Nov. 10 feels so long ago now, despite literally being only two months in the past — another national lockdown will do that to you, I suppose. During that time, I’ve grown accustomed to my shiny new next-gen hardware (or is it current-gen? I can never remember) to the point that its novelty has more or less worn off. Truth be told, in the case of the Xbox Series X, it didn’t last all that long, anyway, simply because I didn’t have much to play. Using the new machine felt more like business as usual rather than one giant leap for gamerkind.
Now, on the eve of The Medium’s official release for Xbox Series X|S and PC tomorrow, I can’t help but feel how the discourse around Microsoft’s new hardware in its launch window months could have been so much more positive had Bloober Team’s atmospheric, third-person horror title released alongside the black box on Nov. 10.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: sometimes developers need a little longer to get things right, and it’s almost never worth rushing something out for an arbitrary release date. In the case of The Medium, Blooper Team foresaw a combination of clashing with Cyberpunk 2077’s anticipated launch and COVID-related issues as reason enough to postpone and take longer to add further polish.
At the end of the day, I’m glad The Medium was given the time it needed and is set to prove a superb technical showcase of Series X|S hardware when it might otherwise not have had it been forced out early.
But in a perfect world, where Covid was just a horrible, horrible dream, and Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed into this year (… as it probably should have been), The Medium’s technical prowess, innovative new ideas, and intriguing — if a little convoluted at times — narrative could have been the perfect introduction to this new generation of Xbox.
Ever since 2013, Xbox hasn’t had the best of times with its first-party titles and exclusives. Aside from Halo, Gears, and Forza, there’s been very little that’s really stood the test of time. Where Sony has Horizon, God of War, Uncharted, Spider-Man, Bloodborne, and many more, Xbox’s stable of exclusive has always felt a little lackluster.
The Medium’s arrival in tandem with the launch of Series X|S would certainly have gone some way to helping change that narrative. Sure, a couple of months later still makes it a launch window title, but in principle, the whole grandeur of its launch would have been dialed up a notch.
More to the point, the launch of new hardware would have been such a timely moment to give an unusual but inventive title a chance to shine in the spotlight and to really showcase what the new hardware can do.
And boy is The Medium a technical marvel. It runs at a native 4K resolution, with Ray-Tracing technology at work, making for a terrific visual showcase. You only need to glance at some screenshots or gameplay and you’ll realize just how beautifully atmospheric the world that Bloober Team has created actually is.
Further, The Medium is a game that really does push the technological boundaries from a design perspective, thanks to its dual-reality gameplay. Frequently throughout Marianne’s adventure to the creepy Niwa complex, you’ll find yourself exploring both the material world that we exist in, and the soul-strewn lands of the spirit world, inspired by the works of Polish surrealist painter Zdzisław Beksiński.
It’s something we’ve never really seen before. Essentially a split-screen experience for one player. It handles well (largely thanks to fixed camera angles helping avoid any nauseating effects of straddling two worlds at once) and while the reality-hopping gameplay could certainly be pushed further in the future, it’s a great showcase of what’s now possible on the Xbox Series X and PS5 that wasn’t previously.
If you’ve got an Xbox Series X, play The Medium. Soak up all that next-gen-ness that it oozes. Appreciate Quick Resume working so seamlessly, the real-time reflections courtesy of ray-tracing, and that added crispness to Marianne and the Niwa Complex that 4K brings.
The Medium has me more excited about the future of Xbox exclusives (and the video game landscape as a whole) than I was on Nov. 10 all those months ago. It proves there’s innovation to be had in a genre I often felt had started to reach its creative boundaries. It’s another successful partnership between Xbox and a third-party developer to bring unique content to the platform exclusively (at least, for the time being).
It’s by no means the next Halo, but its technological innovations and gripping story finally sprinkled some of that next-gen magic over my Series X I’ve been craving from my system over the past two months.
Congratulations to Bloober Team and Xbox for an excellent title to kick-start their year, and here’s hoping the delayed launch is still firmly on the radars of Xbox players.
- This Easter Egg in The Medium Has Troy Baker & Mary Elizabeth McGlynn Singing the OST
- The Medium’s Launch Trailer Has Serious Silent Hill Vibes
- The Medium Review – A Spiritual Sensation
- The Medium PC Requirements Revealed, and They’re Not Too Bad
- The Medium for Xbox Series X|S & PC Gets New Trailer Revealing Marianne’s Powers