I’ve made no secret of the fact that Quantum Break was one of my most anticipated games of the year. The concept alone was enough to hook me but knowing Remedy Entertainment was at the helm meant it had potential to be something truly special. Alan Wake was one of my favourite games of the last generation; this is a developer that knows how to make creative, story driven experiences like nobody else. I’ve learnt over the years that great anticipation can at times lead to great disappointment but would this be the case here or would Quantum Break turn out to be what I had hoped for and maybe more?
Quantum Break is an action-adventure science fiction third-person shooter video game developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft Studios. The game features Jack Joyce, the main protagonist, trying to stop Paul Serene, a close friend and Monarch Solutions CEO, from enforcing the End of Time after a failed time-machine experiment, which gives Jack time manipulation powers.
Due to miscalculations by Paul Serene, a time travel experiment goes wrong. Doused in chronon radiation, the material that makes time travel possible, protagonist Jack Joyce and antagonist Paul Serene are granted time-based abilities. Both can freeze time and move at higher speeds, whilst a higher dose of chronons means Serene can see into the future to decide which choices to make in the present. Additionally, the collapse of the machine damages the structure of time, causing a “fracture” that means it sporadically freezes for all without time-travel abilities or the correct equipment. Joyce and his ally, Beth Wilder are pursued by Monarch Solutions, a corporation founded by Serene. The game enforces the rule that time travel cannot be used to alter the past.
Throughout the game you’ll hit “junction points” between acts, these serve as sections in which you’ll make choices that will not only affect the state of the game but the direction of the integrated live-action TV show as well. The show features the actual actors of the characters, interacting with the player’s choices, displaying the outcome of the choices made.
Players can use a variety of firearms, as well as their time-manipulating powers to defeat enemies in the game. Joyce can stop time temporarily, allowing him to escape from attacks or freeze enemies, unleash a “Time Blast”, which is an offensive projectile, and reverse the direction of bullets.
Quantum Break is quite possibly the most unique console video game experience on the market at the moment. Not only is it visually impressive but it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before in terms of the effects used throughout. Witnessing time bend, stutter and stop around you creates an environment like no other.
The motion capture used and the actors performances is as well done as you could possibly hope for.
Remedy Entertainment are masters at creating a compelling narrative and with this game, that hasn’t changed. The story is dramatic yet thrilling in all the ways a game about time travel should be. When dealing with time travel, you leave yourself open to potential plot errors and while there are many twists and turns along the way, thankfully it’s executed with a lot of thought and care. You’re introduced to a number of different characters and while some get much more screen time than others, I enjoyed each of their individual storylines.
One of the most commonly asked questions about Quantum Break isn’t about the game itself, it’s about the TV show and whether it’s any good or not. The show is split into 4 episodes which are each roughly 20 minutes long so it’s not too long overall unfortunately. I enjoyed the show, it has high production value and all the actors involved give decent performances. The ways in which it’s integrated with the game is what is truly special here and it’s achieved with fine precision. While the choices you make are limited, they make a noticeable impact on the game and show which is satisfying. I think what is truly disappointing is that none of the choices you make leaving any impact on the final outcome; it leaves your decisions feeling fairly pointless ultimately. Still, I’d definitely be up for more games using this interesting format in the future.
While I do think you’re given access to all of your abilities way too quickly in the game, it’s exciting to be let loose on the battlefield with them at your disposal. It’s extremely responsive, reacting to your every move in exactly the way you want it to. One of my major concerns about the game was difficultly, how can you be given such power and still make it a challenge. The game isn’t hard, even on hard mode you’ll only suffer a handful of deaths which could annoy some. You can’t simply stand there and soak up bullets but if you’re adept at headshots like me then you’ll have no real problems. Still, is there anything more gratifying than watching your foes collapse into a slow motion, bloody, bullet filled hell? I don’t think so.
Remedy has confirmed that Quantum Break takes place within the Alan Wake universe so be on the lookout for some really cool references to the game.
Between combat, you’ll have to do quite a bit of platforming with some time manipulation puzzles involved. I did feel like these came a little too often but I understand they were necessary and act as calmer moments of exposition amongst the battles.
Quantum break isn’t a very long game, if you were to skip the TV show (you shouldn’t) then you’d likely finishing the game in a single sitting which is disappointing for those like myself who paid full price. For all you completionists out there fear not, this is an easy one. You’re given a nice incentive you go back and replay the game, well that is if you’re interested in simply choosing the exact opposite to what you did the first time and seeing the differences. The game has a number of collectables that delve deeper into the narrative and serve well to flesh it out. These collectibles mainly comprise of documents to be read, I didn’t enjoy this aspect of the game at all. The text based emails etc. are overly long-winded, some feeling like actual essays. It’s annoying because within these is some really interesting and important information but it’s just too long, I doubt many people will read them.
Jack Joyce is a fine protagonist but I found the story of Beth Wilder and her involvement in the whole thing much more interesting. Paul Serene is an interesting protagonist because he’s not simply one dimensional or pure evil. He’s suffered and time travel has taken its toll on him both physically and mentally, he’s resigned to the fact that nothing can be changed while Jack still has hope it can. The game raises some interesting questions surrounding time travel and by the end it leaves it with a lot of potential for a future sequel.
On reflection, I feel Quantum Break is a game that will divide opinion. The TV show integration is definitely interesting as well as being quite ambitious in the modern era but I feel it’s one of the games most divisive aspects. It will live or die based on whether or not you are entertained and care enough about its characters to be compelled. For what it was, I found enjoyment within the TV show integration but many may feel otherwise and this can be very damaging to the entire experience.