As Jack Joyce, you’ll traverse the world of Riverport, scrambling to undo the damage done by The Fracture. Time is splitting and shattering; it’s up to you to save the world from the end of time.
A hit-and-miss adventure
Quantum Break is brought to you by Remedy, the same studio behind the sleeper hit “Alan Wake”. This go around, they’re messing with time and taking control from the players.
Remedy’s attempt at a hybrid creations falls flat because of the limitations of both mediums. While the game and show are individually good (though only passable in some places),
Gameplay is introduced very well, and you have some really cool powers to play with. Time Stop gives you a localized “static” field, of sorts. If you catch an enemy in your Time Stop, you can stack bullets on the edge of that bubble to increase damage. It gives players a great way to manage the enemy damage output while dispatching threats.
You’re also given the Time Dash, which is a kind of blink power. If you aim immediately after your dash, time will slow and give you the opportunity to damage enemies before they can react. There’s a missed opportunity here, though, as it’d be nice to turn this into a tackle or charge that does knockdown and damage.
Overall, abilities in the game are fun to use and come with some cool upgrades. There are enemies against whom your powers don’t work, so you’ll just have to outsmart them tactically. This adds great depth to the game, because it comes just as you’re getting comfortable and familiar with your skills.
The biggest culprit in this title is how often the game rips control from the player. You walk at the pace they dictate, you find yourself in scripted cutscenes way too much, and you’ll have trouble establishing a rhythm with the gameplay. This is standard fare for Remedy, and quite frankly it’s frustrating.
There will come points in the game where you’ll be forced to make a choice. This decision will affect both your gameplay and the TV show that weaves through the story at the end of each act.
The acting here is fantastic, with some heavy-hitting nerd icons taking up the screen like Aidan Gillan and Lance Reddick. Even the smaller parts are well-acted, so kudos to the casting department and director.
While the show is good for what it is, it doesn’t belong alongside a video game. The reality of TV doesn’t blend well with the attempted reality of the game world, so once you leave the cinematic section and return to gameplay, the world ends up looking a lot more fake.
That’s disappointing, too, because QB’s graphics are otherwise phenomenal, though they live in the uncanny valley as a result. As detailed as the textures are, the animations are the weak spot. Characters move stiffly, the face doesn’t emote the way you think it should, and the eyes all look lifeless.
Any story dealing with time travel is going to have an air of unearned mystique, and Quantum Break is no different. While the game did well to address causality loops early on, it still doesn’t excuse the following hours of story that hinge on mystery. All of it predicates on the player’s question of “What’s going on?!” As soon as that evaporates, there’s very little compelling storytelling under the surface.
The narrative is useful in explaining the powers bestowed upon you, but that’s where its usefulness ends. With no compelling statement on the path of humanity, the danger of predestination, or existentialism (which would have been fantastic themes), this tale just feels unnecessary.
The game really shines in the visual department, especially when you make use of the abilities. The mirroring, fragmenting, and scattering of the game world is incredible to look at. Even on lower-end computers, this is pure eye candy.
The lighting’s great too, although character skin doesn’t take light quite as well as it could.
As mentioned before, the low point for visuals lies in the most important part: the characters. There’s no movement in the cheeks or along eyes. These microexpressions make characters feel alive, and if they’re missing then it all just feels weird and wrong.
The same goes for the animations. Characters don’t seem to have any weight to their bodies when the move, as they tend to move slowly to position when a real person would snap into a stance. This is a bit of a nitpick, but it’s so critical to the cinematic experience that it needed to be right and it wasn’t.
Where can you run this program?
You’ll need a computer running a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or later if you want to play Quantum Break.
Is there a better alternative?
No. There’s nothing like this game in the “half game, half TV show” realm. However, if you’re a fan of similar narrative pacing a game control, Life Is Strange could suit you. If you want more of the mind-bending storytelling from Remedy, though, try “Control”. Alan Wake is another great title from Remedy, though not as good-looking.
Quantum Break is an interesting experiment that, were it not for the massive differing visuals and control problems, would likely be a grand-slam. However, the fun gameplay and great acting can’t totally erase the otherwise lackluster narrative and hand-holding throughout. If you skipped the cutscenes and just wanted gameplay, there’s enough here to satisfy you.
Should you download it?
Yes. If you’re looking for a gorgeous game with interesting mechanics and some stellar acting, you’ve found the right title. If you want an interesting story with full control, look elsewhere.