Time travel is always at the heart of a great imagination, and with Back to the Future still a joy to watch as a grown up or child there is a lot of love for the concept in film and games. And in this Quantum Break review you have a game, much darker than Back to the Future, but it will get you hooked on the story and characters right away as you get involved in this plot of broken time in a game that, in itself, uses more traditional gaming techniques that are less prominent in titles today.
But is Quantum Break old school or trapped in time?
For me its old school, focusing on a linear story and characters following path split into chapters or Acts in this case. It does break from more modern gaming traditions in this way and, where it gets it right you won’t even notice because the story, and the way it’s all portrayed by the outstanding cast, is marvellous. However, somethings feel a little out of place in the world of gaming now but not enough to stop this from being a great game that fans of Remedy Entertainment will enjoy.
It’s not going to be for everyone and the experience is short lived, but you certainly will enjoy the game and come back for more.
Look & Feel
As I said in my Quantum Break Preview (with some cool gameplay you should check out), the game may not run at 1080p as people expect of titles now. But it does look beautiful, with some exceptional capture of the real actors in the game. Faces look incredibly detailed with every movement and word spoken synced perfectly as the plot unfolds.
Environments are really well captured too, with lighting effects really jumping out at you as you move around. And when time starts playing up around you with the stutters, making everything freeze or move awkwardly trapped in an unstable time-loop, that’s when the game looks at its most impressive.
Technically the game is a little rougher around the edges, there are a number of times the game will stutter or stop as you play. This happens in combat more often than not but sometimes you may see a lost frame or two in general movement too. More often than not it’s as the game loads, and loading is the weakest part of the title for me, even though Remedy are working on this element of the game, it’s still the biggest break-up of the game’s immersive story.
Loading can take a while, and that’s not too bad if it only loads once but at times it loads a cut-scene for the start of the chapter and gets you close to the action… then back to a loading screen again before you take over. It’s rather annoying, especially when you feel like you are about to start playing. Skipping scenes on my second play through or after a death also just feels rather pointless since you’ll, at times, be treated to a loading screen for just as long as the video sequence.
The face capture and replication of the actors is nothing short of incredible
However, these are all patchable things that they can improve upon and if this happens you will see an update to the review here but, as it stands, it’s annoying.
Overall though, the game looks and plays great once it loads in, the face capture and replication of the actors is nothing short of incredible and the overall experience is great if not quite as striking as some games in the same genre.
Story & Characters
Here you have what Quantum Break is all about, it makes no apologies for putting a rich storyline at the heart of the game. And the acting talent brought in is quite incredible for a game, yes they have been brought in with the live action element in mind, but still it’s highly impressive.
Games usually have 2 or 3 big name actors these days, but even outside the lead heroes and villains of Quantum Break, you have a number of quality actors taking supporting roles that really add to the experience as a package.
But what are they all doing and what’s going on? Well, without spoiling anything major, here goes.
You play as Jack Joyce most of the time, performed exceptionally well for his role by Shaun “Iceman” Ashmore from Xmen (the films, he’s not an actual Xman!). He’s old friends with Paul Serene, Aiden “Littlefinger” Gillen who also plays a great role as the villain. The two meet to setup and discuss Paul’s time travel plans and he requests Jack’s help. But things soon go wrong and you end up exposed to a temporal event that leaves Jack with extraordinary abilities that you get to control.
But time is broken by what has happened and the fracture created by the event has time stuttering all over the place, things freeze or become unstable in time.
Immune to the freezing Jack can see how broken time is becoming and also use it to his advantage. Jack’s Brother, William Joyce played by Lord of The Rings actor Dominic Monaghan, has worked on time travel for years with Paul but tried to stop things happening, fearing this fracture would happen. And what’s more, a company called Monarch Solutions is involved and are determined to control the time machine, showing up right after the initial disaster not afraid to use force to stop you and claim the technology for themselves.
It’s an excellent story told by a fabulous cast.
