Time is of the essence.
Remedy has a long history of creating third-person shooters starring protagonists with extremely clever names. They are also known for taking the genre in new directions with a simple hook that spices up the normal combat, thus creating their own brand of game. Quantum Break is simply the next chapter in the company’s history, and once again it checks all the boxes above, but also breaks new ground by marrying the idea of interactive media, live-action TV, and video games into one succinct package.
Quantum Break follows the story of Jack Joyce, played by Shawn Ashmore. Remedy has taken the route of using real actors for everyone in the story. This helps sell the world, and thus creating plenty of conflict among almost every character that is interesting. The game sequences mostly focus on Jack and his actions, while the intermingled TV shows in between focus on the antagonists. It is an interesting collaboration that really works. I cared about characters, I had to stop and think about my choices at each junction, I wanted to know how everything played out.
Platforms: XB1, PC
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
So much in fact even upon completing the main game, I went back in and made opposite choices. How does killing this character affect the outcome of this plot point? Amazingly, Remedy has severed all ends of the narrative with a satisfying conclusion. While the choices are mostly binary, the results that unfold are much more interesting than they have any right to be. Remedy sells the world of Quantum Break; and sells it well.
As a third-person shooter, Quantum Break feels exceedingly mediocre. The shooting itself feels loose, and without the snap auto-aim turned on, it just never clicks properly. Luckily the shooting is only half the equation. Jack’s time powers are introduced in a flood, pretty much all of them by the end of the first level, and this is where the fun begins.
Jack has an arsenal of time-bending powers that make combat a blast. Tapping the right bumper sends a burst of time at an enemy, this slowing them down. I could then unload an entire clip at them. Once the bubble dissipated, they all smashed into them in a very satisfying explosion. It never got old. The left bumper allows Jack to teleport to another location in an instant, and holding the left trigger after arriving gives a quick slow-mo action to line up my aim. It can also be upgraded to extend the time, and eventually holding it down allows Jack to control where he runs, and a melee attack is even an option.
Finally, the time bubble. This serves as both a defensive mechanism, as it blocks bullets, but also heals Jack while he is inside of it. Each power works on a cooldown, so once I got the feel for it, I was able to combine them in the right ways to take down enemies with ease. Upgrades are done in the form of collectibles. There are pockets around the level that Jack can find to earn one upgrade point. Finding these, and the narrative collectibles, are easier using Jack’s time vision; which is activated by tapping the Y button.
Think of it as detective vision, and it makes more sense. My issue with this is that I found myself constantly pinging the environment to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and it really took me out of the overall experience.
Each act in the story ends with a junction point, where players take on the role of antagonist Paul Serene. In this sections two choices are presented, that alter the way the TV show, as well as the rest of the game can play out. As I mentioned earlier, I cared so much about the characters and where the story was going, I actually had to sit and weigh the consequences before making them. This is good storytelling, and being able to revisit any level, or junction point throughout the game, at any time, is much appreciated.
Quantum Break does come with a laundry list of issues though. For starters, the visuals are inconsistent. Sometimes there are sequences that are absolutely stunning. Walking through an environment where time has stopped, slightly pushing an object out of the way, or massive scale environments frozen in time, are amazing. However, the entire game is constantly running with a noticeable filter layered over top of it. It really dampens the experience more often than not.
Other minor things such as the closed captions being off in the TV show (which could be due to streaming) and the sheer amount of space involved to install the entire game and its episodes (over 100GB) are just small things that tarnish an otherwise stellar package. The TV show also has its inconsistencies. Some sequences feel like they had a much higher production budget than others, the game is a rollercoaster of emotions, but at the end of the day I can safely say the ride is more than worth the price of these setbacks.
Quantum Break is a Remedy shooter at its core, and fans of the developers know what to expect coming in. The merger of TV and gaming has been sought after for years, but they have somehow managed to pull it off. It works, and that is probably the biggest shock out of the entire package. There is a reason people anticipate Remedy games, and Quantum Break does little to disappoint those expectations.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.