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Quantum Break is the biggest new IP to hit the Xbox One so far. It’s an ambitious project that tries to meld a tv show seamlessly with a videogame. You actions will have consequences and will shape the story. The game went through a rather rough development and many changes were clearly made with the biggest being the standalone tv show being put into the game as live action episodes. After numerous delays; Remedy’s newest adventure is finally here. While the game doesn’t deliver on every promise, it is a very fun game with some fantastic moments dotted throughout.
Anyone who has played any of Remedy’s previous games will know these guys know how to tell a story. Quantum Break deals with time travel which is one of my favorite topics in all of fiction. I won’t explain exactly what the story is as it would take a while and you can look up at synopsis elsewhere but it’s all relatively straightforward time travel stuff. A bad thing happens. You try and go back in time to prevent it etc. Ultimately the story never really progressed the way I wanted it to from the opening scenes.
There are a few moments where it really becomes something quite interesting in the genre. One element I particularly like is when a character gets lost in a certain time period and has to wait to catch up with everything that’s going on. It’s something TV shows like Dr Who have been doing effectively for years and when Quantum Break did this I was excited. But then 10 minutes later it’s glossed over and isn’t mentioned again. I bring up this example as it best describes what I thought of the narrative overall. A few very cool moments and concepts but nothing is fully fleshed out into anything to make it feel special.
The live action component of the game (which plays out as a 25 minute episode of a show after every act) I actually really enjoyed for the most part. It was very well acted and shot, it didn’t feel cheap or like most live action stuff you see in games. It really felt like a real TV show which is the best compliment I can give it and I actually wish there was more of it that was available to watch outside of the game. It’s a shame the original plan of a TV show running alongside the game didn’t come to fruition.
One of the positives however of the live action does also lead to a negative. I liked that it focused on the supporting cast more as it really fleshed out the characters better than any videogame has done in recent years. There were multiple characters which I knew their motivations and who they were and was interested in their involvement in the grand story. But unfortunately this meant I felt way closer and knew more about them then I did the main characters. It’s weird watching the show and learning lots about these characters you barely see while playing the game. And then playing the game and wanting to know more about the main group of characters you play as and see.
Also after each act is a Junction point, where you actually play as the antagonist and have to make a 50/50 choice which will ‘affect’ both the game and the show. You can to see the potential outcomes before making your choice and really I didn’t think this added anything to the game whatsoever. It’s weird playing as the bad guy because you don’t know if you should pick what’s best for them or what’s best for the main character. And none of the choices I made felt like it made much of a difference at all. This feature the most feels like something they had grand ambitions for and through many reasons ended up just feeling pretty half baked.
The game does have some very odd pacing at times also. There’s very much 3 different types of gameplay. Shooting, platforming and walking around and listening/talking to people. I’ll dive into the first two more later on but the walking around parts seem to drag on quite a bit and are very frequent, especially at the start. You play as a guy who has awesome time manipulation powers and you really wanna use them; but then the game decides to make you slowly walk around an environment while someone drones on for a few minutes. It’s an odd design choice.
Let’s talk about the shooting. It’s mostly really good! Early on I wasn’t so convinced as it gives you all the powers straight away pretty much and you don’t really unlock anything or have to motivation to progress. You can unlock better abilities but it barely changes the gameplay at all. However the later I got into the game I actually really enjoyed the shooting parts a whole lot. I really like the choice of having each time power have it’s own cooldown instead of a overall time meter that gets drained as it really teaches you to switch up what you’re using which leads to a more fun experience.
Early on there were some annoying sequences where the area felt way too tight so you can’t really zip around the enemies and take them out quickly. But once the game really opens up the powers tie together super nicely. Whether it’s freezing a time bubble around an enemy and filling it with bullets or freezing time to run up behind them and shotgun blast in the back; there were some really fun moments that are up there with any third person shooter I’ve played.
I played this game on PC and unfortunately there were many performance issues throughout. It’s been documented well already and Remedy have said they are working on fixes so hopefully the experience will be smoother in the future but I mostly experienced framerate issues the most. My PC is very new but by no means high end. However I do fit well above the minimum requirements so expect the game to run fine on medium settings. Sadly this wasn’t the case.
I experienced the most slow down during the moments when the game switches between cutscenes and gameplay. It’s as if the engine is reloading the game world up again and lags very heavily. Luckily the game always ran fine during shooting sections which was really odd but fortunate as it would have made some sections unplayable if they ran as bad as some of the platforming parts that were made more difficult than they should have been. The game never crashed (except when I tried it on Ultra settings for a joke) and didn’t encounter any bugs or glitches so if they sort the framerate issues out it’ll be fine. Also the second half of the game ran way better than the first for what it’s worth.
Outside of running better; I did enjoy the latter parts of Quantum Break the most. Not only did it run well and as I mentioned earlier the combat really came together but the best character and story moments are also saved for last. Act 4 in particular was a high point and if the game had carried this standard throughout I would be raving about this game right now. The story overall ended pretty much as well as I expected and overall I’d say I was slightly disappointed. Mainly based on what Remedy have achieved and what I believe you can do within the time travel mold. But still a fun videogame narrative.
Even though I had a lot of gripes with Quantum Break I still had a great time with the game. I really found the shooting a joy to play and would gladly play it more. I was super into all of the character’s performances (my standout being Aidan Gillen) and was invested in the plot even if it wasn’t that unique. I found the effects and visuals very cool and time collapsing was represented well. I was maybe left wanting more when I finished my time with the game but that could be expecting too much. Part of me wants to see what Remedy can do on their own again without Microsoft seemingly putting pressure for a release but regardless of all these factors; Quantum Break is a very enjoyable experience.