The Medium Xbox Series X/S visuals: Stunning environments, quirky animations, decent performance
The Medium is a narrative adventure game that allows you to traverse the spirit world. But how does it perform?
The Medium is the latest horror experience from Bloober Team, known for cyberpunk thriller Observer and psychological adventure Layers of Fear. The Medium is among the first games to ditch past-gen entirely, launching as a next-gen exclusive for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, as well as Windows PC.
The Medium sports a unique dual-reality gameplay mechanic, where players are offered a view of a haunting otherworldy spirit realm connected to the corporeal world. Our own Miles Dompier enjoyed the game in our full review, praising the game's visuals and atmospherics.
For a deeper dive into how The Medium stacks up on Xbox Series S and Series X, we put together some quick framerate analyses and details on what you can expect.
Unlocked FPS with occasional hiccups
Using TrDrop's FPS analysis tools, it appears to show that The Medium runs with an unlocked frame rate, sitting around 40 FPS on average most of the time. Like some of Bloober's other games, such as Observer, we've noticed that the game can stutter and jump at times when loading in new textures and assets as you move between areas, but it's nothing game-breaking. The hitching is also irregular and clears up quickly after moving to a new area.
Across both Xbox Series X and S, the performance generally feels the same. Xbox Series S runs at a visibly lower resolution, but it's not devastatingly crushed. We have no way to measure the exact pixel counts being offered, but with the naked eye, it's pretty clear that there are some instances where dynamic resolution scaling is being used.
In some parts of The Medium, you'll experience split-screen gameplay where the main character traverses both the spirit realm and the corporeal world simultaneously. These instances are as intriguing as they can be disorienting, particularly if you try to focus on both sides simultaneously. To offset the potential performance issues from rendering both worlds simultaneously, it's clear that The Medium lowers the resolution on both sides dynamically. Ironically, this seems to actually boost performance a bit, with frame rates creeping up to the low 50s at times.
As gorgeous as The Medium looks in the art department, it does have some visual issues. Character animations across the board often lack dynamism, particularly when combining different sets of upper body and lower body motions, despite instances of high-quality scripted motion capture scenes.
Additionally, as of writing, there appears to be a glitch with highlights, which causes them to pop and sparkle and flash. I've seen this often happen in other games on the next-gen system in games like Wasteland 3 and Grounded, and it is probably an issue with the Xbox Series S/X itself. The good news is that it seems to be easy to fix, and in fact, may even be fixed in a day one patch after the game launches.
Stunning environmental detail
The Medium might suffer from some small performance issues, but the environmental detail is among some of the best we've seen yet on an Xbox console.
Without giving too much away narratively, the main character has the capability to psychically experience the otherworldly spirit realm, where disembodied ghosts remain stuck between dimensions. Visually, Bloober represents this dimensional split with some incredible art, which often draws inspiration from legendary Polish painter Zdzislaw Beksinski.
The spirit realm is a warped reflection of the real world, constructed from fleshy, near-bio-mechanical structures. There are multiple tones explored throughout these sequences, drawing upon the characters you'll meet throughout the game. The game also features fixed camera angles, which add to the sense of paranoia in an old-school way, feeling as though you're being watched. I sorely wish more games would lean into some of these classic techniques a bit more.
On the flip side, The Medium also occurs across contemporary Poland, exploring haunted ruins of Soviet-era locations. One particularly impressive part of the game leads you through a forest with some truly immersive atmospherics and lighting, with crisp textures and special effects, including mist and familiar North Europe weather. This is one game I'd recommend playing with headphones if you can, as Bloober has done a great job making The Medium sound as spooky as it looks.
Another step up for Bloober
The Medium is another solid entry in Bloober's repertoire of horror/thriller titles. Although I personally feel like the game would've benefitted from deeper forms of combat or exploration, the studio is clearly becoming a master of the arts of atmospheric and visual design.
The Medium is available from January 28, 2021, as part of Xbox Game Pass across Windows 10 PC and Xbox Series S/X consoles.
A world entwined
The Medium is a psychological thriller set in contemporary Poland, as you explore a psychic's shrouded past.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!