The Xbox One version of Quantum Break was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.
Whilst Remedy isn’t exactly known for publishing a steady stream of titles, but rather putting them a few years apart, they’ve always been known to deliver influential narratives that also build upon incredibly deep lore and worlds, and our journey through the world of Quantum Break begins in Riverview, where the laws of time and space are about to shatter. As time breaks down following the events of a disastrous experiment, Jack Joyce must use his newly acquired powers in order to fix time before the world is frozen forever. But Jack isn’t unopposed, and Paul Serene, with the power of his company, Monarch Solutions, follows Jack in his every footstep as the two sides battle over the fate of time itself.
Storytelling is often an aspect of game design that takes the backseat, but Remedy’s entry into the current generation is as strong as you’d expect from them considering their previous works. Not only are central characters like Jack Joyce (played by Shawn Ashmore) and our antagonist Paul Serene (played by Aidan Gillen) well developed and interesting, but thanks to the live action series we are also aided by a strong selection of secondary characters, who get way more development than a traditional game within the game’s genre would give its supporting casts.But how is the story itself? Time travel is an easy thing to mess up, whether it’s in literature, games or film. Quantum Break however is the type of story that takes its concepts and storylines very seriously, and dedicates itself to supporting the world that the narrative sets up. Thanks to the additional support of the live action episodes the game does not only give its story the breathing room it simply could not have done without, but its dynamic and the addition of multiple possibilities throughout the plot create the kind of experience that we’ve come to expect from Remedy. However, if there would be any issue that I’d have to point out, it would have to be the fact that the game often gives you too much information about upcoming events, making certain events and decisions lose the impact that they would’ve had with less hindsight on the player’s end.In essence, Quantum Break is pretty much to Xbox what Uncharted 4 is to the PS4. This is a prime example of taking great advantage of the hardware the system has provided. In the opening moments of the game the sheer detail in the environments and characters is already incredibly apparent, with a great amount of work put into creating a realistic environment, up to the smallest details. Walking around through offices and other interiors were some of my favorite moments due to the fact that I could slowly make my way through the game world as I gathered all the little details that I came across along the way. Analyzing Quantum Break’s visual fidelity is more of a game of picking out the negative aspects, as its visual presentation is very impressive.However, there are a few drawbacks depending on how you view them. One of my biggest gripes with the filmic presentation of the game is its excessive use of filmic grain. Rather than providing a soft layer of filmic grain the filter acts more as an excessive layer of noise, which is especially notable in darker sequences and even in the ending cards of each act. Unfortunately, this addition cannot be turned off as a setting.
As noted earlier, character models are incredibly detailed, and the likenesses of each actor and actress are spot on, though the facial animations are sometimes a bit stiff, which normally would be fine on its own, but when transitioning from gameplay to live-action or vice-versa the gap of facial movement becomes much more apparent. Player/character movement animations share similar issues, where the transitions between animations aren’t as fluid as they could be, despite the fact that individual animations are well-made. Despite these issues, the texture and lighting design (apart from certain interactions with character models) excel in quality.The team at Remedy has always been known for their filmic experiences, yet the question always remains how this translates to gameplay design. Whilst at first glance Quantum Break may seem like a straightforward third-person shooter, its core is actually a little bit different than you’d expect. Whilst gunplay is most definitely a huge aspect within the gameplay design of Quantum Break, its supporting foundations is built upon the use of Jack’s time-based powers, which are used both offensively and defensively, along with their uses for traversal.
Many power-based third person titles focus on gaining/unlocking abilities throughout the scope of the full game, with some powers remaining locked till the end of the campaign. QB, however, takes a much more fast-paced approach. Powers aren’t immediately unlocked, but most of them are fully useable throughout the first two acts, allowing players to base their full campaign on the use of powers. You can’t get around the shooting aspect of the game by just using your powers, but effectively combining them strategically with gunplay creates a true sense of power for the player.Platforming is also a factor within the game’s foundations, though it never really expands out of the self-contained platforming sections that are well-designed and make creative use of the player’s abilities, but are often too little in impact aside from a major sequence near the middle of the story.The introduction of the live-action segments acts well from a storytelling perspective, and as noted earlier they are well produced.
However, player motivations are often too severely impacted by the story of the game, leading to obvious outcomes making the choose-your-path element of the story more of a game of curiosity than putting actual weight into the decisions you make throughout the game. Outcomes are different enough to make these decisions relevant, but the path towards them is often a little bit uninspired due to the structure.
Quantum Break is rather challenging on its hardest difficulty setting, but on easy and normal the game can seem a bit too easy for your liking. This affects the upgrade system heavily, as it can actually seem useless because of the difficulty in these cases, making the base use of your powers effective enough to get you through the game on their own. Only on the hardest difficulty setting do these mechanics truly live up to their potential. The ‘Hard’ difficulty setting is arguably the best way to experience the game, as its gameplay mechanics shine brightest when the challenge is greatest.
The game offers players tons and tons of collectables and story content to discover as the game goes on, providing a great amount of background information for the story and even additional sections throughout the junctions which would otherwise remain unplayed. The decisions do play a great role in this aspect, as different outcomes lead to different information and discoveries, giving Quantum Break additional replay value.Quantum Break is an excellent addition to the Xbox One and Windows 10 libraries, telling a deep and well thought-out story that not only takes itself seriously, but offers great entertainment value. But for its brilliance in storytelling it somewhat stumbles in certain aspects of its gameplay design, keeping Quantum Break from reaching its full potential. None the less, Quantum Break for all its problems has been worth the wait, and Remedy has gotten their well-deserved spotlight in the industry with their strong entrance to the current generation.