Quantum Break is the long anticipated, time bending game from Remedy Entertainment that has ambitious ideas, and comes full circle for an amazing experience – game and show included. It successfully manages to integrate a live action miniseries alongside a game with gorgeous visuals, fun and fast-paced action and an interesting story.
This is a gorgeous game. The virtual characters look close to their real life counterparts, so much so that my mother was able to identify the actors for Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore) and Paul Serene (Aidan Gillen) based on appearance. People have authentic facial reactions that left me impressed and I enjoyed panning the camera to see the conversations up close. It’s well lit and there are slick after effects left by Jack’s powers or special enemies. An enemy who runs through time will leave a trail in their path and it’s useful when looking for that enemy because you have something to work with. Jack’s powers have pretty animations too and the area is hectic when bullets are flying around and it’s combined with moves that freeze time itself in an area. My only issue is that the game has a grainy look to it, and often distracted me more than it enhanced the presentation. I became fixated on a certain part of my TV screen instead of looking at the well crafted world. I could have done without that touch, at least in the game.
The story is complex and complemented by fantastic characters. After years of being away, Jack Joyce returns to his hometown of Riverport to see an old friend and wealthy scientist, Paul Serene, and to witness history as Paul prepares to use his working time machine. Paul and Jack successfully get the machine working only for William Joyce, Jack’s distant brother, to ruin Paul’s experiment. This results in Jack and Paul being exposed to Chronon particles, giving them the ability to manipulate time. Events ensue and lead to former friends becoming enemies in a constant fight throughout the past, present and future. Characters become difficult to trust and the supporting cast that includes Beth Wilder and Martin Hatch play effective roles in showing how desperate Serene can become and how without the right leader Monarch Solutions can implode. As the story progresses Jack and Paul’s differences about the world come full force and you’re excitedly wanting to see what happens next between the two former friends.
Character backstories and relationships are found within the many notes, emails, documents and other sources of information throughout the game. Here, we learn about Jack and his brother’s troubled relationship, the dangers of Serene’s motives that could end time itself and hidden emails between Monarch executives in regards to sabotage. I felt immensely rewarded for getting background info on these characters and it helped flesh out the story. Remedy did an excellent job of including small details in every source of information, and by the end I felt like I knew significantly more about everyone and their role in the narrative. Some may not be a fan of how the backstory is presented because you have to stop doing everything and read potentially a few hundred words for a few minutes found within a laptop. It can become overwhelming to see a document that goes on and on, so I can’t fault anyone who doesn’t like this decision. But, you will find a few hilarious emails that had me laughing out loud. I won’t spoil anything, but the contents in the email is ridiculous and it’s nice to see some comedic moments to break up the tension.
As you progress through the story you’re given more powers and are able to increase the potency of your powers with Chronon Sources found throughout each act. You’re able to locate the Chronon Sources on the mini map by using Time Vision. It’s worth exploring the environments to find these upgrades to enhance your skills. Get enough of these upgrades and your Time Shield will be able to absorb more bullets or reduce the cooldown for Time Blast. There’s a clear increase in Jack’s strength in power as you find more upgrades.
Quantum Break feels incredibly satisfying because of Jack’s time powers that manipulate combat and enhance his ability to stop foes in their tracks. Depending on the situation, some powers are more useful than others, such as freezing an enemy sniper in a bubble with Time Stop for a few seconds while you kill the other baddies or exclusively attack the aforementioned sniper.
It’s not forced, but rather suggested that you utilize Jack’s arsenal because while covering behind a wall or barrier is useful to recover health and regain your footing, it’s not how the game is meant to be played. It isn’t like Gears of War or other cover based shooters, so feel free to chain powers together for slick combos. I felt like a badass for killing multiple enemies with an explosive Time Blast and then zipping across the map with Time Dodge, aiming down the sights in a slowed perspective, and picking off a few enemies. And to cap it off, Time Rush lets me slow the surrounding area to a halt as I Superman-punched a guard for a painful takedown. I would suggest playing on hard mode because it’s not too difficult but it’ll challenge you to run around and play with the powers available. Minus a challenging fight at the end, none of the encounters were so difficult that I wanted to go back in time and play on an easier difficulty.
Even though the powers are great to use, the gunplay and movement feel clunky, but they’re still serviceable. The guns themselves are fun to use, but Quantum Break is not tight like other shooters on the market. You can’t blind fire behind cover, which results in a game of peek-a-boo with an enemy and risking death to kill a room full of enemies. I had numerous instances where I’d be running from enemies only to stick out because I accidentally ran up a crate, resulting in my death. The movement doesn’t feel smooth, and it’s especially noticeable in combat and the game’s few platforming sections. It’s frustrating when using Jack’s powers are seamless and yet simple running doesn’t have that same feeling. There are some platforming moments that I would have been okay without because of the lack of precision. They’re not all bad though as sometimes you must utilize your powers to get past a puzzle or evade falling debris.
I found the live-action TV show to be quite interesting. At the end of each act, Paul Serene is given a choice for how to handle a certain situation and what you choose will affect the ensuing episode. These choices won’t change the entire episode, but there will be a scene or two that are much different. I enjoyed watching the miniseries twice and seeing the differences each episode had to offer. The show itself is of a high quality and focuses on Paul Serene and his mega company, Monarch, as they deal with the ramifications of time breaking down. If anything, it helps bring characters to life that aren’t as relevant in the game, like Liam Burke and Charlie Wincott. We get to see their lives as Monarch employees and what motivates them to work for a man like Serene. The performances are well done and there’s plenty of action with the occasional cheesy line. Despite it only being four episodes, I felt my feelings change toward certain characters and hatred tuned into sympathy. This is thanks to strong performances from the respectable cast that includes Aidan Gillen, Lance Reddick and more. It complements the game well and I appreciate that the game focused more on Jack Joyce while the show was more about the side characters and different plots from the game itself.
Quantum Break is an exceptional game that successfully combines video games and TV into a memorable experience. Despite the average gunplay and movement, using Jack’s time powers feels great and I was excited for each new encounter because it meant there were new toys to work with. The story is memorable and the well written characters help tell an enriched thriller about time travel. I have no problem playing it a second time because it’s such an awesome game, and it’s one of the best on Xbox One.
+Story and characters
+Jack’s time powers
-Clunky gunplay and movement
Brett Woodmansee is an editor for The Game Bolt and he loves RPGs, Chipotle and his beard. For tweets about video games, sports and more, follow him on Twitter.