Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also available on: PC
If we had to give it a numerical score: 8.5/10
What I loved
• Great Acting
• Bullet-Stacking Time Abilities
• Immersive Action Sequences
• Time Dodging! Oh so much!
Not so much
• Animation could have been better
• Puzzles aren’t challenging at all
• Difficulty Levels are too easy
• Cover System needs work
Time manipulation, along with zombies, aliens and war era’s are among the gameplay arches upon which most games are built. Stopping time, diving through the air in slow motion and rewinding actions to have another shot at success are but a few examples of a power we all fantasise about and are always eager to live through within games.
However, Quantum Break is not just a game, it’s a cross-medium experience featuring a post-act series of live action episodes. Both being mediums of entertainment has it make some sense, but if history has taught us anything about mixing games and TV, it’s that it shouldn’t be done carelessly, if at all. Quantum Break takes a courageous leap into the abyss of cross-medium storytelling and surprisingly emerges intact, be it a little bruised.
Now firstly, Remedy knows how to tell stories and as far as engrossing tales with a character-centric narrative and suspenseful, often emotional developments goes, Quantum Break is probably their best work yet. It’s a tale of a time-travel experiment gone wrong leaving a fracture in time which sends the very fabric thereof on an unstable path to an end. As great science fiction would have it, lifelong friends, Jack Joyce and Paul Serene, are consequentially granted time-manipulation powers. Having been on separate ends of the experiment when it failed, they both pursue conflicting routes in an effort to fix the fracture. Jack more focused on a moral path while Paul and his massive corporation follows a path of necessity. That’s about as spoilery as you’ll get from me.
What follows this introduction is an amalgamation of Adrenalin fueled action sequences and game changing decisions. Decisions which interpret into live action episodes giving insight to the world beyond the gameplay. In this marriage of mediums, there lies value, a little inconvenience and a lot of filler. It goes without saying that your play-style will determine your experience. In the highly detailed environments, linearity is clear but exploration is encouraged. By exploring you will add more substance to the story and background to the characters you meet, ultimately broadening the plot and its arches with great detail. Alternatively you can take it all on face value and just plough right through from checkpoint to checkpoint, skipping the live action series and still have a pleasant, if less informed experience.
Gameplay sequences are mostly visually beautiful gusts of time warping gunfights, with particles, bullets, people and all manner of furniture floating in a zero-state playground. Environments are destructible to a degree making some encounters unique every time. This gracefully diverts your focus from the adaptable cover system which works for the most part as you’ll often find Jack hunching over for no reason whatsoever. Time warping abilities are the cream of the action, being able to create time shields, cast time bubbles to pause your enemies and time dodge around to flank them makes it a fun experience. Given that the weapons are quite generic and flat it helps that the abilities are always on short cool downs having you use them constantly. Luckily a smart yet aggressive AI keeps the experience balanced.
When there’s no running and shooting to do, you’re faced with obvious puzzles and rather awkward, un-animated conversation pieces. I found great difficulty in taking Jack seriously when in in-game conversation. The stance they chose for him has him always facing whatever direction you left him in, looking like he’s about to pounce – immersion is lost here. To not mention the walking of NPC’s would be a crime, let’s just say I believe the mocap actors all wore badly fitted high heels during sessions. These things can be patched at least.
Live Action pieces are very well integrated, telling a side-by-side rendition of related instances and characters which often include the primary cast. I personally really enjoyed these bits, be it that they often seemed like more filler than value. If anything it helps define the characters and their plight even more, while creating an urge to replay the game and choose different paths. What saves this cross of mediums is not only the decisions that interpret into which episode you watch, but the actual storyline and the brilliant cast portraying it. Steering away from the generic hero route most games with the “one man vs an evil corporation plot” have, you are instead in a constant battle of conflicting interests, distrust and ever-changing relationships. No character is without remorse – or simply put just an evil antagonist – but rather well fleshed out individuals with beliefs and the ability to make rash decisions and have poor judgement.
Quantum Break isn’t the greatest game ever made, but it is in my opinion the greatest game Remedy has ever made. With a fusion of great action gameplay and impeccable voice acting and acting alike, from great stars like Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Quantum Break is a story for the ages and an experience worth every minute.
- Quantum Break is out on 5 April and can be purchased via our affiliate Raru.