Remedy has a rich history of 3rd Person, cinematic visuals with its unique twists pushing the technological limits of console hardware. Quantum break is no different, the game blends these tried and tested elements with an episodic live action series. It’s been 6 Years since Alan Wake, a game regarded by many as one of the best games on the Xbox 360. Remedy were building up to the launch of the Xbox One. I, like many, watched the Microsoft briefing on the announcement of the Xbox One. The trailer for Quantum Break, showed time being frozen followed up with a tanker hitting a bridge. That was the moment I started trying to pre-order the console and the game. The console followed in November that year, the game however was delayed….
Quantum Break follows Jack Joyce, brother of William Joyce; Physics Genius who has unlocked the inner secrets of quantum theory. Jack has been summoned to meet up with good friend Paul Serene to discuss a project that he and William have been working on together, William has had a change of heart after numerous warnings and Paul wants to press on with the project, he wants to do a test run to demonstrate to Jack what it can do, in the hope that he can persuade William to change his mind. In doing so, a catastrophic event occurs that leads to Jack gaining his time bending powers and Paul stuck in the machine. Shortly after the incident, the mysterious Monarch corperation are quickly on the scene, with armed security, leaving Jack on the run with his brother, and Paul left behind.
Gameplay is what you become to expect of 3rd person action adventure games, there is a defined path that you follow with some freedom to look around. The maps are beautifully set out. Puzzles exist in as so far to get you from place A to place B similar to early tomb raider games and accessing areas, at times you need to manipulate time to progress. Luckily in most combat situations there has been some recent oil drum deliveries to assist you in removing numbers of NPCs quickly and efficently. Monarch like to help you out as best they can so they also leave guns and ammo galore around for you. All joking aside it does look good, despite people raising concerns around the 720p barrier, the game is designed in a way that makes this totally irrelevant, occasionally stutters occur throughout the game causing the map to freeze around you, which leave you to explore the environment in solidarity with everyone frozen around you, at this point you can get a real sense for the work involved in producing the environments, in what can be descibed as similar to a cubism Pablo Piccaso version of The Last Of Us – with crystallised NPCs, vehicles and objects, it is a truely wonderful, unique experience that you will not have come across in any other game to date. Without going into details there is an area which shows a time lapse of a building that is breathtaking, I wished I had recorded the scene as I wanted to show a friend and as quickly as it appeared it was gone.
With most 3rd Person games there is a cover system, however unlike the others it automatically puts you into cover (unlike for example The Division where you need to enter via a button push), you can blind fire but realistically it’s hard enough to hit enemies from distance without cover let alone hiding behind walls and trying it. By making it difficult to get into cover, the game appears to push you into using your array of time abilities to assist you with removing hoardes of enemies, this isn’t a terrible thing, afterall this feature is what sets it away from others such as Gears of War & The Division. The abilities that Jack gains come in quick succession, which for a casual gamer is probably a dream come true, the more dedicated amongst us will quickly learn that the 2nd half of the game leaves little to be gained other then the usual foray of collectibles. For each ability used has a cool down so they cannot be used over and over without a small delay. Shooting enemies alone will not help, you have to utilise the abilities you have earned to progress in the game.
As the game progresses you gain more insight into what happened to Paul Serene It becomes clear that Monarch Corporation is heavily enveloped in a secret conflict involving Paul, Jack and William. The game revolves around Jack trying to repair the stutters and the ‘fracture’ that occured with the labatory incident earlier in the game.
There are a large number of collectibles in the game, ranging from Posters, E-mails even in true Microsoft fashion a PowerPoint presentation, on the first complete run through you can expect to find around 90% some of these are well hidden and if you go for a second run through you will probably give yourself some more time and go hunting. Especially if like me, you want that 100% figure.
