Remedy unleashed its action TV series style video game Quantum Break on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC adopting a less traditional format for a video game where live action footage is juxtaposed with video game imagery. The question one has to ask is, does it work and whilst the game is drenched in a compelling narrative, for gamers wanting to just jump into the action does the stop and start gameplay hinder the experience?
In a nutshell, yes it does but as a gamer you’re going to rest in one of two camps when playing. On one hand the strong narrative direction offers a bit more depth compared to your regular game and it’s clear there’s some high production values on offer as players move through intense shooting scenes with super time based powers at their disposal, to more subdued moments of walking slowly and engaging with other characters (over the radio or otherwise). Coupled with cinematic live action sections which create an unparalleled level of detail to the game world (adding a massive cost to the development no doubt) and you have a unique (by today’s standards at least) player experience.
On the other hand though, the gameplay part of the package is shrouded in a lot of fluff for those who just want to mess around with the time powers and shoot up the forces of the opposing Monarch Corporation. You’ll engage in fire-fights, but then have to perform some less than favourable platforming moments, or time based puzzles. It’s a bit lacklustre where the combat is actually extremely gratifying and well polished but if you’re in a hurry to see more then unfortunately you’re left crossing the chasm of cinematic direction – great for an RPG but not so much in a third person shooter.
Quantum Break’s divisive approach surely then shoots itself in the foot in how it’s designed and whilst Remedy’s previous game Alan Wake always left players with something to do whilst directing the story, the change here is inevitably going to be too much for some, which is a shame. On a more positive note though, the game as a whole is well realized with lots of lore and some neat characterization aided by those live action segments. There’s actually a lot of reading and listening as well which does slow down the pacing quite a bit but if you’re one for gleaning every bit of info out of a story then you won’t be disappointed here.
Sadly, the level design is quite linear which means you’ll be moving through a heavily directed game world which appears to be gritty and on occasion rather dull. Lead character Jack can run and jump, mantle and climb but these actions are tied to scripted props within the environments making for a confined play space. There are a neat assortment of guns though and when fused with being able to stop time, sprint dash behind enemies and generally kick seven shades of arse means it’s ultimately fun to play. The only real stickler is the auto crouching behind cover and Jack being a bit careless when popping out to shoot – as in leaving himself totally exposed to incoming fire.
In terms of visuals, again the graphics are a mixed bag where on Xbox One at least the steady 30 frames per second is most welcome and the sheer number of warping, shifting, physics effects are impressive to say the least. However, there does seem to be a lack of clarity with low resolution shadows and effects which hide the overall texture detail making for game which can look awesome one moment but pretty basic the next. The game cleverly cuts to more detailed characters using the game engine during cinematic moments and it’s here you’re treated to some excellent animations and character models.
Audio is also of a high standard with a kicking soundtrack when the action heats up and great performances from most of the cast and this extends to the live action sequences as well with the likes of X-Men’s Shawn Ashmore as lead character Jack Joyce, Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen as the antagonist Paul Serene and several more familiar faces. Not all of the acting is good though and at times it falters a little reminding viewers this is a video game and not some high brow mainstream movie.
Quantum Break offers a reasonable length campaign across its five main acts which can be replayed on harder settings and levels revisited for fun or diving in to grab more of the collectibles if desired. However, the core experience doesn’t change and due to the heavy cinematic presence means you’ll have seen and done all that’s necessary on a first playthrough making any return less exciting despite being offered story path choices from time to time.
Quantum Break enters the fray with some high production values, slick presentation and engaging time based gameplay drenched in a well thought out story. It’s a highly ambitious project that perhaps the effort will be lost on some gamers who just want to get stuck in to the action. As a whole, the game is fun to play but the caveat is be prepared to endure quite a number of narrative focused moments which slow the pace down and present a story that in this case is as important as actual gameplay. If you’re happy with this approach then you’ll get a lot from Quantum Break, but if you’re the sort of gamer who loves to skip scenes to get to the real meat it’s likely the game’s purported complexity will get the better of you and be a complete turn off.
Review code supplied by Microsoft Xbox.