When Microsoft and Remedy Games revealed that Quantum Break would be one part television show, and one part video game fused together to form a single cohesive entertainment experience, some people were confused as to what this game actually would become. After playing through this fairly short experience to its entirety, I’m not sure either.
Quantum Break tells a great story. Something more nuanced that we find in most games, something delivered a little better, by top notch actors. Jack Joyce, played by Shawn Ashmore is involved in a time travel experiment gone awry. This story is filled with familiar faces — Dominic Monaghan as William Joyce, Aidan Gillen as Paul Serene, and Lance Reddick as Martin Hatch just to name a few. It’s tackled better than the many time traveling tales in video games that have come before it, twisting and turning through the present and past, in which Joyce is fighting to find a solution for the “end of time.” Said story is delivered through a mix of impressive in-game, in-engine scenes with incredible character models and lengthy live action sequences that fill in the blanks between each of the game’s five acts. If story is what you search for in your games, you won’t find much better than what’s found in Quantum Break.
Remedy is an ambitious developer. They’ve taken risks in the past with their Alan Wake and Max Payne entries. The studio’s penchant for bringing something new to the table is evident in the game of Quantum Break which has an impressive and fun to play foundation. Quantum Break gives the player numerous time bending powers to use when combat segments present themselves. So impressive that it’s hard not to want a little more from the developer when it comes down to it. They just don’t happen enough in the five act campaign. That sounds great, right? It’s got a great story and good gameplay. Quantum Break is a game that will leave you scratching your head though. At times you feel like the combat and story progression is perfectly paced. At others, you wish there was a lot more. Regardless, it’s hard not to be impressed with Quantum Break and all its moving parts.
The graphics are some of the best we’ve seen on the Xbox One. The story and premise of the game are interesting and unique. The acting and production value for the lengthy video sequences compliment the game in a way where transitioning between in-engine gameplay and high resolution video isn’t as jarring as it could be. Good as the story may be, Quantum Break feels like a one and done experience, although there’s plenty to discover along that journey. A lot of flavor text for the story arrives through collectible items in the world, but you don’t really need to grab them all to get the full experience. It feels like Remedy just wanted you to have something else to do, and didn’t want to send players into wave after wave of combat.
I almost with they would have though, or added some sort of challenge mode. A mixture of enemy types and the time bending mechanics of the game make the combat mostly consist of fast paced gunplay with the occasional melee thrown in if the player so chooses to go that route. Jack Joyce has numerous powers after a time travelling mishap, which allows him to seemingly bend time to his will. There’s some really great stuff in here. Like the ability to stop enemies in their tracks for a short period of time. Dash around the map, stopping time, and then dropping enemies with devastating melee attacks. Joyce can summon all his power into a blast of energy or slow it down just enough to dodge bullets a la The Matrix. Joyce is powerful, but so are the Monarch Corporation’s soldiers he’s battling. While grunts can be dispatched rather quickly, enemies with the ability to disrupt Joyce’s powers appear in later levels, adding depth to the combat. It’s something the likes of which we haven’t seen since Remedy did it with Max Payne’s bullet-time mechanic way back when. There’s no shortage of good ideas here, just a shortage of instances that you can use these great mechanics. The Fifth Act of the game really ramps up the combat, soldiers at every turn, of every type, in different environments. It’s a shame that the majority of this game’s combat is relegated to its closing moments.
While for me the star of the show was definitely the combat, what’s in-between is a little lacking. Puzzles that require very little thought are the main filler for the game. Those and searching the environment for informative collectibles and power-up points to level your character. As refreshing, and revelatory as Quantum Break can feel at times, it can also feel rote in falling back on these tried and true mechanics that most contemporary games use. Something being so good you want more is a good thing I guess, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of dissatisfaction after the final curtain dropped. Especially considering that your only real course of action after that is to try a higher difficulty level or go back in for more collectibles. The nature of the story is one that doesn’t really beckon you back for a second playthrough and I can’t see many people re-watching the lengthy episodes of backstory for the game. While Quantum Break is pretty linear in its structure, there are some choices that can be made to alter the story between acts. If you simply need to see it all, making different decisions along the way will change the game somewhat, but really only in the live action aspects of it.
Speaking of the live action aspects, you’ll spend almost as much time watching Quantum Break as you will actually playing it. I didn’t put a timer on any of them, but they seemed to last between 20-30 minutes each. Personally, I don’t think they were necessary. Certainly not at the expense of more gameplay, and there’s just no way these things didn’t eat into the budget for this game. They could very well be the main reason we don’t have the things I ask for above when it comes to combat scenarios or depth to the gameplay.
Quantum Break has all the things we ask for from a video game and some things that we don’t. Great gameplay, impressive graphics and presentation, and an amazing story are all state of the industry from Remedy. I just wonder what this game might have been if the game aspect of it had been fleshed out just a little bit more.
- Available On: PC, Xbox One
- Published By: Microsoft
- Developed By: Remedy Entertainment
- Genre: action
- US Release Date: April 5th, 2016
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "Quantum Break has all the things we ask for from a video game and some things that we don't. Great gameplay, impressive graphics and presentation, and an amazing story are all state of the industry from Remedy. I just wonder what this game might have been if the game aspect of it had been fleshed out just a little bit more."
- Some of the best visuals seen on Xbox One
- Joyce's time-bending powers are fun to play with
- One of the best time travelling stories told in games
- A short campaign that tries to make up for lack of gameplay in closing moments
- Live action videos can get a little long