The Medium

The Medium Is Less a Silent Hill Homage and More a Surface-Level Replica

The Medium is billed as a spiritual successor to the Silent Hill franchise, boasting music from series composer Akira Yamaoka to boot. You take the role of Marianne, a medium with a storied history of interacting with the dead. Players are split between two worlds–ours and the supernatural one–as she seeks to uncover the truth behind the mystery of the Niwa Massacre. The premise itself, and the suggestion of drawing from one of the most notable and prolific survival horror franchises of all time, seem promising. However, The Medium is a flat replication of what made Silent Hill, and other psychological horror titles, successful.

Recommended Videos

Before I dive into The Medium‘s story, I feel like I should address its gameplay. The split-screen mechanic is somewhat troublesome. While my gaming laptop was able to handle it without any major framerate drops, the quality of both screens dropped considerably. Everything involved jagged pixels, and textures would pop in minutes after I walked into an area. Additionally, the split-screen mechanic was more detrimental, as opposed to engaging. I would lose focus on both areas and sometimes have to double back to places where I might have missed something, as I simply couldn’t focus on both screens at the same time. This resulted in two deaths during my time playing it. I died once during an exploration exploration segment and another time during one of the obligatory, semi-frequent chase scenes with the game’s sole enemy.

Another issue involved the way Bloober Team forces Marianne between the real world and the supernatural one. There is a constant, rapid flashing of scenes until the transition between the two eventually occurs. I ended one two-hour session of The Medium with a horrible migraine. Even though there is a seizure warning before you hit the main menu of the game, I feel it barely suffices given how frequently and randomly this effect happens.

The Medium

Players have a few supernatural powers at their disposal, though they are only available when interacting with specific items and after charging up their spiritual power. Marianne has access to a Spirit Blast, which can help repair broken generators and turn on lights. Both are elements The Medium‘s puzzles involve. A second character is introduced during the game in its last hours. His powers are mostly the same, with the exception that he can drop items on enemies. These mechanics are mostly okay and functional.

The Medium spoiler warning: plot discussions will follow.

However, the narrative in The Medium is ultimately what bogs the game down. It is another instance in which the games from which it draws inspiration simply do it better. The sensitive material found in the Silent Hill series, specifically the games handled by Team Silent, are done with a careful kind of discretion. The Medium wants you to know exactly what happened and lays it out for you plainly and clearly in a way that feels voyeuristic.

The Medium trigger warning: Child Sexual Assault

There is a moment in The Medium where the second player character, Thomas, discovers that his daughter has been sexually abused by a man named Richard. During this sequence Thomas begins to strangle Richard, as you watch from Richard’s perspective, before invading his mind to exact justice.

A handful of hours later, the instance of sexual assault is used as a primary character’s motivation and as the foundation for the events of the game. The Maw (or The Beast as the game often calls it) is also connected to sexual assault of a minor. Bloober Team forces perhaps too much exposition through Marianne’s constant strings of dialogue.

The player isn’t left to think about anything or to ruminate on the events that string together quickly and without pause. There isn’t any kind of subtlety present in The Medium‘s message, monster design, or environmental design of the “Other World.” Instead, Marianne tells you the emotions connected to interactions, with lingering feelings of regret and sadness that manifest into fragmented memories in the vague shapes of nondescript people.

The Medium

The homage to Silent Hill and “classic survival horror” feels like a riff on the less successful games in the franchise, like Silent Hill: Homecoming with its monsters composed of taught flesh and sinewy pieces of muscle and rust that make up its environments. It is bogged down with exposition and lackluster and irresponsible storytelling. And while the game does provide content warnings, they are simply not enough for the material it tries to wrestle with.

Outside of this, the voice acting is mostly just OK and other times almost laughable. Troy Baker’s performance as The Maw is often more comedic than frightening, even as he gurgles sexual innuendos that should otherwise disturb or frighten the player. There is a strange kind of calmness from the characters that don’t necessarily read as stilted enough to be off putting. Instead. Marianne sounds casual, which might be expected from a practiced medium, but she lacks any kind of engagement with the events around her. The ending suffers from this in tandem with The Medium’s need to provide exposition for quite literally everything.

And while Silent Hill fans may want to dive into The Medium to hear Akira Yamaoka’s latest tracks, they’re fairly sparse. There are a few songs that see Yamaoka reunite with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, which are fairly good, but you won’t find any harsh industrial noise or melancholic piano scores here. Instead, The Medium mostly prides itself in synth and empty ambient noise.

The Medium wraps itself up in perhaps one of the least satisfying and most cliche ways a horror game could. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that I walked away feeling as though it had wasted my time.

The Medium is immediately available on the Xbox Series X and PC.

Siliconera is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Kazuma Hashimoto
Kazuma Hashimoto
Senior staff writer, translator and streamer, Kazuma spends his time playing a variety of games ranging from farming simulators to classic CRPGs. Having spent upwards of 6 years in the industry, he has written reviews, features, guides, with work extending within the industry itself. In his spare time he speedruns games from the Resident Evil series, and raids in Final Fantasy XIV. His work, which has included in-depth features focusing on cultural analysis, has been seen on other websites such as Polygon and IGN.