As a huge fan of Remedy Entertainment’s work, I followed Quantum Break from the moment it was announced and up until it landed on my console two weeks ago. Quantum Break is, in many ways, very much a Remedy game. It combines the time-bending combat of Max Payne with the convoluted narrative of Alan Wake, and for the most part it works. Having said that, this is the last time I compare Quantum Break to any other game, since it really does feel like a whole new, and rather experimental, idea. Is it the mind-blowing, genre-defying, cross-medium experience I was hoping for? No, not really, but it is still a good game.
You are Jack Joyce, a carefree troublemaker who just so happens to be the younger brother of the not-so-carefree physicist William Joyce. You see, Will has invented a time machine he is scared to use for the fear that something will go wrong with the space-time continuum. Enter Paul Serene, Jack’s childhood friend and Will’s partner. Paul conveniences Jack to help him with a time-traveling experiment using Will’s machine, and wouldn’t you know it – something goes wrong with the space-time continuum. Paul develops time-manipulation powers and is sent sixteen years into the past, where he uses his knowledge of the future to establish the sinister Monarch Corporation. Jack also gains new powers, and goes out to stop Paul and save time as we know it.
As with all stories involving time-travel, things get really complicated really fast. However, Quantum Break is well-written, so you’re almost never lost within the plot. There were a few times when I found it a bit hard to understand what’s going on, and some parts do feel unnecessarily complicated, but once you get your bearings, the story becomes easy to follow. Overall, the story is interesting, even captivating, and is what will probably draw most players deeper and deeper into the game.
Outside of the story, Jack’s powers help the game stand out from any other shooter you may have played recently. Time-manipulation is nothing new in video games, but Jack’s powers are so wonderfully aggressive and useful in a fight, they are a pure delight to use. Jack can freeze enemies in time and pump them full of bullets. He can create a shield around himself that stops bullets in midair, or dash from cover to cover and into enemies for a devastating finishing move. There’s also the mandatory bullet time, which makes time slow down to allow you to get in some well-placed shots, but it pales in comparison to the other powers in Jack’s arsenal.
The powers, more than the guns, make the game’s combat and firefights so unique. The gunplay itself is rather mediocre, as you only have your standard pistol-SMG-shotgun combo, with no futuristic time-based weapons. The powers are pretty much all you really need, but they do make most enemy encounters fairly easy, at least on the normal difficulty level. It’s mainly because enemies tend to repeat themselves, and once you’ve figured out the proper tactics against the three variations, you can just use them over and over again if you’re not the experimental type. A bigger variety in enemies could have improved the game, though different scenarios do provide slightly different challenges. Ultimately, combat is fun and fast especially later on when you’re fighting larger groups.
Speaking of getting around a challenge, Quantum Break does feature some light platforming puzzles. Jack Joyce is no Nathan Drake, so don’t expect him to scale buildings, but he does his fair share of jumping and clambering up scaffolding, containers and bridges. Remedy also incorporated a few areas in which Jack needs to use his powers in order to get past a gate or stop a car from crushing him to death. I actually really liked those parts, as they highlight the game’s beautiful and interesting visual design and offer a completely different challenge from that of the combat. The platforming segments are quite few and far between, but they are such big and impressive set pieces, they’ll stick with you well after the game is over.
In the middle of all this fighting and climbing, there’s a lot of exploring to do. While there aren’t a lot of hidden areas to find, Quantum Break is rife with collectibles. Some can help you upgrade Jack’s powers, while some simply shed more light on the story. There are plenty of emails to read, voice diaries to listen to and photographs to look at. Quantum Break is one of the very few games in which I felt the urge to find every collectible through the game, mostly because they genuinely provide interesting information and insight about the world and the characters in it. One type of collectibles that stands out is Quantum Ripples. These are not so much of a physical object as they are optional actions Jack can perform that will have some sort of an effect on the Quantum Break TV series.
What I found to be the most bizarre aspect of Quantum Break is the live-action TV series that comes with it. If you’ve been following this game at all, you probably know about it already, but just so we’re all on the same page – between each act of gameplay you get a 30-minute episode that serves to show Paul Serene’s side of the story, and the going ons at Monarch. Prior to every episode, you get to play as Paul and make a choice. This choice will not only affect the game, but the TV series as well, as the episode changes depending on your choices. This is where Quantum Break’s replayability factor comes in, as it is interesting to see how different choices change the live-action footage.
However, if we look at the series in the context of the game, it’s obvious the two don’t work so well together. As you might expect, sitting through a 30-minute episode every couple of hours of gameplay takes you completely out of the game. It ruins any sense of flow you might have, and although you can choose to skip them, you don’t really want to do that if you’re at all interested in the story. Apart from Paul Serene, most of the characters that star in the series hardly appear in the game itself, which makes me question the point of it all. Personally, I would rather have the episodes replaced with shorter cutscenes that follow the events of the game more closely, and have more segments where I play as Paul Serene to experience his side of the story.
Quantum Break is a visually impressive game. While there was that controversy around the game’s 720p output, I can assure you you’ll like what you see. It might not be a graphics powerhouse, but the visual design and effects are really pretty. Enemies leave yellowish trails of energy as they zip around, explosions freeze midway through like red and orange blossoms, and the world around you fractures as time stutters. Most character models look eerily similar to their real-life actor; not enough to cross the uncanny valley, but they are immediately recognizable. Also, since every character is played by an experienced actor, they deliver a great performance during both the game and the TV series.
Quantum Break is a good game, with an interesting story and a rich and detailed world. Fans of Remedy’s previous work will get exactly what they were hoping for, while other players will enjoy the action and giant set pieces. The TV series feels unnecessary and offers very little to the overall experience. Separately the two work just fine, but together they create a weird hybrid that doesn’t let you fully enjoy either. Much like in the story it tells, Quantum Break is an experiment gone haywire with unexpected, but ultimately fascinating results.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.