A unique experience that must be had twice.
gameplay 80 / story 95 / graphics 90 / sound 95
The video game industry is an oddity. Built on the backs of the most creative minds on the planet, yet innovation happens one small step at a time. The cost to make a game has become so great, that publishers and developers are scared to try something new. But not Remedy. Remedy has a knack for creating new ways to experience games. From introducing us to ‘bullet time’ in Max Payne, to showing developers how ‘Episodic Content’ should be done in Alan Wake, to Quantum Break, where they bring all of their ideas together in a single package.
It’s no secret, the unveiling of the Xbox One console in 2013 was nearly a complete disaster. Microsoft came out with a radical concept focused on integrating TV programming and gaming, and the internet rushed to grab their pitchforks. This wasn’t the first time the gaming industry had tried to combine live action video with interactive gaming with little success, but Microsoft was hell bent on proving it could succeed. Microsoft would eventually cave in to the angry mobs gathering on the internet, and nearly all of the TV programming has been canceled. Quantum Break would be the sole survivor from Microsofts original plan. If you ever wondered whether or not Microsoft could have pulled it off, Quantum Break will at least confirm the possibility was there.
The game was rather difficult to control in the beginning, I found myself having to to reduce the sensitivity from 80 all the way down to 50 in order to feel in control of the game in areas with heavy gun play. Even after making this change I still felt the controls were a bit sloppy, movement was slow and cumbersome and gun play still felt like you were on ice. You can use your time powers to raise or lower an object in order to cross a large gap or reach an otherwise unattainable area, but the sloppy controls would tend to make the platforming more of a challenge than it should have been. While this idea sounds awesome, the poor execution really sours the experience. On one hand I am thankful that there wasn’t very much platforming in the game. On the other hand there was clearly a missed opportunity to design more engaging levels full of unique puzzles which force you to think rather than simply shoot everything that moves.
Quantum Break is a cover shooter at its core, however you can’t play the game as you would any other typical cover shooter. Enemies will flank you and can hurt quite a bit if you remain stationary. The key to success is staying active. Moving around a lot while mixing in your time powers so that you’re never a sitting duck, waiting for your abilities to refresh. The game started off pretty slow, setting up the foundation for the story by establishing the the main character, Jack Joyce, and his soon to be enemy, Paul Serene, as best friends reunited. Paul needs Jack to help him test out an experimental time machine against the advice of its’ creator, Jacks brother William Joyce. As predicted, the outcome is a catastrophe that literally breaks time itself. I noticed early on that the story did just enough explaining to make the outcome believable, while being vague enough that the intentional plot holes didn’t leave me confused.
I really liked the pacing of the game. I took my time hunting down all of the hidden items. Read a lot of the extra material available in the game, which also adds a lot of context for the TV show. I also enjoyed the TV a lot. It was a nice little break every couple of chapters and I didn’t feel any pressure to rush to the end of the game. Whether you watch it in game or not, I do recommend watching at least one version of the episodes at some point. I did feel the Quantum Break was shorter than I had hoped. I had planned on completing the game over the course of 4 days after work, instead it only took 3. Though I must admit I ended up playing an extra 2 hours each of the first two nights because I couldn’t put the controller down.
What really nailed it for me was the story. The combined narrative, TV show, and hidden messages found throughout the game built a fantastic tale that weaves itself in and out of time, yet does not fall victim to the typical snags that tend to unravel so many other time-travel based stories. Events at the beginning of the game were small enough that you didn’t pay them that much attention. As you progressed through the game, various parts of the story that were out of sync with the current timeline would be drip fed to you in doses that do nothing more than raise an eyebrow here and there. While the final chapters in the game leads to many ‘ah hah’ moments. Minor events expose themselves as key to the success of the overall plot, while most of the missing puzzle pieces simply fall into place. Most of the game will be wrapped up by the time the credits roll, but there is still at least one big puzzle piece that will leave you wanting to know more, yet not the kind that would leave you upset if the questions are not answered.
Visually this game is a very mixed bag, but overall looks really. The product on screen was beautiful at times yet bland at others. For the most part I didn’t really feel the need to stand back and take in the scenery, as all the beauty came during the action. But there were plenty of times where I was thinking, this looks ok… and other times where I was blown away. I don’t think anyone who plays the game will walk away disappointed in how it looks, in fact I think most will really love it. But it certainly is not pure eye candy from start to finish. Screenshots do not do this game very much justice at all, you have to see it in motion to appreciate how awesome the visuals can be.
There is one other detail that I have yet to discuss, replayability. Normally a single player game would not feature very much reason to go through and play the entire game from start to finish a second time. While some games may have an amazing story that is still amazing on the second, or even third play through. Quantum Break requires a second play through for an entirely different reason. On my first run through the game I went with all of the popular decisions, mostly those that would be less offensive, at each of the 4 junction points. But I never really gave it a second thought. I spent most of that time searching for the hidden times, and less focused on progressing the story. So I kind of started a second play through while fully focused on just the story. I went back to the first junction point and decided to choose the other option this time, and ohhhhh man does it change things right away. I had seen a lot of reviews downplay the changes that take place based on your decisions, but I can’t see how they could not consider the very first junction to have a major effect on the rest of the game/show.
Final Word: The game is not perfect, it has many flaws that normally would have a big effect on how the game is scored overall. But this is a game from Remedy. For all it’s flaws, Quantum Break is nearly a masterpiece. I really enjoyed the game on my first play through. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the TV show in between acts. And I most definitely HAD to play the game a second time through. At the end of the day, I think this is a game that should be experienced by the majority of gamers who own an Xbox One or Windows 10 PC, and is a must for any time-based Sci-Fi fan. I think it deserves a very solid 91 out of 100.
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