Next week, Quantum Break from Remedy Entertainment, the development company behind titles like Max Payne and Alan Wake, releases for Xbox One and Windows 10. Quantum Break seeks to blur the line between video game and TV show as the game transitions from third person shooter to live action episodes, showing you the outcome of your actions. With an all-star cast of Shawn Ashmore (Iceman from X-Men), Dominic Monaghan (Merry from Lord of the Rings), and Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish from Game of Thrones), both the game and the live action episodes show the level of quality Remedy was attempting to reach.
An experiment goes wrong that leads to you, Jack Joyce, and your friend, Paul Serene, gaining various time manipulation abilities. The downside of the experiment was that time was beginning to break down, freezing at intervals that were getting closer and closer together. It’s up to you to figure out what is happening and what you can do to stop time from ending. Story is delivered to you in a timely and efficient manner in Quantum Break. You never feel like you’re jumping through hoops, and the next bit of information is never too far away.
This style of fast paced story with little to no filler gives players the feeling that they are playing a video game, while also watching a miniseries. With a mixture of serious tones and comedic lines of dialogue, the story in Quantum Break will keep you entertained from start to finish. Even when you’re not progressing through the world according to the main story, every single collectible you pick up will allow you to learn more and more about the world around you in the forms of email, pictures, and even one guard’s misguided attempt at writing a screenplay.
You play as Jack Joyce for the majority of the game as you try to fight your way through the henchmen of Monarch Industries and figure out a way of saving the world. Solid cover shooter mechanics mix well with abilities such as Time Stop, Time Shield, and even a Time Rush. These temporal powers never make you feel too overpowered, as there is always the chance that you can die if you mess around too much.
After a few sections as Jack you will play a Junction as Paul Serene and make a decision on how Paul and Monarch Industries will react to Jack’s latest progress. Once you’ve selected your choice, you get to watch a twenty minute episode of how Monarch Industries carries out Serene’s plan. This is in line with Remedy’s idea that the “game is about the heroes and the show is about the villains.” Storytelling like this lends itself even further to the idea of playing a TV miniseries, as you’re not just following the hero of the story but instead getting a healthy mix of all of the characters. At any time, you’re able to replay these Junctions and make a different decision that will not only change the live action episode but will also change the story in the next act, even some collectibles will be rearranged.
Quantum Break runs at 720p, but Remedy has upscaled the game to 1080p using temporal upscaling, which allows for a higher pixel quality and a more complex shading system. This process doesn’t give Quantum Break the full 1080p treatment, but it gets a lot closer than regular upscaling. One big issue with the game upscaling based on previous frames is that anything that moves suddenly or changes direction will create a slight afterimage. This is an interesting trade-off to occur for the increased quality, but for the small number of times you notice the after image, it is worth it for the quality.
Motion capture work in Quantum Break is also extremely well-done, especially the work done on recreating faces. You know instantly that you’re looking at real life actors, not a character made up for the purpose of the game. Seeing their faces move as they talk or show emotion in reaction to events really shows just how much time and effort was put into the look of the characters. This also serves the game well when it swaps to live action segments, the difference is certainly there but it’s quite close.
All of the dialogue is delivered believably by the actors, so even when they’re discussing “Time Eggs” there is a serious tone in the air. The backing soundtrack in Quantum Break is also really good, with tracks such as Toto’s Africa and other big songs dispersed throughout that add to the realism of the world. There is even an interesting setting for YouTubers and Streamers to turn off the copyrighted music so that there won’t be any fears of takedowns while still allowing everyone to enjoy that game. A particular stand out effect is the warping of sounds in some of your time abilities and having enemy shouts distort as you manipulate time around them. This adds another layer of realism to the powers that you have in the way that the world reacts to them.
Remedy Entertainment is able to take the idea of a blockbuster game to the next level with the release of Quantum Break. We’ve seen games in the past with actors taking the lead, such as Ellen Page in Beyond: Two Souls, and even games that have some kind of live action tie-in like Defiance, but this is the first game that blends the two successfully. Aside from the differences in story available through the junctions, there isn’t too much replay value, but even the experience of playing this game once is one worth having.
Quantum Break was reviewed on the Xbox One with a code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PC via the Windows Store.
With a great cast, fun third person action and a set of interesting and unique powers Quantum Break stands out as an amazing game with plenty of unique features.