
There is little to say about the trio Yamaoka -McGlynn - Reikowski : disturbingly phenomenal. We are not at the manic levels of the noises of footsteps recorded on over a hundred surfaces as in Silent Hill 2 but both the environmental tracks and those of the soundtrack will not leave you indifferent enough to force you to listen to the album on Spotify again (and here you are served). Specifically, the Yamaoka-McGlynn duo dealt with the pieces of the real piano in perfect Silent Hill saga tradition, while Arkadiusz Reikowski, historic composer of Bloober Team, gave life to the sickest tracks of the spiritual plane.
Particularly anxious those related to the chases of the Maw, on the whole the work is really impactful and is appreciated above all for the variety put in place that goes from serious, disturbed and tense samples such as tracks n ° 2 Marianne and n ° 19 Richard to the more dreamy and sweet ones like the n ° 17 Fade (with Troy Baker, who also worked on Silent Hill 2 voicing James Sunderland in the unhappy remastered version).
If you loved the immortal tracks of Silent Hill 2, or better still you have never listened to them, don't miss our special.LIGHTS AND SHADOWS OF THE
GRAPHIC COMPARTMENT -
YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT
AGE AND WHAT NOT
Let's take the tooth out: fixed camera yes? Fixed camera no? Nì, because it is an interesting idea to re-propose the fixed camera in order to take advantage of the simultaneous double rendering and increase cinematic immersion but we must also realize that the animations cannot remain at the level of titles of twenty years ago. Some environments impress, others are empty and cheap, the real crime is to use animations (facial and otherwise) clumsy and woody that betray The Medium's ambition to aim high - since we're talking about characters who instead of running increase their pace as if they were in their eighties with hip problems or incontinence - a flaw that could have been fine for the tank controls of the very first Resident Evil in the nineties, but not today.
On the graphic detail, on the other hand, nothing to say, even on less powerful machines the work of the development team can be seen and some sequences are reminiscent Control for the attention to detail and the visual madness despite the simultaneous double rendering being one probative challenge for older graphics cards, frames collapse miserably during dual reality sections. The opaque and soft color palette of reality contrasts with the rusty and dusty one of the spiritual world, creating an interesting dichotomy.THE MEDIUM WORKS LIKE
AND GAME PASS SPEECH
For those who have made it this far, know that in the time it took you to read this review of The Medium you could have easily finished a good chunk of the game, since you will need some seven ten hours to complete it. Whether or not it's worth your time depends on what you expect from the game.
The Medium has little more than a walking simulator in terms of mechanics and finds it difficult to keep the tension high throughout the game enough to be able to say that there are more moments in which he does not succeed. So yes, The Medium fails to deliver a truly horror experience since it does not maintain a high, tense and satisfying pace. Despite the flaws, however, he manages to tell one very interesting story that will push you to go towards the conclusion to connect all the dots, also thanks to an excellent soundtrack and the double reality that is at least worth trying.
The Medium is not a perfect experience in any way and certainly does not take up the baton of the historic Konami brand now relegated to pachinko. The game is available on Steam, Epic Games Store, Xbox Series X / S and Game Pass where let's remember, it is available from launch as the result of an agreement between Bloober Team and Microsoft, therefore not indicative of the standards of the first party studios that in the next months will begin to publish Microsoft exclusives.USEFUL INFO
The journey through the mysteries of the Niwa hotel was made possible thanks to an Xbox Game Pass subscription for PC and a configuration equipped with an RX580 8Gb video card and a Ryzen 5 1600 processorDuration
- About 7 hours if you have a fast pace and don't want to discover every fragment of the story, up to 9-10 if you want to complete the game by unlocking all the objectives
- Third-person horror adventure at the limits of the walking simulator characterized by puzzles, riddles and stealth phases to escape the threats with the innovative mechanics of the two realities simultaneously on the screen
- Many objects, postcards and documents scattered along the way that tell fragments of history
- Game Name: The Medium
- Release date: January 28 2021
- Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X
- Dubbing language: English
- Texts language: Italian
In The Medium it is not only the reality that is double but also the technical realization. The level of detail of the settings and of the lighting effects is impressive thanks to the fixed camera that allows really not bad cinematic shots both in one dimension and another. The real problem is the animations of the characters while walking or running (which looks more like a tight-legged escape to the toilet) and some overly bare or generic environments that lower the overall production value
SOUNDTRACK AND DOUBLE ROOM
Bloober Team rode the nostalgic wave by hiring his majesty Akira Yamaoka, historical composer of the Silent Hill series, who with the beautiful voice of Mary Elizabeth McGlynn was able to wisely accompany the story of Marianne, despite not being at the levels of that industrial, crazy touch and terrifying that made him famous. The historic Bloober composer Arkadiusz Reikowski also returns with Yamaoka, already at work on Observer, Layers of Fears and Blair Witch
The sore point, without a doubt. The Medium is to all intents and purposes a disguised walking simulator, with often banal puzzles that consist of finding an object in ninety percent of cases hidden a stone's throw from us or that will see us intent on hiding from the Jaws in really basic stealth phases. The worst thing is the absence of any challenge, of an alternative path to follow in order not to have that constant feeling of being taken by the hand by the game, a feeling that kills the pathos and crushes the atmosphere.