INTRODUCTIONQuantum Break has been one of the most anticipated Xbox One games recently and comes from the team that made Max Payne and Alan Wake. The game has an impressive cast including Shawn Ashmore, Dominic Monaghan and many more. Quantum Break has tried something pretty unique here with a game that has a television series that ties into it. The idea is to make the story and world feel even more immersive.
STORYIn Quantum Break you play as Jack Joyce and you start out by heading to Riverport University to meet your friend Paul, who has been working on a secret project with your brother Will. Paul begins to show you around and things soon become clear that the project is something much bigger than first anticipated. You’re soon dragged into the thick of it when their project is activated, revealing itself to be a time machine. The test causes a rift in time and therefore starts the end of time as we know it.
Not only has the machine had an impact on time but it has also given you some unique abilities and powers. These powers all allow you to manipulate and alter time itself in some way. These are quickly introduced to you as you find yourself being hunted down by the mysterious group known as Monarch Solutions. The story itself is a huge part of the game and sees a personal tale and the relationship with the most important people in Jacks life. The game throws up some interesting ideological differences and how the situation should be handled. The catastrophic event has torn Jack and Paul apart and now seek very different paths that unfolds as the game progresses.
GAMEPLAYThe gameplay is fast-paced, third person action with shooting and exploration. The general gameplay doesn’t really offer anything new in terms of shooting but the powers you gain does make the combat feel fresh and satisfying. The game does have a cover based system, but its not quite the same as other third person shooters. It feels much more free flowing and open, which works well as its more about using your powers to cunningly move through each area. You use your new abilities to take out enemies by altering time and taking advantage of the precious few seconds you have over each bad guy. Although you have some awesome powers the enemies are still very powerful and aggressive.
ABILITIESJack has gained five main abilities, Time Vision, Time Stop, Time Dodge, Time Shield and Time Blast. These powers can be useful in many ways and the most satisfying outcomes are when you manage to chain together attacks to wipe out enemies. You also have a special vision mode that allows to to survey the area for enemy locations. Time Stop is a very useful power that sees you trapping enemies in a bubble where time has slowed meaning you can easily shoot them. Time Dodge allows you to quickly dash across the room, much like the Blink ability in Dishonored. What I particularly liked about this power is that you get a few seconds after the dodge to shoot enemies in slow motion.
The Time Shield is a very useful mechanic that creates a protective bubble around you that freezes time. This bubble can stop incoming bullets and last of all there’s Time Blast, which is my favourite power. This allows you to fire a ball of energy at enemies causing them to explode. You upgrade all of these powers by collecting orb-like items known as ‘chronon sources'. The only shame is that the game throws all the powers at you pretty early on and it could have been more interesting to spread them out over the game. These powers do make you feel awesome though and I loved chaining skills together to take out waves of bad guys.
Quantum Break feels fast-paced for the most part but the areas in-between combat sees you exploring and doing some basic platforming. It basically involves climbing, jumping and using your powers to manipulate objects in certain ways in order to progress. This does feel a bit generic but it does actually break up the relentless action.
PRESENTATIONThe game has a unique cinematic feel and the actors involved help to create an immersive and realistic experience despite the fact its all about time travel. The game intentionally glitches and freezes due to time manipulation and corruption, with objects floating in mid air and screen tearing. The game is broken up into separate acts, much like a television series, and at the end of each act you’ll suddenly find your control shift to Paul Serene for sequences known as ‘Junctions’. This sees you having to face various scenarios where you need to make a choice. The choice you make will impact the 20-minute live action episode that follows. These choices do actually impact the episode to come so its important to choose wisely. I liked this idea as it gives the game good reason to go back and replay to see how episodes would play out in different ways.
TV SERIESSome people may be put off by the idea of sitting through 20 minute episodes but they are actually surprisingly impressive and add more depth to the world and narrative. You can skip these episodes but I do strongly recommend watching them if you want a richer experience in the game. These live action episodes focus more on the characters that surround the core narrative and rather than the main characters. You can also read plenty of notes, boards and computer terminals to get even more backstory and depth to the world if you wish to do so in game. The only real issue I had with the game was that it did tend to stutter a lot and I was never quite sure when it was intentional or part of the design. I would also find the quality of the animations and graphics would vary throughout with some parts looking fantastic whilst some areas and textures would look less good.
CONCLUSIONThe game is around ten hours long and does have some replayability if you wish to go back and try the different decision options. The story and world are well designed and the cinematic approach helps the player feel immersed. The acting is great in the game and this continues into the surprisingly good live action episodes. The combat is hugely satisfying but doesn’t offer anything too original.
Overall Quantum Break is a decent experience that has some unique and interesting ideas that feel fresh. The integration of a live action tv series works better than I expected and I enjoyed learning more about the world and the characters involved. The action is fast paced, satisfying and great fun when chaining abilities together. I would have liked to have seen the choices in the game have more impact on the final outcome but for the most part they work well. Its certainly a unique third person action game that’s worth checking out if you like a good story and world to explore.
PROS- Interesting and well crafted narrative
- Good acting and writing
- Combat and powers feel fun and satisfying
- The television series gives more depth to the characters and story
CONS- Surprisingly linear despite choice making
- Visuals can vary throughout the game