The Medium, January’s big Xbox ‘Console Timed Exclusive’, has finally landed on the PlayStation 5. While graphics and load speeds are easily comparable between the two releases there’s one way that the PlayStation 5 release has the potential to rock the boat. The big difference between the two new flagship consoles is in the controller, while Xbox might have retained a similar format the PlayStation 5 DualSense controller has a number of features that when implemented well can have the potential to improve game immersion, but do Bloober Team and The Medium manage to pull this off?
To give some context before we get into the features, The Medium is Bloober Teams latest horror title following main character Marianne who has the power to see into the spirit world. You investigate a hotel resort that was the site of a mass murder using your abilities to uncover the truth. TechRaptor gave the game a 7.5/10 praising the game for its atmosphere and music, but feeling that the pacing left a bit to be desired.
The four aspects of the DualSense that set it apart from other controllers are the gyroscope, inbuilt speaker, the touchpad, and the adaptive triggers. The speaker and touchpad are carried over from the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4.
Leaning first into what The Medium does well. During certain points in the game, you’ll receive phone calls, or unscramble memories to reveal the true events of the Niwa massacre. These audio collectibles will be heard emanating from your controller. It’s a neat effect the first time you’re walking by the phone booth outside the Niwa hotel, a phone faintly ringing but you’re not quite sure where it is until you shift your controller, the speaker is also so clear there’s no quality lost. Another good use of the DualSense is how the Adaptive Triggers respond to Marianne’s shockwave. You’ll meet resistance that increases and shakes as Marianne charges up her blast, you can feel as the vibration settles once the charge is complete. It’s a neat and easy way to give players a one-to-one experience with what they’re seeing on screen.
While the shockwave is an example of Adaptive Triggers done right, the flip side of this is using the other trigger to have Marianne run. For this, there’s just a small bit of resistance, barely enough to notice if you’re pulling it with enough force. Walking around the environment there were also brief rumbles that coincided with walking near collectibles and interaction points, each of these points is already labeled with a marker making this extra rumble feel like DualSense usage for the sake of using the DualSense. Too much of a good thing can ruin the experience. When inspecting areas of the world further, when you get to look through Marianne’s eyes, you can use the gyroscope to look around. It’s not uncommon for the gyroscope to be used this way, but the looking around is extremely sensitive and if you’re just trying to look with the thumbstick the two methods can get in the way of each other.
The gyroscope and all other DualSense specific settings can be disabled in the settings under Controller Settings if you feel any of them aren't working for you.
The touchpad on the controller gets a bit of use when it comes to rotating and inspecting objects. It fills the role that the touchpad has even had since the PlayStation 4, just that it’s there but if you don’t intentionally play around with it you won’t really see a use for it. Rotating objects with the thumbstick is easier and more precise so chances are you’ll stick with that. There are some times in-game where the touchpad might make more sense to use, like when cutting the flesh walls, but unfortunately not.
The best way to sum up how the DualSense is used in The Medium is that it works exactly as you would expect it would if you knew the game. Adaptive triggers are used somewhat well, while other times it’s gratuitous, and rumbles feel like they’re thrown at the player for the sake of “something more for the DualSense to be doing.” The touchpad still seems to be a feature that was thrown in that developers still aren’t really sure what to do with, but Sony is now stuck with it for compatibility reasons. These features are fun the first time experienced but ultimately won’t affect your experience in The Medium by much.
TechRaptor previewed The Medium DualSense features on PlayStation 5 with a copy provided by the publisher. It is also available on Xbox Series X/S, and PC.