Remedy has hit new interactive storytelling heights with Quantum Break, the marriage between video games and live episodic content in this game is unrivalled. It shouldn’t work, we are used to cut scenes interjecting into our gameplay, but these are 30 minutes long!, when you sit down and play it, it makes perfect sense. Each cut scene is prologued by a junction, to explain, a junction allows you to control the main antagonist and make decisions on which way the game should flow each option will give you a small glance into the future and then you make your choice, for example should you try to bring someone down with the power of the media, or kill them? Each decision affects how your TV episode will play out following this choice. As well as this there are time ripples, these also will add extra scenes to your episode. It is all very cleverly laid out.
The production value in these episodes is extraodinary and can easily be compared to mainstream US TV dramas. With actors such as Aiden Gillen (Game Of Thrones, The Wire), Lance Riddick (Fringe, The Wire), Shawn Ashmore (The Following, X-Men) and Dominic Monaghan (Lost, 100 Code), it is easy to see the quality the studio was aiming for, and for the large part it does pull this off. There are moments of suspect CGI, but this is not by any means noticeable to the extent, that you will want to be switching it off (Alien 3 – I am looking in your direction). As with Alan Wake there is some product placement in Quantum Break, Nissan & Microsoft (I counted the Surface & Lumia Phones early on) to name two. Most games feature advertisements and product placements in todays generation, it would be only expected that a first party game such as this would feature Microsoft’s own products.
Contrary to what some reviews have been saying there are 2 options for the live series, you can stream online which I suspect most people will opt for, or you can download the episodes as a ‘pack’. If carrying out the latter you will need some decent broadband speeds and alot of hard drive space (approx 75gb), to put this into context, I tried using my amazing 10Mbps line (Thanks BT) and it took over 3 days to download the full content, this option is not realistic to most of us in the UK (except Virgin users). The content buffering sign did come up occasionally when streaming however I put this down to my internet, rather then the Azure Cloud powering Xbox Live. Once it had downloaded the episodes the experience was seamless.
Remedy Games has often been described as Microsofts version of what Naughty Dog is to Sony. A tough act. Quantum Break originally was shown over 2 years ago as a trailer for the Xbox One launch (May 2013). Remedy has delivered a truly unique experience in merging 2 media types with gaming and TV and surprisingly done a fantastic job with it. It shouldn’t have worked, but it has. The time manipulation abilities are good and certainly impressive, with the effect of stutters leaving everyone frozen the first time will have you walking around looking at the frozen environment in awe. The environments are beautiful, I’m a massive fan of sunbursts and how they are implemented – The Last of Us did this well, this game is up alongside it, the time lapse areas look stunning when you see this for the first time you will be trying to get the closest person to come and check it out. For all of its positives there are as always some niggles, the cover system is like a magnet, as soon as you walk near to a wall your immediately in cover. The movement leaves a little to be desired, with games like Tomb Raider, Unchartered and The Division all applying the 3rd person perspective and having slick movement, this game feels a little lethargic in its movement, turning and running are slow but when you can stop time, does it matter? The game launches on Windows 10 however news on this angle has not been to forthcoming and there appears to be no preload option availble. These are minor and once immersed in the game the movement and cover systems you find yourself adjusting for, the game is hugely entertaining.
Quantum Break has delivered a unique game, the likes of this will probably never be seen again. Highly recommended.
Quantum Break is availble to pre-load today on the Xbox Store ahead of general release on April 5th 2016 for Xbox One and Windows 10 (See Here)
The Official Quantum Break:
“Quantum Break” is part hard-hitting video game, part thrilling live action show featuring a stellar cast, including Shawn Ashmore as the hero Jack Joyce, Aidan Gillen as his nemesis Paul Serene, Dominic Monaghan as Jack’s genius brother William and Lance Reddick as Martin Hatch, Paul Serene’s second in command. “Quantum Break” is full of the vivid storytelling, rich characters and dramatic twists Remedy Entertainment are renowned for. Choices in-game will affect the outcome of the fast-paced fusion between game and show, illustrating one story perceived in many ways for a completely unique entertainment experience; play the game to understand the heroes, watch the show to discern the villains.
With thanks to Microsoft and it’s suppliers for the review copy of Quantum Break.