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Quantum Break Review // Time Crisis

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Sep
09

Quantum Break is the newest game by developer Remedy, best known for Max Payne and Alan Wake. Quantum Break makes an attempt at blending a video game with a live-action television show. The thought of it is silly and should not translate well, but somehow, Remedy figured it out.

Narrative

Quantum Break puts players in control of Jack Joyce, a normal guy who gets mixed up in some wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff. After many years Jack returns home to see his friend Paul Serene and, by extension, his brother William. What Jack discovers is that his brother and Paul have constructed a working machine but in typical fashion, a malfunction occurs that ends up exposing Jack and Paul to chronon radiation giving them time manipulating powers and effectively starting an event called "The End of Time."

What follows is a literal race against time as Jack tries to stop Paul and his corporation, Monarch Solutions, from ending the world.

Time travel and time manipulation itself can be a difficult subject to build a narrative around but Remedy made it simple and concise by keeping two simple rules. Firstly, time cannot be changed by the time traveler's actions and time travelers can only travel between the same machines at different periods of time. Confusing? It will make sense when you play the game.

The game is split into five acts with a junction point and a live-action episode at the end of each. The junction points put players in the role of Paul Serene and he is offered two choices. The choices presented alter various points later in the game, meaning a character I potentially kill off in the junction will not appear later on and might change the motives of other characters.

The live-action segments are four, 22 minute episodes that explore several characters within Monarch as they work their way through problems that at times intersect with Jack's mission. The only problem with the show are its two viewing formats. You can stream the episodes but if your connection is not up to snuff, be prepared for a lot of buffering. The other option would be to download the episodes straight to hard drive but even that takes up a whopping 70gb of precious space. Thankfully, the episodes can be skipped as they do not necessarily change the outcome of the game itself. At various points in the game Jack may come across quantum ripples that add an extra scene to an episode, but that is it.

While the story is there, a good chunk of background information is explained through the collectibles. While tedious at first, Jack gains a power that allows collectibles to be highlighted for him.

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Interaction

Quantum Break is a third person shooter with a few wrinkles in the mix. Because Jack has been exposed to chronon radiation he gains powers that bend time around him and his enemies. These powers include a time shield that will stop incoming projectiles, a time bubble he can encase foes in that allow Jack to unload a barrage of bullets at once, a dash that allows Jack to quickly move in between foes, and more. My favorite of the time powers was the Time Rush. By holding down LB, time would slow to a crawl and Jack could run around and perform a knockout punch to satisfying results.

Instead of spacing out the powers Jack would get, the game introduces them one after another in a steady stream so just as I was becoming comfortable, another one would be given to me to spice up firefights. The inclusion of the time powers made every encounter a playground and each one was handled differently than the previous ones. Before I knew it, I had a rhythm of using each power while still compensating for the cooldown timer on each.

The cover system is the one aspect of the gameplay I had small difficulty getting accustomed to. Unlike games such as Gear of War or Uncharted where getting in and out of cover was by the use of a button, Quantum Break decides to go for a more "natural" system. As Jack approached some form of cover whether it's a column, desk,  or a shelf, he crouches down no matter what. In theory, this should help me from taking damage but Jack would still crouch down behind a column with his backside sticking out. While using covers is an option, it is a lot more fun to zip between places and shoot a few time bubbles before zipping elsewhere. Play it like an arcade shooter and the game becomes a lot more fun.

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Presentation

One part video game, another part live-action. I love the look of the game when time stutters and bullets, cars, explosion, and everything is just stagnant as Jack walks around. Environments are detailed and character models closely resemble their live-action counterparts. Shawn Ashmore, who played Iceman in the X-Men film series, lends his talents as Jack Joyce whereas Aiden Gillen, who plays Littlefinger in Game of Thrones, is the game's villain. The whole cast does a fantastic job of breathing life into the characters both in the game and in the show.

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Innovation

From a gameplay perspective, the junction points are something that I have not seen done in a game before. The ability to play as the villain and inadvertently change future interactions in the game for the protagonist, is interesting. But it's the live-action segments that are the real winner here. It is tough to say if others will follow this route in the future but Remedy at least knows how to set the bar for an interesting concept.

Value

I completed the game at around 20 hours but I'm not sure if it included my time watching the show and I can say that a good hour or two was from me gawking at the details on screen. If you yearn for finding all the collectibles and upgrading everything, then a second and possible third playthrough are just for you. The two different junction points at the end of each act could also elicit another playthrough but that is totally up to player discretion.

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Conclusion

Quantum Break is my favorite Xbox One exclusive at this point and time. If anything, it reminded me that time is a valuable thing as I watched it count down to the end of the day.

Score: 8.5/10

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