I’ve always been impressed with Remedy Entertainment. From Max Payne through to Alan Wake, they have forged a strong record of tackling a genre and adding their own flair to it. In their latest game, Quantum Break that tradition continues. This third person, time travelling, cinematic styled game has been developed as a first party console exclusive for Xbox One so there will have no doubt been a lot of pressure on Remedy to deliver the goods. Whilst not perfect, Quantum Break is another fantastic game from Remedy that puts its own unique spin on a genre and does it very well.
For those who have managed to avoid any coverage on Quantum Break since E3 2015, let me fill you in. You take control of the near photo realistic Jack Joyce. Jack is the brother of one of the world’s great physics minds, I mean he must be one of the world’s great minds, after all it’s Jack’s brother that managed to take Quantum Physics to a point where time travel was possible. Sounds great right? Well yeah until antagonist, Paul Serene attempts to use it for his own endeavors and causes time to start breaking down, threatening all of humanity. Not long after time starts breaking down, Jack discovers that he has developed the ability to manipulate time. Cue the cinematic styled adventure where Jack harnesses those powers, goes after Serene and attempts to stop time from collapsing and in the process try to save all of humanity.
When it comes to telling the story, Quantum Break goes where very few would ever dare to go and it does it very well. It takes the game side of things and integrates it with a live action episodic show. When I say integrated I mean it, there are in-game Acts to Quantum Break and at the end of 4 of them the game then cuts into half hour live action episodes that compliment what we have just experienced in the game. It’s takes some guts to take the controls off players for an extended period of time but Remedy does it extremely well. Obviously you can’t play the live action component but believe it or not, there are moments in the game that will actually determine what happens not just in the game but in the TV show as well. There are two different time divergences, one small and one large. You’ll know when you’ve changed the future because an Icon will appear on screen that alerts you to the fact that Jack has changed something in the future. The small change is just that, just a small shift in future events and they won’t affect the TV show really. The large time divergence though, well that has some serious consequences. The large shifts place you in the shows of Paul Serene and the decisions you make as Serence will have a major impact on the future and the story. What’s remarkable is the TV show caters for this shift, the decisions you make will then be reflected in a shift in the live action story as it picks up your decisions and carries on from there. It’s a bold move to add the TV show and also have players make decisions that affect the story in-game and in live action but it all compliments each other and works well. Remedy, well done for showing the world how to do player controlled gameplay and fuse it with a live action story. The only complaint I’d have about the story is that the action packed adventure that we get at the start tends to slow down a bit as we get near the end. It doesn’t ruin the experience but it is a noticeable pace change that feels a wee bit out of place with what we have been experiencing most of the way through.
What’s great about this whole cinematic gameplay/live action integration is how visually impressive the whole package is. Much has been said online from various sites and people about the supposed graphical output of Quantum Break. Let me say this, Quantum Break is visually stunning! The in game action is about as close to photo realistic as I’ve seen, move on to in-game cut scenes and that photo-realism is even more prevalent. This is the sort of game that really highlights that the Xbox One has more than enough power to deliver gorgeous visuals without compromising framerate.
When it comes to gameplay, Quantum Break is played from the third person perspective. The time manipulation stuff that Jack can do adds its own spin on the third person genre, Jack can create a time bubble that slows time right down for anyone caught in it, giving Jack a huge advantage when the heat is on him, shoot at the bubble and it’ll explode. killing anyone traps in the explosion. Another core skill is Jack essentially sprinting through time, imagine Superman sprinting, it’s a bit like that. Jack will get from A to B VERY fast, essentially giving him the chance to get out of danger or get the drop on enemies. There is also another change from the third person “norm” and that is getting in and out of cover. There is no need to press a button to take cover. Get close enough and Jack will automatically take cover, from there just aim and shoot and Jack will automatically lean out and get some shots off. Given how fast the action can get at times I appreciate not needing to worry about pressing buttons to take cover, however I’ll happily concede that this may take some getting used to for people who are used to being able to decide how they engage with objects in the environment.
Once you’ve adapted to the learning curve and come to grips with Jack’s unique abilities you’re in for some intense but fun action sequences. Using Jack’s time abilities as a weapon during combat sequences are essential to moving forward. This isn’t your traditional cover based, third person action game, yes cover is there when needed but Quantum Break is at its most rewarding when you just get amongst it and instinctively use Jack’s powers to defeat your enemies. Distorting time leads to some genuinely impressive graphical effects like screen stuttering and the way time will speed up and slow down depending on abilities used is brilliant. In game special effects like that could have easily done horribly wrong and led to frame rate issues but that is not the case here, the frame rate is constantly impressive.
For all the action that is on offer in Quantum Break there is actually plenty hiding in the world to reward players for their exploration and give them a greater understanding of everything going on. For example, exploring around Act 1 outside the University will help explain why students are protesting. Head on inside the building and you’ll learn a bit more about what is giong on, even getting a short presentation from Paul himself. The onscreen HUD will tell you how many collectibles there are to find in each act. The collectibles aren’t all the same, some will be posters, others a book or maybe an email. If you don’t get them all, don’t worry as they won’t ruin the experience by any means. However the little pieces of information you do discover with each find is a nice reward for the effort.
Remedy Entertainment never ceases to amaze me. It doesn’t matter what game or story they take on, they always manage to put their own funky spin on it. Quantum Break is a unique experience, it is part game part live action story and you really can’t do one without the other. There is the noticeable pacing change to the story later in the piece but aside from that the story comes together well. The gameplay has a learning curve but the sooner you realise this isn’t a cover based tactical third person shooter and just get out there and use Jack’s abilities, the sooner you will enjoy Quantum Break for what it is. For a game that has had plenty of pressure on it, being a first party title, it can hold its head high. If you’re a fan of third person games and a sci-fi buff then this one is a no brainer, you just have to check out Quantum Break.
- Does very well fusing game with live action
- Gorgeous Visual Presentation
- Time distortion works very well
- Story Pacing Change Late in Piece