You’re soon on the run from Monarch, and Paul Serene is deeply affected by the events in the time machine. He’s losing himself in paranoia and his own ability to see the future after living another life in the past. What I really enjoyed about Quantum Break was how, at the end of each Act, you get to control Paul and use his abilities to make a choice. This not only affects the game but the live action show too which is a nice touch.
While playing as Jack you must use your abilities and help from Beth Wilder and others to fix the fracture in the with your brother’s lost technology. From there everything becomes tangled through time with some clever twists and turns along the way.
The story for the game is rich enough, but you also have the live action elements to watch that focus on Monarch employees and their leader Martin Hatch more than the game, although they all appear in both game and live action, this sees how the Monarch Corporation is struggling to keep a lid on the corruption going on around time travel and their staff. Liam Burke takes a lead here, played by Patrick Heusinger from The Black Swan, along with other members of the supporting cast that really are high calibre and make for an entertaining show that’s more than worth watching between the Acts of the game.
What I like most about the story is they make time travel interesting without getting you wrapped up with paradoxes and other things that can make your head hurt. If anything they go in the opposite direction most of the plot, suggesting everything is on rails and there is nothing you can do to stop it. In fact, any actions you take are already part of the inevitable.
It’s an excellent story told by a fabulous cast that really does work both in the game and in the Live Action. It also goes a way to conclude this story for the most part but also leaves some unanswered questions ready for a potential sequel that is more than hinted at.
What’s a shame however is how soon it’s all over, the game isn’t particularly long even with the live action it will be complete in under 10 hours for most gamers, with the show taking about 90minutes of that time. This was with me doing what-I-do playing games like this, trying to find all the hidden secrets and extras. Someone less bothered about those things, or the show even, may be done in half that time or less if you rushed it.
There is replay value however, at the end of each act you get to choose a path to go down with the future being written by your choice as you control Paul Serene for the Junction missions. With two choices that affect both the game and the live action episodes to follow, there is more than enough reason to go back and play the game again. It’s no Heavy Rain with its impact here with the choices but it’s different enough to be worth a replay. But with little else to do after you are finished, know that if you get it, you are going into Quantum Break to experience a great but brief experience.
Thankfully the gameplay is strong enough to keep you coming back for more.
Often with story focused games that push the limits of the actors and the plot, the gameplay can suffer but in Quantum Break you get some really fast and fun combat gameplay that makes you feel like a time powered badass at times. Some of the platforming elements and animations are less impressive than some games in the same genre but they are still very engaging, especially when time stutters.
As time is broken you are charged with time based abilities and they are some pretty cool ones. What I like about them is the fact they often serve a dual purpose, time freeze for example can stop time around an enemy and keep them frozen. This is of course handy to stop you being shot at, but you can shoot this time bubble and the stacked bullets make it explode as time restarts and blow the enemy away.
A technique that really helps with the big, armoured enemies.
The preview goes into more detail on all of them but for me my favourites were the “Time Dodge” that is a short dash turning into a bullet time effect when you aim your gun right away after was very helpful and worked for my playstyle. There is a big hitter too in Time Blast that can help against larger enemies along with Time Rush that’s good for getting behind people as you move a bit like Shaun’s friend from The Xmen, Quicksilver for a short time and get in behind people.
Doing this helps since not all enemies are held back by time displacements and will come after you even in a time stutter as a standard goon freezes. Your powers are less effective on them too so you have to think what to do to beat them and one way is to disable their armour. Each of these abilities is upgradable too with upgrade points you earn as you find Chronon particles around your locations, there are a lot of these and some well hidden so it’s worth really looking around for them.
Gunplay is reasonably standard and combines nicely with your powers. I found it rather odd that enemies can use grenades but Jack can’t although he does have three weapons on the go; a pistol with infinite ammo which can be swapped for different versions including a heavy and burst fire. A machine gun or Assault Rifle slot and a heavy weapon slot for shotguns or rifles. Enemies come in waves and as one wave dies you get a nice slow motion kill so it’s good to do something cool on the last one, a Time Rush Takedown is impressive and is worth a few shares on Twitter.
