After the cult following that Alan Wake has gained since its release, the hype for Quantum Break has been steadily increasing. With a joint live action story and video game approach, it is definitely ambitious. However, some technical glitches and a story that takes its time to pick up hold this game back from being great.
NOTE: This is a review of the Xbox One version. There have been reports that the PC version has been plagued by several issues not found in its console counterpart.
Quantum Break is a third person action game that involves both gunplay and time manipulation powers. In addition to the combat, there is also minor platforming, puzzle solving and exploration that help to round out the experience. While the platforming is a little floaty and imprecise, the puzzle solving is satisfying even with how simple and straightforward it often is.
The main bulk of your time will be split between combat and exploration. The gunplay part of combat is solid if unremarkable with a standard assortment of pistols, SMGs, assault rifles, etc. The real fun lies with the more than half dozen time-based powers you gain throughout the course of the game. From temporarily freezing enemies to teleporting around, chaining these together along with the firearms make the combat frenetic and exciting. The combat improves the deeper into the game you get.
When you aren’t taking out enemies, you will find yourself exploring the environment for various collectibles that add a fair amount of backstory. Some are massive walls of text that might turn some away, (myself included at some points) but the worldbuilding is there for those who desire it. Once the act is completed, you will be asked to make one of two choices to influence what happens throughout the rest of the game. While the end of the game is set, these choices will change things along the way including which characters live or die.
Lastly after the choice is made, there is a live action TV episode featuring those within the mysterious Monarch Solutions company headed up by the antagonist, Paul Serene. These help to show what it is like for people on the other side of the fight, but the quality of the acting can be hit or miss with the characters Fiona and Charlie coming off as cringeworthy early on. They definitely improve as they go along and by the end, I bought into most of the performances.
Story and Modes:
The story begins with the main character, Jack Joyce, coming back from overseas at the request of his best friend, Paul Serene. Serene needs his help to see whether or not a time machine that he has been overseeing will work. In a scene incredibly reminiscent of the opening sequence of the original Half-Life, things don’t go according to plan and it is a disaster. Out of this disaster, Jack gains powers to manipulate time and has to escape before he is caught by the Monarch Solutions group. Beyond that would be major spoilers and, the main draw of the game, is the intriguing story.
After the thrill of the opening sequence, the story does drag a bit. When the achievement popped for beating act two, I was fairly lukewarm on the experience as a whole. However, for some reason, something clicked in act three to the end of the game where I was caught up in the story and on the edge of my seat.
The three characters of Jack Joyce, Paul Serene and Martin Hatch were very well-acted and stood out among the rest of the cast. Other characters such as Jack’s brother William, Beth Wilder and Liam Burke weren’t far behind.
For modes there is only the main story. While there is no new game plus mode, you can jump into different parts of acts and treat it as such. This is great for cleaning up collectibles and scavenging upgrade points to increase the power of your abilities.
Visuals and Sound:
This category is both where Quantum Break impresses and disappoints. The facial capture on most of the main cast looks stellar with Shawn Asmore as Jack Joyce being the highlight. Not only do the character models look fantastic, but the time effects look awesome. Shards of time will shake at the periphery of your vision while navigating a “stutter” where all of time is frozen around you with objects and people floating in place dropped my jaw to the floor.
Unfortunately, there is some texture pop in. Not only that, but there were a few times where part of a level took awhile to load leaving a gray area of nothingness where you could fall to your death. In the middle of cutscenes, there were times when the game would cut to a loading screen while still being able to hear the scene carrying on.
Luckily the sound is solid across the board. While the soundtrack didn’t have many memorable tracks, the voice acting and performances by almost all of the cast are top notch. The guns sound satisfying enough, but the distortions caused by the time powers sound powerful and ethereal.
Quantum Break strives to be original with its dual TV and video game storytelling strategy which works at its best but is tedious at its worst. The gunplay isn’t anything special but combining it with the time manipulation powers is satisfying.
The time travel premise is well-worn at this point, but the angle that Remedy told it from was interesting and worth seeing through to the end. Kudos need to go to the Finnish developer for their sheer ambition on this project. They have always been about great stories, and they accomplished this by integrating two mediums together.
The 8-10 hours playing through the game feels just about right even if I wouldn’t have minded more as the game was improving the deeper into I got. As someone who does not usually play games on harder difficulties, I found the game to be far more fun when I did and I recommend it. While the self-contained story in the game has a definitive conclusion, it leaves the future wide open for a sequel. While this may fall short of what many would see as a system seller, it is a solid and enjoyable game that Xbox One owners should pick up.