Quantum Break is – ironically – a product of its own timing. Announced along with the Xbox One, when Microsoft’s ambitions were high, it has had its own ambitious wings somewhat clipped by the time it has made it to market.
Microsoft was at the time, developing its own TV/Film production studios, and had Quantum Break earmarked as both a game offering on the Xbox One, with an accompanying TV show that would be affected by those experiencing the game.
Quantum Break has been watered down from those original ambitions, and what we have now, on the surface seems unique, but will be greeted by a limited audience. There is a great deal of time when your controller will be on the floor as the structure of the game is an “act” of game-play followed by an “episode” of the Quantum Break “TV” show, four in total of around twenty minutes each.
It’s all about the story, some high profile actors; Shawn Ashmore (“X-men”) as Jack Joyce, Aidan Gillen (“Game of Thrones”) as Paul Serene and Dominic Monaghan (“Lord of the Rings”) as Jack’s brother Will are the biggest names on set as the impending fate of the world is in the hands of our hero, Jack.
Remedy have some pedigree having given the world Max Payne, and the excellent Alan Wake. The latter game showing Remedy can weave an intriguing tale amongst some solid third-person shooting action, and thermos collecting.
Here, rather than slow-mo bullet-time gun action, or creepy forest traversal we are presented with a situation where, due to man’s hubris in time-travel experimentation, things are not looking too good for the universe, in fact time itself is about to come to a standstill, unless Jack can shoot his way to saving everything.
This is a cover based shooter, without the requirement to press a button to go into cover. This is awkward as from time to time you won’t be too sure if you are actually behind the cover between you and the enemy bullets, but that’s ok Jack has some other tricks.
Jack gains some time powers (ie a bunch of super powers with the word time in front of them, fortunately Time Bomb is not one of them). Jack can protect himself with a shield, or blast enemies from afar. He can dodge with incredible speed or hold enemies in stasis.
He can also use his new-found time-skills to help solve traversal puzzles, temporarily rewinding selective events in the environment, or slow-down cyclical obstacles blocking the way forward.
It’ is pretty straight forward – there is not too much in the way of mind-benders here, and if you get stuck there are plenty of clues to find your way forward.
Then there is the TV show aspect. Towards the end of a game-play act, the roles will switch with players now controlling the Paul Serene (played by Aidan Gillen; Littlefinger from Game Of Thrones) character briefly. At the end of the scene the player will need to make a binary choice which will largely affect the content of the TV show episode that follows.
At this point game-play ends, and the TV episodic style content begins. Whilst your choices as Paul Serene largely dictate the flow of the episode, the basic story line remains as is. The TV show largely follows a parallel plot acted out by characters that take only minor roles during the game sections.
If you are invested in the story, then this jarring lack of interaction is bearable. If you are typically not “into” a games tale then Quantum Break is something to be avoided.
There are very minor sections of the TV episode that are unlocked by finding time “ripples” during the game-play, but these are only low-key in their interest, glib moments in the story telling that add nothing more than dopamine injections of satisfaction having found them during Jack Joyce’s time wandering the game locations.
Production values and acting skills are generally good, the episodes feeling like a good quality cable production. For example, there are good action sequences (although during the car-chase in the first episode I counted the same civilian car being passed by our hero no less than four times in as many locations during the five minute chase) and story layers that satisfy the level of intellectual investment required of the title.
These TV episodes are what elevate Quantum Break above a normal cover shooter, which is lucky because that shooting action is of only passible quality.
When it all synthesizes out, it will be your intrigue in the story line (which I am aware I have not given too much away) that will bring the satisfaction and enjoyment. So, if you are not a fan of heavy story laden titles, come to Quantum Break at another time.