Platforms: Xbox One, Windows 10
Reviewed On: Xbox One
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Distributor: Prima Interactive
Release Date: 5 April 2016
It is not easy to bring a strong story into an action game without it compromising on its core gameplay. At times Quantum Break was fantastic, and at times it felt a bit drawn out, considering its 7 hour campaign, instead of focusing on its stellar action and gunfights. It’s a narrative experience, not an action game, but you cannot help but feel that its greatest elements are often cut short due to its focus on story.
Follow the journey of Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore), brother of Will Joyce (Dominic Monaghan), who created a time machine which has caused time to distort in more ways than one. Jack now needs to stop Monarch Solutions led by Paul Serene (Aidan Gillen), from taking control of it for their own benefit. Monarch Solutions is a powerful corporation with unlimited funding. Their goal is to harness the power of time.
Although the story might seem simple, there is lots more going on which brings out various themes of corruption, betrayal, paranoia, and power. It’s like watching a good episode of your favourite TV show, but in a video game. Each main character in the game has a important role in stopping Monarch from their goal, and it all comes together pretty well. Acting is spot on and voice work is fantastic.
The game is divided into two portions, the game, and the live action TV show which stars the cast of the game but in reality. Each of these episodes run for 22 minutes or so and are done extremely well. It’s all high budget action, with massive set pieces for a video game spin off. You can put your controller down and watch the episode play out, taking you to places you just visited in the level before, or are about to visit soon. Characters are all relevant to the main game, and seeing them in the live action show and then come to life in the main game is rare and pretty cool.
Quantum Break has a heavy emphasis on decision making. After each chapter, you will be given the choice of two possible decisions, made by Paul Serene. Each decision will be played out in front of you so you will be able to see the outcome before you make it. As much as this is a factor to consider in the game, it is never fully realized as much as it should be. Decisions change the live action clips a little bit, and you might find something different in the next chapter which is due to the choice you made.
The story is dense with hundreds of emails to elaborate on the back story of the company, with the supporting cast all touched on during these conversations. You do not need to sit and read through them, which is a blessing as they sometimes come in pages and pages of writing. Sure this will help you get a better understanding on why Martin Hatch (Lance Reddick) is they way he is, but the main story will be understandable regardless of your patience and interest for the back story.
Although the game has a heavy narrative, there is some action going on which is another great addition to the game. Jack has obtained superpowers thanks to his interaction with the break in time. He can now do all sorts of awesome things like freeze enemies, create a time explosion to damage everyone around it, or just dodge away with a time warp. He is really a master in what he does and the abilities are easy to get used to. Each of them can also be upgraded by collecting time shards which reward you with upgrade points.
The abilities add to the fantastic combat in the game, freezing enemies and then mowing a ton of bullets into them is great. Time Sprinting towards them to take them down with a melee is quick and easy. Although the combat is so great, there is not much of it. Sure the game is a narrative driven experience, but all this potential goes to waste when you realize that you have just finished an entire chapter with killing only a handful of enemies. This deters you from making any sort of effort to upgrading abilities as they just go to waste as they are never fully realized. Combat happens so seldom that often you could just use a shotgun and time dodge to take enemies out and move on.
This issue with the combat then has an impact on the story, it all starts to drag a little. These combat dry moments are then met with the uneventful story arcs, which add up to a rather mundane chapter in the game.
Quantum Break looks fantastic, resolution aside. The characters’ facial animations are spot on, and environments are polished. Explosions and enemy abilities all add to the overall look of the game. When there is a time distortion and a train is half way in the air and half way crashed into a wall, it creates a stunning set piece. Platforming your way through a broken bridge after a ship just froze half way through it, all adds to the Quantum Break feeling, and it is truly something that has not been done before.
Quantum Break is a combination of great story telling and a stellar live action show. Sure this might not all come together that well at all times, but the more you play the game, the more the characters grow on you and your will to save the world becomes top priority. Sure at times you might just want to press the fast forward button as the story’s pace gets a little questionable. The game’s decision making system will force you to replay it again to see the different outcomes possible, but that is about it. Quantum Break is nothing without its story, and thank goodness it is a strong one.