Part sci-fi thriller, part action-packed shooter, Quantum Break is the result of Remedy’s decision to meld the television and the video game medium into one. To say it’s a bold move is an understatement. But, if there’s a studio capable of pulling this idea off, it’s the team that brought us Max Payne and Alan Wake. That said, just because the developer is qualified, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll for sure succeed in this venture. I have good news, though: QB is actually a damn good start for a new IP.
In this adventure about time traveling, super human abilities, and time manipulation, you take on the role of Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore). His story, like most superheroes’ tales, starts off innocently enough. He goes to visit his genius best friend and soon to be nemesis, Paul Serene (Aidan Gillen), who wants to show off his latest world-changing invention. As you may have already guessed, it’s a time machine.
To my dismay, it’s not a DeLorean, but it’s definitely a massive contraption too complicated to understand. Soon after, Jack’s genius brother, Will (Dominic Monaghan), shows up to stop him and Paul from making what he perceives to be a dangerous mistake. Let me just ask, why does Jack know so many geniuses? Next thing you know, time is a mess, and the world now intermittently freezes everyone and everything into place. Lucky for us, Jack got some nifty time-powers (from the massive mistake), and isn’t scathed by the time stutters. What he doesn’t know initially is that his buddy, Paul, also has the same abilities—but not the same motives.
As a newly minted hero, Jack must battle against Paul’s armed company, Monarch. As silly as it sound, there’s enough fresh takes to the story that make it incredibly engrossing.
It’s a narratively-driven time-based joyride that you’ll never want to end.
First and foremost, you should know that Quantum Break is no half-measure. You’ll go from a fully immersive third-person shooter to an engaging 20-minute-plus live-action show after each chapter. I tell you this now, because this may not be the type of experience you’re expecting. And that’s fine. But, once you get over the fact that it’s a television show as well, you’ll find that it’s a narratively-driven time-based joyride that you’ll never want to end.
When you’ve completed a chapter in the story (there are 5), you’ll take control of Paul (yes, Paul the villain) and have a choice between two story routes that’ll set the game and show down a certain path. The twist is that the show revolves around the events at Monarch, and not Jack.
The main character and new hero is instead Liam Burke (Patrick Heusinger). He’s unfortunately dull and has lame motives (not the actor’s fault, he does the best he can with what he has), but everyone else varies from good to great. The acting from the cast is solid throughout, and despite being cheesy at times, the story will grab you because of the endearing nature of of these characters. It also helps that some incredible talent is attached to this project, including Lance Reddick, Courtney Hope, and Marshall Allman. It’s an interesting take that explores everyone’s perspective.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the choices you make won’t completely change the plot of the live-action sequences. I went through the game twice and switched up my decisions, and while there were some changes to the outcome, it seems like the plot will generally go in the same direction, albeit a few changes. I will admit, I have’t selected all the different options, but two play-throughs is enough to get the gist. It makes sense that Remedy can’t film countless hours to make every decision completely shift the game, but still, it definitely deflates some of the replay value.
I also experienced some visual glitches where the filter used in the game seemed to be a lot more prominent than it should be, giving the whole game a grainy look. Microsoft confirmed it was indeed a filter which Remedy chose to add (it does make the transition from show to game seamless), but when compared to another reviewer’s experience, it seemed like an issue only on my play through. Other than that hiccup, the game is gorgeous.
Now that we got some of the more complicated aspects of the game out of the way, let’s talk gameplay! This is your standard third-person shooter for the first chapter and a half. It looks great, and generally plays well, but it doesn’t really feel that special (or fun, for that matter). You’ll go from area to area taking out waves of Monarch enemies. It isn’t until you get all your time-abilities when the combat finally opens up. More specifically, the fun begins once you get your dash-to-punch attack. Stopping time to run behind enemies is awesome, and hilarious, they’ll get confused as to where you went. Learning to juggle these incredible time-bending powers is a blast.
The abilities also recharge fast enough, that you can easily go from combo to combo if you manage your attacks correctly. Thankfully, it makes the boring rooms with endless waves of enemies feel like a playground. On top of that, the powers are versatile enough to be used in different situations like taking out a heavy gunner or simply using your tricks to evade and replenish health. Jack Joyce is a bad-ass time-wielding machine.
Once you’ve finally mastered the combat, powerful adversaries make an appearance in the form of teched out Monarch soldiers who are capable of dampening your powers, or, like Jack, are able to move during time stops. This extra challenge will force you to become one with time.
Jack Joyce is a bad-ass time-wielding machine.
When you’re not taking down baddies, you’ll either be investigating rooms for notes, or figuring out environmental puzzles. If you want more lore, there are notes from different characters lying around that give you a better idea of what’s going on. That said, there are so many pointless pieces of information scattered everywhere, that you’ll start to ignore these and miss out on the important ones. More isn’t always better, folks.
The environmental puzzles are too simple to really get too excited about as well; most of the time you’ll need to slow down a sliding door, or turn back time to rebuild a destroyed structure in the world. They’re boring, forgettable, and completely uninspired. It’s a shame, because this would have rounded out the experience.
There’s one last thing I do want to mention to end on a good note. Man, the game is absolutely gorgeous. It feels especially epic when there’s a time-stop in the middle of catastrophes like a collapsing bridge. The visuals are amazing during these sequences. Just prepare your eye-holes for some rad set-pieces.
If you read my preview coverage, you know I wasn’t a big fan. But, that changed when I got to sit down, and actually try out everything the game has to offer. It makes much more sense when you take it in as one complete, cohesive experience. This doesn’t mean it’s a perfect game. It still devolves into a standard third-person shooter, where you have to blast your way through countless waves of enemies too often, but the time-bending abilities and intriguing live-action show make it easier to forgive these moments. Remedy took a bold approach to storytelling in video games, and it pays off. I caught myself juggling my powers and pushing to the end of each chapter just so I could see what kind of trouble Liam was getting himself into. Xbox One owners will be pleased to add this to their collection.
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
- Jack Joyce is a badass hero.
- Live-action show is interesting, and adds a nice twist to the story telling element of this game.
- Time-bending abilities are a complete blast! No foe is safe from Jack.
- Platforming is weak. It’s there so you don’t get exhausted of endless waves of enemies, but it’s not great.
- Environmental puzzles are uninspiring. See the above reasoning.
This review was completed using an Xbox One copy of Quantum Break provided by Microsoft. The game will hit shelves on April 5, 2016.