Up until the release of Quantum Break, I hadn’t really paid all that much attention to the game. I was looking forward to checking it out, no doubt, but I wasn’t really sold on the game tying gameplay and live-action content together in one package. As much as the game experiments with time, Remedy also experimented with the expectations of customers with Quantum Break.
The narrative in Quantum Break follows the story of Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore) as he attempts to stop time from literally falling apart after a failed time travel experiment at Monarch Labs. Early on in the game, you’ll also be introduced to the main antagonist in the game, Paul Serene (Aidan Gillen). Events at the beginning of the game put Jack and Paul at odds and a story initially focused on revenge turns into something more complex.
The story takes a bit to get going and is a little disjointed and out of pace during the first half of the game. The second half of the game was much more enjoyable and tied everything together quite nicely, however. It’s not a groundbreaking narrative by any means, but it’s an interesting take on the whole time travel idea that should keep you interested throughout the 10-12 hour campaign.
All of the characters in the game are fully acted and voiced by their real-life counterparts, who also reprise their roles in the live-action portion of the game, which focuses on the behind the scenes activities happening at Monarch Labs.
The game’s narrative ties together a bunch of different themes like the power of corporations, the influence of the media, and the abuse of knowledge. Essentially, Quantum Break sort of takes a Spec Ops: The Line approach in asking the player to decide between what is right and wrong. There are sections in the game where, as Serene, you have to make some choices that aren’t black and white by any means.
The decision making elements certainly aren’t on the same level as other games but for a linear experience, it adds another element to keep you invested in the game’s story. Ultimately, you’ll always end up at the same ending, but some of the character’s fates are decided by your choices at these junctures.
Quantum Break is a competent and fun third-person shooter when you’re utilizing all the time-bending powers you have at your disposal. At its core, however, Quantum Break feels pretty outdated when it comes to its mechanics. The shooting and dynamic cover mechanics in the game work, but they feel clunky and outdated when compared to other third person shooters like Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto or most recently, Uncharted 4’s multiplayer beta.
There’s a few platforming sections in the game as well to change things up a bit, but again the third person movement feels outdated and thus makes these sections feel clunky and like an afterthought. Almost all of your time in Quantum Break will be spent shooting down bad guys with about 10% of the game involving environmental puzzles and finding hidden items around the game world which add more depth to the narrative at play.
Having said all that, the game still works and plays well, it just could play better with some improved shooting mechanics and increased animation work.
The combat sections in the game are easily the best part about Quantum Break. When you’re utilizing the time-bending powers, firefights become graphical showpieces with enemies and destructible objects littering the space around you, suspended in time. There’s a section early on in the game that takes place in a library that really showcases the technical effects in play here and it’s quite impressive. Later sections in the game up the ante and are quite the spectacle.
Simply put, Quantum Break is a beautiful game. Character models are highly detailed, the lighting effects are top-notch, and the game uses a vibrant color pallet to really bring the world to life. The soundtrack on offer in the game also adds quite a bit to the presentation with combat sections using some heavy electronic themes to get you into the action.
The live-action show for Quantum Break was what surprised me the most about the game’s presentation. As I alluded to at the beginning of this review, I was a little worried about the quality of this section of the game and having it take players out of the experience.
For some, having to put the down the controller and watch a live-action show when they just want to play the game is a big deal. For me personally, I liked being able to take a break and just watch some parts of the story play out. It was different, but Remedy did a good job of keeping the episodes moving and interesting so those who choose to watch these sections wouldn’t be begging for the game to get started back up.
It would have been nice to play out some of the sections shown off in the TV show portion of the game, but if Quantum Break is an experiment to show how game developers can intermix live-action sections with gameplay, then I say Remedy achieved some good results and I’m interested to see how other developers replicate it. As long as the quality of the show is good, the actors perform well, and the episodes are paced to get players back in the action before boredom sets in, then it works. If the episodes aren’t interesting and interrupt the pacing of the game, then it won’t work.
Thanks to a star studded cast and good editing work, the live-action show really does add to the game’s experience rather than detract from it.
Remedy took a big risk opting to make Quantum Break a cinematic experience as much as it is a video game. Not only did Remedy make a linear third person shooter, they asked you to put down the controller and watch cinematics. That’s something almost unheard of at the moment in a time when most AAA developers are focused on making the next big open world title or MOBA. Thankfully, in this author’s opinion, that risk paid off for them and while the game isn’t by any means perfect, it’s innovative and we need more of that in the gaming industry.
Reviewed on Xbox One. Review copy provided by the publisher.
Publisher: Microsoft Studios | Developer: Remedy Games | Platforms: Xbox One, Windows 10 | ESRB: Mature | Release Date: Available Now | Controls: Mouse/Keyboard, Gamepad/Controller