When I was deciding which console to purchase a few years ago, I looked at the exclusives. Xbox obviously has Halo, Gears of War, and Sunset Overdrive, but the game that sold me on the Xbox One was Quantum Break. It wasn’t solely because the game looked amazing and featured time travel (although those are pretty good reasons) it was because Remedy was behind the game’s development.
Remedy Entertainment is known for the Max Payne series and Alan Wake on the Xbox 360. They are one of my top studios, so I had my eyes on Quantum Break from the beginning. Now that it’s here, is this the killer app Xbox One needs to gain a lead on PS4? Let’s find out!
The Ultimate Tale of Time Travel
There aren’t many time travel games out there. Even movies tend to stay away from the subject because it’s complicated and very easy to write yourself into plot holes. Remedy has never been a stranger to deep and involving stories, so time travel makes sense for them.
Quantum break stars Jack Joyce, played by Shawn Ashmore. Yes, the guy who is best known as Ice Man from the recent X-Men movies is the star of this game. Not only is he in the game, but he’s also in the TV show component which we’ll discuss momentarily. The antagonist is played by Aidan Gillen who is best known for his role a Little Finger in Game of Thrones.
These two are joined by Lance Reddick who I know best as Phillip Broyles from the Fringe television series. He plays Martin Hatch who acts as the right-hand man for the main antagonist. Perhaps the coolest part of Quantum Break is the TV show/game hybrid format that it has chosen to use.
Originally the scope was larger, where an ongoing show would tie into events from the game, but for the final release we have four episodes between each of the game’s five acts. These episodes are only about 20 minutes long, but they are incredible on a number of levels. For starters, the decision you make at the end of each act directly affects the events in the coming episode.
Also, the episodes feature the same actors from the game and showcase the story from the villain’s perspective. They serve as a great way to make you feel something for the bad guys. In most shooters, I have no care in the world for the bad guy, but in Quantum Break I felt something for all of them.
The episodes served as a nice change of pace from the run-and-gun action of the main game. Overall, Quantum Break tells a smart and tight story of time travel that creates its own rules and science that fit right into what we currently know about the nature of our universe. It’s characters are well acted and portrayed by the talented actors and actresses, and the twists are suitably mind-boggling.
While your decisions will change the television show and the overall feel of the game’s story, the ending remains the same regardless. Some of you may scoff at this, but once you see how the game theorizes time travel, it will all start to makes sense.
If there’s any qualms I have with the story, it’s the overall pacing. The game has some awesome set pieces, don’t get me wrong, but I wish there were more of them. There are moments where the game feels like it’s kind of going through the motions between big story moments.
While it didn’t bother me, there is also a lot of story relegated to reading collectibles you can find in the world. Everything from company documents, to email threads, to reports, and plenty more are scattered throughout the world. The game does an excellent job of telling you how much you’ve found and how much is missing, but there’s a lot of reading.
You can skip out on all of this, but you’ll be missing a good chunk of motivation and backstory for the characters. Some people can’t stand the idea of stopping and reading a collectible in the game, and if that’s you, you’ll be missing out on some of the things that make Quantum Break great.
As it stands, Quantum break tells one of the few, but ultimately one of the greatest time travelling stories ever to have graced the medium. If you like great stories, time travel, and you don’t mind the TV show element, this game will blow your mind and make you rethink what the Xbox One can do.
Polished Third-Person Shooter Gameplay
Quantum Break employs a third-person perspective and standard TPS controls. The cover system is “automatic” but honestly I felt like it left a bit to be desired. You’ll take cover flawlessly (for the most part) but sometimes you’ll find yourself standing out in the open waiting for Jack to duck behind the crate in front of you.
Honestly though, I didn’t use the cover system very much. Why, you ask? Well, that’s because I was constantly on the move. Quantum Break’s enemies, even the standard ones, exhibit a remarkable aggressive strategy where they will flank and surround you within seconds if you’re not ready.
Later on, enemies will adopt some of your powers and become even greater threats to your cover-to-cover strategy. Luckily Jack Joyce is equipped with some awesome time powers from the get-go. While some reviews complained that you get all the powers too quickly, I for one thought it was pretty awesome because normally I wouldn’t get a good power until the end and never have the chance to use it.
