Reviewing Quantum Break is an exceptionally difficult task. Reviewing any game that stands on its narrative and story direction is incredibly hard to do. Quantum Break is that type of game, one that is driven by narrative, plots and subplots, and the options of choice. Running through the game and giving our impressions WITHOUT spoiling the story might not make for the greatest review, but it needs to be done none-the-less.
Frankly, the story is outstanding. The way the story is presented is outstanding. The work done by the actors, is also – understandably – outstanding. If your fear is the story and the direction it takes, stop reading this, go grab a copy, and get to work. This could be one of the best narratives of 2016.
I will provide some context, however. You play as protagonist Jack Joyce – acted by Shawn Ashmore – who is (was?) an out of control individual who made many poor choices in the years preceding this story. At 4 AM on a specific night, Jack is invited to a universities science and technology building by old friend Paul Serene – acted by Aidan Gillien, famous for being Little Finger on Game of Thrones. Paul has been working on a project for many years that could alter and suspend time; Jack’s brother William Joyce – acted by Dominic Monaghan of Lord of the Rings fame – was also one of the scientists working on the project.
William had reservations about the project Paul was working on, which is one of the reasons Jack is invited to the University. Through emails you uncover on computers throughout the lobby of the science and tech building, as well through dialogue, you will eventually realize a few things…which, at this point, I will not get into.This really is where things began to take a turn and you are left wondering for brief moments, “What will happen next?”
Through emails you uncover on computers throughout the lobby of the science and tech building, as well through dialogue, you will eventually realize a few things.
This is the driving force behind Quantum Break: “What will happen next?” In any video game, this is always a great way for a game to keep you moving and playing. However, there needs to be a constant pace to keep people entertained. Quantum Break does a great job of this. There is actually a lot to learn when you fully take control of Jack Joyce following the “incident.” You need to learn how to manipulate time to your advantage, how to move fast over short distances, how to rewind time to help bridge gaps, and so on. It’s a steep learning curve – one of the few problems I have with the game – and so much gets piled on so early that when I walked away and came back the next day, I was often left trying button combinations to move through a specific puzzle. There is a lot to take in, but once you do, everything moves so fluidly.
You will move through various types of areas. Some will be fairly restricted – a hallway perhaps, or a series of small rooms in an office – to more wide open areas like parking lots. The game does a great job of pointing you towards the very few ‘collectibles’ that you will find in this title. Remember playing Assassins Creed and looking all over for those flags? Not here. Each level will often have two “optional” goals. One is to collect intel of computers that will help shape more of the story, while the other involves collecting upgrade points that you can use to make your manipulation of time more effective.
I say optional because neither is required. However, both are advised, and it really doesn’t take a lot of work to get them all in each level. By selecting Y on your Xbox One controller, Jack can highlight interactive objects within his view. Some of these objects will be enemies that can be killed, flammables that could be exploded if shot at, upgrade points, or computer terminals and TV’s that might provide more context. The more context you have as you work through Quantum Break, the better the experience will be. You will be able to (maybe, depending on how smart you are) predict certain plot points before they happen; worst case, these Intel bites will actually create more suspense and intrigue!
A good story and good concept can go to waste if controlling the characters is a chore. Like I mentioned earlier, I do find that Quantum Break has a fairly high difficulty curve. While doing the various maneuvers are not difficult in and of themselves, when you are dumped with 5 or 6 different time manipulation tactics, it can get confusing until you’ve managed to get a good handle on them all. The game will provide hints from time-to-time, but often I would find myself stuck on a specific puzzles for 5 – 10 minutes only because I couldn’t remember which button combination to use. This was more of a problem early on, but never a game ending issue for me.
Combat is easy. Once you know which time manipulation tactics are most effective when fighting you will be moving around, from cover to cover, taking out enemies in no times. Here is where the difficulty meter comes into play. If you are not great at shooters, that doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy Quantum Break. On the lowest difficulty level you get all of the same great story, but without the frequent deaths. Dying on easy, is frankly, pretty difficult.
Did I mention there was a TV show involved?
Off the top, you may have noticed that I noted various characters within the game, and said they were acted by specific actors. More times than not, actors who move into the video game world will often just lend their voices during the games development. Quantum Break is different. If you go into the game blind, you might wonder why the video game representation of the actors is so accurate. Why does Jack Joyce have to look like Shawn Ashmore? How comes I see Merry Brandybuck and Little Finger running around my game? Frankly, I totally believed that this was a type of cop out by the developers, where they could just use these actors likenesses instead of coming up with something original on their own.
Remember, I came in blind. No previews. No trailers. No press events. Nothing.
Turns out, there is a (fantastic) TV showed tied to Quantum Break which fills in plot gaps between various Acts. You will follow many members of Monarch Solutions and have their stories filled in for you. Each episode various, but generally last about 25-30 minutes. Here is where Quantum Break might run into some problems. People are either going to love the 30 minute breaks where we legitimately watch a TV show – this is me – while others might hate it. “I didn’t pay 60-80 dollars to watch a TV show!” will be a common statement I fear, which is unfair. On its own, even without the long tv show narrative, Quantum Break could stand on its own as a full AAA release. I feel this to be an added bonus, one that I really enjoy.
This game is hard to talk about. I don’t want to spoil narrative, or give away too much information on various time manipulation movements. However, if you are a fan of story driven titles with great controls, Quantum Break is definitely for you.
Oh ya! And you can play multiple times and choose different paths too. Did I forget to mention that? You better get playing to find out…
- Outstanding visuals; the freezing of time is portrayed very well, as our the rifts.
- Great acting in the TV episodes, great direction in the game.
- All star cast! You care about the people you are playing with.
- Wonderful pacing.
- Steep learning curve early on.
- Some areas can feel, ’empty.’