Upon the birth of the Xbox One back in 2013, many new, promising benchmark titles and experiences were promised to the console. Quantum Break was one of these new IPs leading the forefront, grabbing everybody’s eye with its breathtaking visuals and time-shifting concept. Alas, here we are in 2016, and not only has developer Remedy delivered on its promise, it cast new light on how narrative storytelling in the next generation can be presented. Molding gameplay with live action sequences to provide one overall story.
In Quantum Break you play as Jack Joyce. The story starts with Jack being called to meet up with his longtime friend Paul Serene at the Riverport University for reasons unknown. When Jack arrives, Paul reveals he has been feverishly studying and working on time travel with his company Monarch, and wants Jack to be witness to a live experiment. When the experiment goes horribly wrong, Jack and Paul both acquire time-manipulation skills, but thats not the only thing affected by the botched trial. It apparently caused a major rift in time itself, and now time is beginning to break down and end altogether.
In the aftermath of the experiment, Jack and Paul not only have time powers, but each of theirs is different. Jack’s major skill along with others, is that he can stop time. Whether it being bullets racing towards his head or buildings crumbling onto him, Jack can freeze these moments and survive certain death. Paul’s primary power of time is his ability to see the future. He sees the end of time developing, and after trying to rewrite the past to eradicate this horrible future many times, accepts this fate and has a plan for himself and Monarch to survive after time has dissolved.
The way in which Quantum Break story is told is like nothing gaming has ever seen before. It is presented in a narrative hybrid of gameplay and live action sequences. The decisions you make in the gameplay drastically effect how the story twists and turns. Playing along to this type of storytelling was super engaging and truly felt like a new, next generation experience. It was more riveting thanks to the live action portions, and so well written and performed. Presenting it this way gave the characters so much more depth and they felt like real people. You weren’t just watching animations and dialogue, you were seeing real flesh and blood actors give the characters heart and soul. It turned what could have been an average campaign, into a great exhilarating campaign. More importantly, it gave the campaign momentum. It perfectly blended the two and felt like an interactive tv show meets action game. Something Remedy promised, and delivered.
Quantum Break’s third person, cover based shooter system works, but just like time, can stutter. Instead of a button input for sticking in and out of cover, there is a sort of smart cover system that anticipates cover and automatically puts you there. The problem is smart cover isn’t so smart. There were countless situations where I was getting pelted by gunfire while Jack just stood NEXT to cover instead of slamming up next to it. Now thankfully Jack has some cool time powers so you don’t have to solely rely on the defensive approach. He has time stop, which is where you stop time for a few seconds in a small radius and unleash a bullet spray on the frozen foe. There is time shield where a bubble will form and Jack can regain health. You have time vision where hidden enemies will be revealed when activated. There’s also a time dash move, where you will jet strafe around making it difficult for your enemies to get a bead on you. A few more iterations of these powers are available to Jack as well, there is quite the plethora to play with.
Okay these powers are fine and dandy, but one of my gripes was not fully understanding when to utilize them. After unlocking each power as you progress, it’s not really explained exactly when and where to start throwing these awesome powers around. You would approach certain environmental obstacles and not know how to overcome them, only by dying in a trial and error fashion you would begin to learn what power is best suited for the task at hand. It really bogged down the awesome flow for me. By the end of the game I had my grasp and was bending time like a pro, but wished it would have came sooner.
Now here is where Quantum Break climbs right to the top. Oh boy, the graphics. Wow. This game right here is what people think of when they think of next-gen gaming. First off let me say, this is the best looking game on the Xbox One, no question. Second, these are the best character models ever to be seen in a video game. At many points, I could not decipher whether it was the game or the real live actor. The amount of detail goes right to the pores of their skin, freckles, even flecks of color in their pupils. What’s amazing to me is how Remedy was able to maintain this quality even in the gameplay itself. The lighting and textures are all just incredibly lifelike. Yes there’s the occasional frame rate hiccup and a few jaggy lines for not being in 1080p, but that in no way holds Quantum Break back from being unbelievably breathtaking. This is a game where the graphics are so good, when you go to a new area you don’t even want to do anything. You just want to look at everything around you in awe.
Controlling Jack in Quantum Break can be a timely duty. There are some things about the controls that really make me curious. Like one being, why in a modern shooter would you not have a sprint button? It brought the game to lethargic pace. Another being, where is the dodge roll button? In a game where cover and evasion is a key element to combat, not being able to have this maneuver made the combat come up a bit short. Additionally I found the controls to be a bit janky when attempting precise platforming during the time rift portions. Sometimes Quantum Break simply just doesn’t feel that well in the players hands.
I wish I had surround sound for this game. Even through my standard tv speakers I could hear the epic scale of what Quantum Break is doing. Hearing the piercing ripples of time and the stutters ripping apart, it’s pure awesomeness. Although, there were some instances where the sound effects didn’t quite line up with actions on-screen. That being said, the voice over work is what takes the cake here. So much life and emotion was poured into these characters. You can hear their struggle, their pain, their fight. It stands as the pillar to why great voice over work can make a game come to life.
Quantum Break continues Remedy’s legacy of delivering a solid, story driven, action experience. Though it has seen many changes since its initial debut, Quantum Break’s foundation has remained intact in delivering a first class experience for the Xbox One. It has its moments where it bares its drawbacks with muddy controls and foggy direction. Mostly though, Quantum Break stays the course and is easily Xbox One’s newest piece of eye candy. A system seller? Probably not. A must-play for a system owner? Absolutely.
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