All of the powers are upgradeable using upgrades you find as collectibles in the environment. By the end of the game, you’ll have a great grasp on your abilities. There’s something about freezing time, dashing across huge distances, concentrating twenty headshots into one single blast, and shielding yourself from damage that just ties everything together.
Even with the powers, firefights are still challenging. Enemies are relentless and plenty of items surround you in each environment that will explode or otherwise damage you immensely. Overall, the action is tight and fun, but expect to get your backside handed to you more than a few times as you grasp the strategic advantages of the powers.
There is some basic platforming and puzzle solving throughout the game. Moments when time freezes for everyone but you (known as stutters) change the very landscape and sometimes cause massive structures to be caught in an endless loop that you must make your way through. Changing things with your powers will often be the result.
While it’s not as complicated as The Witness, the light puzzle solving works fine, even if I was crushed by an endlessly falling object more times than I’d like to admit. As I said in the story segment of the review, you’ll spend a good amount of time exploring environments and spotting plenty of collectibles to read, listen to, or watch. You can easily walk through these, but you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.
The same goes for the television episodes. Yes, you can skip them, but no, you shouldn’t. You have the option to stream them online or download them to your hard drive. While the total space needed with TV episodes is around 120GB, I played this way to ensure my internet wouldn’t drop out and ruin the experience.
In the end, Quantum Break is a game for people who love and value story, while also enjoying action-packed scenes and time power fueled shootouts. If you don’t like one of those things, you may not like the whole package. That being said, I would highly recommend trying it somehow, even if you have your doubts. It’s quite the hybrid.
Wow, That’s a Good Looking Game!
All it takes is a single trailer to see how gorgeous Quantum Break is. You may think “Wow, I didn’t know the Xbox One could do these kinds of graphics!” You’d be right, but these looks don’t come free. The game’s characters and animation are second-to-none. The actors look completely realistic in the game to the point where it’s uncanny.
The environments, on the other hand, leave a bit to be desired. They look good, but they lack the same detail as the characters. Texture pop-in does happen as well when loading new areas, and the load times themselves can run a little long. Honestly, the thing I like least about the game is the film grain.
I get it, you want the game to look like a movie and to have an edgy look, but I cannot stand film grain in games. The first time I encountered it was in the original Mass Effect and I hated it. I turned it off the first chance I got because it made what should be a clean looking game, dirty.
Quantum Break’s grain is at its worst in dark areas where I wonder if the brightness is set to the right levels. There’s times when I feel like it works to the game’s advantage but most of the time I felt like it made a clean and well-designed scene look dirty and muddled by comparison.
There’s no option to turn it off, or I wouldn’t have said anything. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but the game already runs in 720p to handle the graphics, so trying to mask it with a film grain just makes it look even less crisp.
Honestly, that’s my only real complaint with the graphics though. The game is chock full of incredible effects that more than make up for the shortcomings. It may run in 30 fps, but it squeezes all the power of out of the Xbox.
The aforementioned stutters are a standout example. When time is frozen, the amount of detail is staggering. Coffee cups lay suspended in mid-air with the liquid spilling out of them. Broken glass hangs like snowflakes in the space around you, and people sit frozen in their final states. Even looking up into the sky reveals a perfect chart of the star’s path through the sky. It’s incredible and breathtaking.
Quantum Break’s hook is that time is ending. These stutters are glimpses of that premise, and when they happen you are treated to the finest visual representation of time breaking down that I could have ever asked for.
Honestly? I just want the film grain gone, and then I’ll be happy as can be. Beyond that, the graphics here are the best that Xbox One has to offer, hands down.
Does Xbox One Have It’s Killer App?
Quantum Break was first announced along with the Xbox One. It’s been in development for over three years, and that time has allowed Remedy Entertainment to create the finest single player experience the console has to offer.
If you like science fiction, time travel, great graphics, phenomenal storytelling, or just amazing shooters in general, Quantum Break has you covered. You may not like the TV shows or the supplementary collectibles but there’s no arguing that Microsoft just founds it’s best reason to justify the purchase of an Xbox One.
Now, if only I could rewind time and play it again for the first time…