Quantum Break Review

Quantum Break Review

Time Is of the Essence

Remedy Entertainment has a knack for creating memorable characters and gripping narratives, as the many fans of Max Payne and Alan Wake will easily attest to. Quantum Break follows suit and expands its story into a live action medium. The script is solid and the performances well-delivered. In fact, the narrative plays such a prominent role that it accentuates the lackluster gameplay – a third-person action shooter that has plenty of potential but falls into standard tropes with mediocre execution.

It’s easy to imagine the design possibilities given the time-manipulating “super powers” thrust upon Jack Joyce, the protagonist cast into the role of hero trying to understand his mentally unstable physicist brother and the true motives behind an old friend’s call for help. After an experiment goes terribly awry, Joyce’s powers begin to manifest, granting him the ability to disrupt localized time fields. Dodging in a flash, slowing enemies to pepper them with ammo, creating a bullet stopping shield bubble, and launching enemies with a force blast are the handful of abilities that add flair to an otherwise generic shooter.

Enemies are your standard make-up of corporate mercenaries, wielding shotguns, SMGs, rifles, and other common firearms, with an occasional soldier equipped with extra protection or time-distorting gear to copy your powers. The AI is aggressive, constantly trying to flank you, but isn’t exceptionally challenging, even on harder difficulties. A flurry of time enhanced bullets or a few well-placed headshots are enough to handle every predictable wave of fresh mercs. Zipping between the hand placed cover spots and pelting enemies before they can blink noticeably tips the balance in your favor. Paired with speedy health regeneration, ammo replenishing backpacks sprinkled practically everywhere, and consequence-free deaths, it’s clear the focus was meant on keeping the story moving forward.

Unlike the perfect pacing in Alan Wake’s episodic structure, Quantum Break is as disjointed as the time stutters it portrays. You’ll be pinned down one moment by a dozen or so enemies in a courtyard or abandoned warehouse, then just when you begin to find a tactical rhythm the game pulls you out of combat to tackle a rudimentary puzzle involving the scripted use of Joyce’s powers, in which your hand is held most of the time through. Or you’ll spend far too much time sifting through a research area, perusing wordy documents and reading lengthy emails.

Despite the oddity of accessing sensitive emails on random computers, the information grants you a great deal of insight on the supporting cast in the game. You could simply bypass these “collectible” pieces of lore to find some more action, but then you lose some of the backstory Remedy tries so hard to promote. It would be like fast forwarding though a movie scene or skipping a few pages in a book simply to find the part where bullets start flying again.

If you relish discovering every piece of exposition and soaking in every cinematic cutscene, then Quantum Break has plenty to offer. The in-game cutscenes provide many dramatic breaks, but this production goes a giant step further with a full live-action show. At the end of each act, after you’ve made a crucial decision between two (somewhat) story altering choices, the game convinces you to grab some popcorn and a drink, and fluff up your cushion for the show. Each end of act scene runs roughly a half hour, piecing together a full-length movie when all is said and done. Joyce plays a relatively secondary role during these scenes, as they focus more on the internal affairs of Monarch corporation and revolve heavily on the calamity of time coming to an end. It may be a cast of relatively minor actors, but each does an absolutely fantastic job in their roles. Patrick Heusinger delivers the most ethical performance as Monarch’s head of security, struggling between his duties, the safety of his family, and the fate of the universe. Game of Thrones’s Aiden Gillen gives a solid portrayal of Joyce’s “friend” and main antagonist Paul Serene, but the Oscar goes to his right hand man Martin Hatch, played by Fringe’s Lance Reddick. Reddick masterfully shifts between motives with an almost unsettling poise, playing angles at every turn to further his personal ambitions and keep us guessing from start to finish.

From live action to in-game visuals, the production quality is excellent. During the live action sequences, cinematography sets up great camera angles to set the tone, with fight scenes dancing the camera’s focus around to deliver a flurry of action. I did expect a heavier use of CGI considering the premise of the story and its prominence within the game. When you take control of Joyce in the game, the effects are stunning. Every power unleashed warps your surroundings, and the jagged, glass shatter look when frozen in time (and its intensification as the campaign progresses) highlights the stunning graphical quality as well as the anxiety and trepidation of the dire situation. The backgrounds for each act are highly detailed and worth stopping to pan the camera and take in the scene, but most fail to evoke any unease to accompany the story, and are rather just ideal locations for firefights. Facial expressions are appropriate to the dialogue, and movements are smooth and believable. Apart from a few Exorcist-like head spins during some dialogue scenes, the animations and physics are pretty spot on.

As is the full audio spectrum. From the Matrix inspired time warping effects to the fully orchestrated action movie soundtrack, everything fits the bill as expected. Weapons fire with punch, audibly enhanced as powers are used, and silenced instantly when time freezes to a disconcerting calm. And the voice acting is flawless, granting each character a distinct personality and making the entire cast memorable.

It is apparent from the first minute to the last that an epic narrative is the primary focus in Quantum Break . From the full-length live action film to the extensive emails and documents, the game beckons you to savor the internal drama and cataclysmic storyline. If you’re more interested in skipping to the action, you’ll likely be disappointed with the remedial difficulty and generic shooter structure. The game promotes using extraordinary time manipulating powers to defeat enemies and solve puzzles, but fails to provide a creative challenge to make them exciting beyond their visual panache. Quantum Break sacrifices gameplay for story, but it is definitely a page-turner.

Environments lack the atmosphere of other Remedy games, but the details, animations, character models, and the live action sequences are stunning. 3.0 Control
It’s a passable cover-based shooter, but apart from the visual flair of Joyce’s powers, doesn’t offer anything unique. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A great soundtrack, perfectly executed voice acting, and effects that give the science fiction of time manipulation a realistic quality. 3.0 Play Value
A gripping story awaits you, but the action in between hinders the experience and encumbers the pace. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • When time breaks, catastrophe becomes your playground. As hero Jack Joyce, you’ll fight your way through epic disasters that stutter back and forth in time.
  • Push cinematic action to the next level in this time-fractured world. Freeze time to gain the upper hand. Warp past enemies. Turn time-frozen objects into weapons with a single touch. With time itself in your arsenal, combat is never predictable.
  • Go deeper into the fast-paced world of Quantum Break with a thrilling live action companion series. Your gameplay affects how the live action story unfolds, creating a completely unique entertainment experience.

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