GAME REVIEW: Quantum Break (Xbox One)

Occasionally I will pick up a game on something of a whim. Perhaps it has a new feature that intrigues me. Perhaps the storyline looks interesting. Or perhaps it’s just a case of the right game at the right time. Sometimes these games are great (Shadow of Mordor) and sometimes they are not (Thief). In the case of Quantum Break, it was a mix of a new feature and intriguing story. So how did I find Remedy’s new time tinkering third person shooter? And how about the four episodes of “TV show” that are a part of it? Is it Quantum Broken? Let’s have a look …

 

  • Platforms: XBOX One, PC
  • Developer: Remedy
  • Publisher: Microsoft Studios
  • Platform Reviewed: XBOX One

TIME IS POWER

Jack Joyce fights for survival in a world where time is broken. With his family in danger and the world at the brink of collapse, Jack must battle the evil Monarch Solutions using the only weapon he has: time itself.

I’d not really got on board with Quantum Break at an early stage. I was a bit confused as to what the game would be and how it would interact with the television show (of four episodes) that were being produced for it. As it happens, it’s all rather simple. Quantum Break is a third person shooter. Its story centres around a fracture in time caused by the efforts of the game’s characters (I don’t want to delve too much into story spoilers as this is very much a story-driven game). As Jack Joyce, the player is one of two people who have “time powers” due to events that occur towards the beginning of the game. As such, only Jack has the potential to end the coming catastrophe.

Since it’s been a focus of the marketing, I’ll spend some time talking about the live action element to the game. The “TV Show” is actually four mid-act half-hour long live action cut-scenes. I had thought that these could be watched independently of the game but was sadly mistaken. In my head, the episodes – which focus more on the antagonists of the game – would be a separate entity but there is no way that anyone who hasn’t played the game would get what’s going on. TV show is over-selling it.

Don’t take this as a massive downer though. The production values are great – the cast commit fully to their parts and the special effects match the in-game ones perfectly. The episodes do bring something to the story and the story-telling of the game too though. It’s possible to skip them if you don’t want those interruptions but personally, I would settle in and enjoy the show as it really does add to the experience.

Experience is the right word for Quantum Break. Remedy haven’t been truly revolutionary in their implementation of the live action components, but they have been clever, and like many true innovations this is a brilliant starting point for future development. Scenes within the episodes (and indeed within the game itself) will change based on the key “junction points” that occur after the main action of each event. In these points, players control antagonist Paul Serene who has the ability to see alternate paths and “lock” one as being the actual time line. The episodes will then reflect these choices. In addition, the player can unlock “quantum ripples” while playing the game. These simply add tiny details into the episodes – perhaps a character will make a comment about a news story unlocked. Perhaps an object will appear in the background of the scene. Not ground breaking but clever.

Paul Decides the Future

Paul Serene Decides the Course of the Future

Clever is the right word for the science-fantasy plot of the game. Time travel is always tricky to work out consistently and I think the developers have done a great job with implementing it in Quantum Break. The story actually hangs together well and events progress with an in-world logic that can’t really be faulted.

I mentioned earlier that I found the live-action elements to be quite immersive. One of the reasons for this is just how good the in-game visuals are. The main protagonists look almost real, with the only real issues occurring when characters are talking to each other while the player controls Jack. As with many games, the characters can wind up not looking at each other or even being near each other while continuing to chat as if they are sat across a coffee table. The visuals help create a world for the player to get involved with. The world looks lived-in. Walls are dirty, roads look used and there’s not really any element that looks out of place. Remedy have spent a lot of time working out the brand for Monarch Industries – the company to which Serene belongs. This really helps the immersion. Every element has the corporation’s branding – from lanyards to vehicles to corporate-issued weapons. Everything just looks right.

quantum break shawn ashmore

Shawn Ashmore (X-Men) Stars as Jack Joyce

The game can be completed relatively quickly. I’ve been taking my time plodding through and after around 10 hours I arrived at the final boss fight. That includes two-hours of watching the live action elements. This is not a long game by any means and I’m not sure about the replay value at this point. Yes, it would be interesting to see all the variations of the live-action components but I’m sure a search for “Quantum Break Episodes” on YouTube could give me those. Personally I have no issue with a short game – especially when I enjoy the story as much as I have with Quantum Break.

The gameplay is relatively smooth on the whole. Time powers are easy to use and their effects can be combined in some fun ways. The gun-play also works really well. Aiming isn’t an issue and the game includes various levels of “auto-aim” to help out if wanted. I think my main criticism of the gameplay would be that it’s very safe. There’s no real step forward here from other shooters or even games where people have powers. On top of this, I occasionally got frustrated when trying to work out exactly which crates or walls Jack would climb on. Minor irritations, but irritations none the less.

Quantum Break Powers

Jack Joyce Has Several Powers to Use and Upgrade

Quantum Break’s enemies are varied enough for the game’s length and the AI provides enough of a challenge to keep players on their toes. I’ve been playing on Normal difficulty and it could be said that Jack is something of a bullet sponge. I only found myself in dire straits a few times during the course of the game’s linear path … until the final boss fight.

This is the only real “boss fight” that the game has and it’s something of a lazy show-down in my opinion. I would have been perfectly satisfied without a boss fight at all – a story-driven cut-scene after some other climax would have worked for me. Instead, Jack is faced with that laziest of elements: the boss who is untouchable until a wave of enemies is defeated, who then throws insta-kill attacks (that fill a good 25% of the map) at the player and who then becomes vulnerable for a shot. Repeat. This old-school type of boss fight really disappointed me.

quantum break action

Jakc Joyce Freezes Enemies in Time

I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of Quantum Break. Sure, it’s not the longest of games and it’s not nearly as progressive as the marketing campaign tried to make out (but then again, what is?) but it’s a step in the right direction. I don’t think that every game should be produced on these lines – with live action “episodes” to enhance the story, but I do think there is a place for this kind of story-telling within the game world. Quantum Break is a fun shooter with a good story and great design that points to a new manner of story-telling.

Rating: 4 / 5
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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