Quantum Break Xbox One Review
Publisher: Microsoft Developer: Remedy Entertainment Genre: Action
Players: 1 Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: N/A
We’ve seen TV series’ based on games before, although we’ve never had a TV series inside a game before, until now. Quantum Break is exactly that, a combination of a game and a TV show and, what‘s more, some of the decisions you make in the game affects the story in both the game and live action series. This is a multimedia experiment on a scale like never seen before.
Don’t worry, this is first and foremost a game though, which means that you won’t have to sit through a 20 minute live action episode before you are able to play it. The story, while loaded with almost every cliché in the book in terms of its characters, is more than likeable enough and is made even more so by stellar performances from the likes of Aiden Gillen as Paul Serene and Lance Reddick as Martin Hatch. Not forgetting the novelty of having a TV series inside a game, and it’s uncharted territory for both forms of entertainment to link up in this way. Things can get confusing from time to time, but this is to be expected from a narrative about time travel. The story sees the protagonist’s best friend turning on him when they both gain time-based powers after an experiment goes awry with a time machine, which results in the fracture of time and the looming end of everything. To add extra richness to the story, you are able to find text and audio files dotted around the game’s environments, which slows the action down somewhat, but they’re definitely worth a read in order to draw as much information out of the story as possible.
The game is split into five acts in which you largely play as the rather generically named protagonist Jack Joyce, but at the beginning of each new act you briefly take control of the antagonist Paul Serene, and you are then able to make a decision that will somehow affect the plot of the live action episode that is about to play out as well as future events in the narrative in the game itself. As Serene is able to see into the future, you are able to listen to an overview as to what to expect to happen based on each decision you make during these so called junctions. You are also able to return to these points at any time in order to make the opposing decision, altering the timeline and how things pan out once again.
No expenses have obviously been spared with the game as a whole, and this definitely goes for the streaming live action series as well, which has been crafted so expertly that it fits in beautifully well with the rest of the game. The live action portions were created by Lifeboat Productions, directed by Ben Ketai and feature a number of well known actors, and each episode is certainly a nice way to give you a pause from the rest of the game, giving your hands a break, all without having to leave its fractured universe. That’s something developer Remedy have done so well with Quantum Break as a whole, the excellently executed pacing – the action, the occasional platforming sections, the slower paced moments and episodes from the live action series are all perfectly spread out, which helps maintain interest in the game.
Quantum Break is a third person shooter although, thanks to the amazing time-based powers that Jack Joyce has acquired, there’s more to it than that. With excellent animations and a very reliable context-sensitive cover system that sees your character ducking his head automatically when next to cover, the shooting is great as it is, but combine this with a range of god-like powers, and the game gets even more visceral and varied in its brand of action.
Joyce’s different powers have various capabilities. The most basic is the Time Vision, which highlights enemies red as well as highlighting other notable things such as laptops, ammo bags and explosive barrels. It’s useful when you aren’t sure where enemies are or to get an idea as to the sort of number you are going up against, although you are only able to make use of it when you are standing still. Time Dodge, meanwhile, sends Joyce into a quick forward dash, which is handy to swiftly get into cover. When it comes to the powers that can actually be used against enemies, these include Time Stop, which allows you to temporarily stop enemies and bullets, making for much easier targets. Time Shield puts a protective dome around you, with enemy bullets bouncing off, while your own are still able to be fired out, penetrating it from the inside, and Time Rush allows you to run forward and even take out enemies in your path with a melee attack. Finally, Time Blast is one of the most powerful and satisfying attacks, sending any enemies flying that are caught up in its crushing force.
After exhausting an individual power, that power then enters a cooldown period before you are able to use it again. It’s combining all your powers as well as the gunplay that adds so much depth to the action, meaning that the game is no typical third person shooter. As you eventually have a fair few abilities at your disposal, it can take quite a lot of time before you are able to remember what button does what on the controller though, but you might just find that you need a little practice.
During the game, you might come across a Chronon Source, and Time Vision indicates when one is nearby. When you collect enough of these, you are able to upgrade Joyce’s powers, perhaps making it possible to fire out more Time Stop’s before the power needs to cooldown, or causing the Time Shield to last longer, and so on. Jack Joyce is a very powerful and almost superhero-like protagonist to begin with, but he becomes even more so through upgrades.
The enemy AI is very aggressive in its approach towards you, and they really will do everything in their power to drive you from your place of cover, forcing you to move on. As Joyce doesn’t take too much bullets before he is killed off, you must use cover as well as your Time Shield and the rest of his powers sensibly to survive each enemy onslaught. There isn’t a huge variety of enemy types, although there’s just enough to hold interest, with normal guys, guys with big guns and protective shields, and guys who zip around the levels to contend with.
The game also features some infrequent time-based puzzles, allowing you to rewind time at certain points, stop moving objects, and make use of your dash ability whenever speed is of the essence. While they offer a welcome respite from the action, the puzzles are never as interesting as, say, Life is Strange, and are largely rather unimaginative and unchallenging to solve. For a game based around time manipulation, this is one of the most disappointing aspects of the game. The occasional platforming sections fare better, and these never outstay their welcome.
Another disappointing thing about the game is the final boss, who is absolutely horrendous in so many different ways. I really did have to mention it, as I had to wonder to myself as to what on earth they were thinking during the development of the game. The only memorable thing about this section is just how badly designed everything is, and the game would have definitely benefited from a better way to bring events to a climax.
I mentioned that no expenses have obviously been spared in the development of the game, and the visuals are amongst the finest on the console. The character models have an amazing level of detail, and each actor’s individual facial performance was fully captured to give the game its superb facial movements. The lighting is also excellent, and the system has such attention to detail that the eyes of characters even capture light realistically, which is a rarity. The sections in which time is faltering also look superb, and to see people and objects frozen in time just makes the fractured time theme of the game all the more believable. Finally, Jack Joyce’s powers are all the more fun to use when they look as good as they do in the game, and the muffled sound effects during certain sections also assist in giving you the very real feeling that time is broken.
As long as you don’t rush through it, the game takes around 8-10 hours to complete a play through. As you are able to make different choices and find various collectibles, all of these things add some replay value to the game, although as it’s a linear action title, this certainly isn’t going to be the type of game that might have you playing for months and months on end.
As a merging of two different types of entertainment, Quantum Break is an experiment that has more than paid off though. True, the game would have benefited from far better puzzle design, a far better final boss fight, and has a fair amount to learn and remember in terms of its controls, but this is still a very well made game with a very well made live action series, and thanks to the high production values as well as the care and attention that has been applied to both, they complement one another perfectly. The spectacular action in the game itself is also fantastic, with excellent gunplay, varied powers and some beautiful visuals, which all comes together to make for a highly recommended game.