Quantum Break’s fast and fun combat, fuelled by awesome powers gets it just right.
Overall the combat is lots of fun, as you start the game you are somewhat lead down the path that it’s a cover shooter, and there is an element of that, but It’s actually better (and more fun) to use cover to get some health back as you auto-heal then get out, blasting around with a combination of your cool powers and the guns you have available. My only annoyances here is the “sticky cover” that will automatically attach you to things rather than The Division style where you confirm cover with a button press. I got used to it eventually but it’s a little too old school for me. The game also locks up during larger battles too, it never completely crashed on me but it’s enough to put you off your flow at times, although it was rare and likely patchable.
Where the game feels a little older than some titles in this genres is in the animations of Jack as you perform some of the platforming sections. In a gaming landscape with Lara Croft hanging from an icy mountain or Nathan Drake clinging on to a falling car for his life, putting you in control as you reach for that ledge that looks that little bit too far away and… you just make it.
Those moments are all captured in the animation of the character reaching for THAT ledge or platform rather than a standard, generic jump. This is the part the game was a bit held back by its long development time and focus on the acting for me. It’s not bad, and some of the set pieces as time becomes unstable are excellent as objects move back and forth in a moment of time and will crush you if you mistime your jump. The elements are there, but for me they don’t quite combine with each other as a result of using standard animations for these moments.
Having said that, what’s nice to see is a use of reversing time to pass these obstacles as you rewind things backwards to make your way through things in your way. Also echoes of conversations are there to be found and are sometimes needed to access certain areas or get plot information.
What will work for some and not others is the vast volume of optional content in the game, leading you to be in control of just how long Quantum Break is. There are many narrative and intel’ items to find in every part of each act, including optional conversations and other things to do. That’s great for gamers like me, and Remedy fans will expect it, but for the newcomer who just wants to get through the game a lot can pass you by. Considering the game isn’t overly long as pointed out already, you can shorten it even more by not getting any of these things if you didn’t want to.
But all in all, I think the gameplay is very solid here while not up to the same standards as games in the same genre, Quantum Break’s fast and fun combat, fuelled by awesome powers gets it just right. The rest is what you make of it and be aware you need to really look for those clues around you right from the very beginning.
Quantum Break will appeal to a certain type of gamer that I happen to be one of. If you want games to tell a story, portrayed brilliantly by some top acting talent in an experience you control then this is exactly what you want. Everything about the plot, characters and the choices you make to change the game are just right for me, even the live action that I was originally unsure about. After watching every episode I’d recommend it as much as I would playing the game at least twice to get the full idea what’s going on.
It’s a shame there isn’t quite as much of the game as we’d perhaps want. It’s a brief experience but a great one you won’t mind going back for more. There are a few glitches to patch and the action-platform sections may not be as good as other games in the genre but there isn’t much to criticise beyond that.
Quantum Break is an old school, linear story driven game in the best way possible. The long development time may have people wanting this to be a masterpiece, which it unfortunately isn’t. But what it is, is a wonderfully told story wrapped in a fast, fun game that makes you feel like a Super-Powered ass kicker as you blast people away with your time abilities.
I enjoyed the experience, wanted more but it looks like we’ll have to wait for a sequel for that and I’m really looking forward to it.
Developers & Publishers: Microsoft Studios, Remedy
Gaming Platform: PC Games, Xbox One, Xbox One Exclusives
Genre: Action Adventure
Quantum Break Review
Graphics - 9/10
Story - 9.5/10
Gameplay - 7.8/10
Lifespan - 6/10
Fun Factor - 8/10
Quantum Break is a game for people who want a wonderful story told by a top cast of actors, this it really delivers on along with some really fast and fun combat combining standard shooting was some cool powers. The technical side and some of the lack of polish on the animations along with a short play time stop it being a masterpiece but it's still an amazing experience and a good start to what looks like a series of games.