Does Remedy Entertainment’s blockbuster third-person adventure pay off?
Lost in the decadence of its own design, Remedy Entertainment’s Quantum Break is going to fall a little short for most people’s intensely hyped up desires. However, this doesn’t indicate that Quantum Break is a bad game, in fact it is the opposite. It is a daring game that Remedy Entertainment took great pride and care with, yet it never truly reaches that jaw dropping moment in story. As for the power of Jack Joyce’s (the main protagonist played by Shawn Ashmore), the world he fights to save as time begins to collapse i on itself, and the massive set pieces throughout the entire adventure? Well, those save the entire game on an epic scale.
Dealing with a story based around warping in and out of time always comes with some form of convolution. That is often the point to not only coming up with a story about twisting time, but always keep the player guessing, but too often it’s easy to lose the context behind the meaning. Quantum Break is a linear, third-person adventure game based in a very narrative world. But the story developers scripted it out to make sure there was that sense of confusion. It was nothing so overwhelming that it will lose us within the first act.
"The best parts about the story aren’t exactly what’s been answered, but what they leave unanswered that’s the true mystery behind it all."
The story in fact, continually reels you back in so as to never lose you to begin with. The best parts about the story aren’t exactly what’s been answered, but what they leave unanswered that’s the true mystery behind it all. This all makes Quantum Break‘s story fluid, confusing and good, but never gets to that climactic moment where your jaw drops to the floor and you say, “Wow! I never saw that coming!” I completed the game wanting much more from the story.
What’s new and very intriguing about Quantum Break are the four live-action TV shows that are placed between each act and are approximately 20 minutes or so long. These serve mainly as cut scenes but in a whole other light from Jack Joyce’s story as they focus on supporting character angles that are not portrayed in gameplay for more than a few fleeting moments. Interestingly enough, the show does give a substantial focus on the enemies’ side and what their next plot is.
For the most part, character acting is strong in some and weaker in others, naturally. Actors Lance Reddick and Aiden Gillen really steal the show as you never truly know what they’re thinking and their acting skills portray that perfectly. Gillen, who plays Paul Serene (the main antagonist), really digs into the script at times giving a very authentic man who is flawed like every other human and completely paranoid but trying to cover it up for his public appearance towards his company and the world. Sadly, the overall feel and atmosphere of the show is of a lower budget quality, but Remedy did a fantastic job in hiding that as much as possible.
"The dynamics of wrapping an enemy into a time bubble, following it up with a dodge attack, and finishing it off with a bullet to the head was beyond satisfying."
Of course, what would a game about time travel be if it didn’t have alternate paths to choose from? This is where you’ll actually get the chance to play as Jack’s enemy Paul Serene. His gameplay comes in extremely small doses, but centered around very important points just before each act. These Paul Serene moments are called “Junctions.” And Junctions occur when more than one possible future is possible within the game. Each decision at the Junction impact points will slightly steer the stories of the game and a an even slighter steering of the live-action TV show.
Similar to other decision making games, choosing a path will alter the outcome of the story to a degree, but not by much. There are two choices to choose from in each Junction, with nothing else to really change the course of the game. I thought this was a very strange choice, to limit the paths in a game designed around the idea that there could be thousands of different paths was just too narrow of a route. At the very least, what I did like about choosing a path was that the games gives the option to view both setups that will lead to an outcome before forcing the player to actually stick to one path permanently. This also allows the game to be played through at least twice to see the alternate character stories and outcomes.
Now, onto the powers. Playing with all the time powers takes getting used to. Don’t expect to just jump into the game and feel like a bad ass right off the bat. Hitting the time powers, connecting them into special combinations, and pulling off some stunning kills took some practice for me. But when I finally achieved the hour or so it took to practice and achieve those skills, mixing time altering attacks, blowing away enemies, and taking control made me feel completely bad ass. The dynamics of wrapping an enemy into a time bubble, following it up with a dodge attack, and finishing it off with a bullet to the head was beyond satisfying.
Several Chronon Sources are hidden throughout each level. These are essentially collectibles nodes that can be redeemed to upgrade and/or unlock powers to help against fighting ever growing stronger enemies. Upgrading is amazing. It’s comprehendible and fast. Waiting two or three hours for a single upgrade in any other game is often turned into upgrading two or three different abilities within an hour in this one, giving me the chance to explore Jack’s abilities on a much broader potential sooner than later. And that’s a good thing as Quantum Break is only about a 10-12 hour game, and that’s factoring in collecting everything and watching each TV show. Of course, this all depends on weather you choose to run off and search for extra Chronon Sources, which are almost always nearby and never a hassle to obtain.
"Quantum Break often deals in stereotypical video game tropes: such as snipers on a rooftop near explosive tanks, or even lots of conveniently placed weapons and ammo reload packs."
Besides, the more impressive collection of time tactics and abilities, you’ll often be using a rifle, pistol or one of a small arsenal collection of standardized video game cliche weapons to take care of enemies. Quantum Break often deals in stereotypical video game tropes: such as snipers on a rooftop near explosive tanks, or even lots of conveniently placed weapons and ammo reload packs. Though these tropes are there, they are mostly overlooked by rarely having to depend solely on a rifle for a kill as many of the time abilities are just too fun to not use constantly over weapons when possible.
