Quantum Break – Review
PC, Xbox One
Remedy has an incredible reputation in the gaming industry for crafting some of the most iconic characters, stories and gameplay concepts in the business. Since 2001 and the release of Max Payne, Remedy, along with Naughty Dog and Rockstar have been among the leaders in interactive storytelling, and it continued with Alan Wake and their most recent work Quantum Break. The game had been publically gestating since the Xbox One reveal event in May 2013, so it’s been a long time coming, but Quantum Break continues Remedy’s ongoing legacy of delivering rich narrative, intriguing, immersive gameplay and mystery right up to your eyeballs.
Time travel has been explored in cinema, in novels and a range of other artistic mediums, but few have executed it as well as Quantum Break. You play the role of Jack Joyce (The Following’s Shawn Ashmore), and you’re summoned to the fictional Massachusetts town of Riverport by your good friend Paul Serene (Game of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen), as he needs your help in powering up his time machine. As you might expect, things go very wrong, when Jack’s brother William (Lord of the Ring’s Dominic Monaghan) intervenes, shortly followed by Monarch soldiers keen to put a stop to Jack, William and Paul’s plans. With things going wrong through a fracture in time is created and all parties involved have a vested interested in either preventing this or saving themselves before time ends in 2021. Quantum Break’s narrative is one that has been quite obviously slaved over for many years with each thread reconnecting strand by strand as the threads all begin to piece together in the game’s final acts.
One of the more hotly debated elements of Quantum Break was the inclusion of a live action television series. The four episodes that are included in the game serve as the closing chapters to each of the game’s first four (of five) acts. If you’re not into passive experiences do not fret because the episodes are not essential to the core narrative, though if you want to put in the time to enjoy these four 22minute long episodes then you’ll be getting a story that fills in some of the narrative gaps that the main game left unexplored.
While Remedy has been long known for the expert storytelling, they’re also no mugs in the most important component of video games: the gameplay. They popularised bullet time with Max Payne, and were among those leading the charge in environmental storytelling with Alan Wake; and although Quantum Break doesn’t do anything especially revolutionary, it’s still a highly polished product. Jack finds himself possessed with time manipulating powers after the time machine debacle and uses a range of them in combat as well as navigation. Jack can freeze a certain space allowing you to unload many a round of bullet into them, but the same power can also freeze a fast moving object to allow you slink past it. Jack can also create time shields, throw time blasts, and fly through the battleground with time dodges and rushes which makes him a bit of a badass in combat.
Being in possession of these time manipulating powers does mean that battles against your stock standard goon can be extremely easy at times, however Monarch do have some aces up their sleeves and they’ll return serve with foes who also have their own methods of tweaking time to their advantage. Gunplay is slick, with the balancing to aim-assist being right on point making the combat challenging without being needlessly difficult. If you’re the sort of player who is looking for a challenge my advice would be to begin the game on the hardest difficulty as normal doesn’t provide the challenge that you would expect from that setting. General movement is at times a little clunky, particularly in the few segments that require more pinpoint platforming, and this has the potential to frustrate, albeit for no longer than a minute or two on each occasion.
It must be noted just how exceptional Quantum Break looks and sounds. The attention to detail that is displayed in game is quite extraordinary with the game-ified version of Shawn Ashmore at times causing me to double-take, unsure as to whether I was looking at the real guy or the version that the game had rendered. The voice-acting is superb, with actors expertly handling the tense dialogue while also having some fun with some of the more deliberately cheesy lines. In the meantime the, games score is a rollicking affair that energises and inspires. For the most part these same qualities extend to the television show as well, though it gets caught out as something that aspires to reach Game of Thrones levels of digital effects work, but ends up looking like Merlin. There’s also little shying away from the numerous cases of product placement with Nissan being placed front and centre on more than a few occasions.
Remedy was firing on all cylinders when developing Quantum Break, and while there’s a few small polish issues that impact the gameplay, what I takeaway from the game is overwhelmingly positivity. A wonderfully crafted plot drives fast paced, exciting combat, and is supported with by a fantastic audio/visual experience. The television series is an interesting story-telling alternative that will divide players, but Remedy should be applauded regardless for trying something new that breaks with established norms. A deliberately open-ended conclusion leaves the door ajar for more stories in this universe, so I cannot wait to see what Remedy has in store next.