Alas, Jack is not an unstoppable juggernaut within this time-altering world. After the pushover enemies of Act One, moving forward things start to really heat up. But it never becomes overwhelmingly difficult though. Some enemies start equipping themselves with anti-stutter suits, granting time moving abilities that are able to negate Jack’s powers; and Chronon Dampeners, which well, dampen his abilities in certain areas. This brings a certain tier of levity in an otherwise overpowered character build, when negating Jack’s powers lead to more challenging obstacles that take physical work rather that the twisting of objects and time. Just as it sounds, however, this game is almost always based around waves of enemies in any act and rarely deviates from that tone.
Sadly, Jack’s movement, the simple kind of moving backwards and forwards, and to either side feels rusty. Almost as if nudging the left analog stick feels less like a command and more like trying to persuade Jack to move. I found this quite bothersome, especially when trying to avoid bullets and enemies when most of my time powers had been drained from use. Just dodging an enemy without the use of powers can sometimes be fatal. And when other characters scream for Jack to hurry, well, he never moves like the world depends on him. It came down to there’s just no true sense of urgency in Jack’s movement when he tries to get from place to place.
"Quantum Break is a true adventure game that prides itself on elaborate set pieces, maybe more so than any other game I’ve ever seen."
At times, the fluidity of the character movement feels awkward, unstable, and jittery. Jack’s actions, of simply climbing over a box or jumping to a platform look and feel unnatural — almost as though I had to hope his actions would do what I commanded into the controller.
A minor annoyance that I found from certain locations is an instant-death scenario where Jack just, unnaturally dies from simply touching obscure objects. Some examples include an uncontrollable door sliding open then closing wildly; if Jack tries to go through it, he dies — that’s understandable, but just rubbing up against the door is death. Another example is during a time shift when an object fell, then froze in place, I walked up to it, touched it and died. These are minor annoyances that only occurs during time shifts, but it’s something that should have been polished up a bit more.
Character design and level design are magnificent. Facial features represent intricate emotion just through a twitch of an eye, or a small semi-grin. Comparing these characters to their live-action TV show counterparts is very simply to determine reality from the game even though the character design is quite advanced. So was it appropriate to have real actors in a show and in the gameplay? They don’t blend perfectly, granted, but it was fun to see this new experiment take place.
Quantum Break is a true adventure game that prides itself on elaborate set pieces, maybe more so than any other game I’ve ever seen. From derailed trains to massive explosions and much, much more. Just adventuring from one point to another there’s almost guaranteed to be something jaw dropping, unbelievable, and catastrophic around every turn. The finely tunes graphics of each location and set piece are brilliantly defined, making this game a current gen standard for what games should look like going forward.
"Immense; right to the point and figuring out what happened, what these characters went through that changed them during that time is part of the puzzle you’ll constantly be thinking about while playing though the first time."
The authenticity of the voice ensemble from some of Hollywood’s finest actors (in some respects) substantially brings Quantum Break‘s intense atmospheres and nuances between cynical masterminding and saving the world up to a whole other level. It’s nice to see a game with fresh voices rather than the same people from other games carried over from one franchise to another.
A game wouldn’t be great without an amazing musical score and soundtrack. Quantum Break‘s tactile music, manipulated, broken down, rearranged through Jack’s time skills is often a sentiment of just how beautifully rendered the sound of it is. You’ll definitely appreciate Remedy’s time that was spent creating an ironic cacophony that works brilliantly with each action.
The truth about the manipulation and control of time as a story element in Quantum Break is not solely focused on what changes the world goes through or what new obstacles get in the way; but also the focus on character development, on their struggles and hardships. Quantum Break delves deep into designing a world around character development in a very strategic format: not only does time change the characters, but it does so rapidly it’s almost like watching a single cell organism evolve into a tiger in minutes.
Immense; right to the point and figuring out what happened, what these characters went through that changed them during that time is part of the puzzle you’ll constantly be thinking about while playing though the first time. This is definitely a game that isn’t afraid to have fun while playing a few tricks on the player. Was the show worth the risk of being new and inventive? We’ll see how people react, but I think it was worth experimenting with, for better or for worse. Sadly, the story leaves a lot to be desired and never once gives off that jaw dropping moment we all crave in big blockbuster games such as Quantum Break.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes. The game is jam packed with references to Alan Wake!
This game was reviewed on the Xbox One.
Powers act and feel amazing, Graphics are phenomenal, Set pieces are way too good, Enemies are intelligent and the live-action show was worth the risk.
The controls are often slow to respond. It feels like controlling Jack is more of a suggestion to him rather than a command. Very few choices to alter a very narrow story. A whole lot of video game tropes. The story never gives a single "jaw dropping" moment.
Quantum Break makes some amazing innovations in the gaming industry with the live-action TV show, unique and original powers and abilities, and beautifully designed set pieces and the levels built around them. However, the story leaves a lot to be desired, the abundance of video game tropes thrown in your face is way overboard, and the controls for telling Jack where to go really need some tweaking. However, it's still worth the ride.