Review: While ‘Quantum Break’ is Occasionally Fun it’s Mostly an Awkward Mess

GameStop, Inc.

quantum-break

Overview

Quantum Break, the Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive is the next release by Alan Wake and Max Payne creator Remedy Entertainment.  When Remedy pushed back the release of Quantum Break and creative director Sam Lake said “the team is taking advantage of this opportunity to polish and fine tune the game,” it rung hallow for me as PR speak for a game that was in trouble or at the very least had lost its way.

During the 2013 E3 Expo, Remedy revealed Quantum Break would exist both as a live-action TV series and a blockbuster game and eventually backtracked a bit.  While casting and production value of the TV series continued forward with an excellent cast which includes Shawn Ashmore from X-Men, Aidan Gillen from Game of Thrones and Lance Reddick from The Wire, the episodes were eventually inserted as “cut scene” live action episodes throughout the game.

I was genuinely excited for Quantum Break, and still am about certain aspects, I am not a huge fan of online multiplayer games (barring Destiny) and 8 out of my top ten favorite games of all time are heavily story driven.  My 2015 Game of the Year was Rise of the Tomb Raider and I am considering a 5th play through of The Last Of Us.  While each of those titles left me fulfilled and excited for continued adventured in those universes. All that to say I am a little hard on Quantum Break during this review, but I do believe I am scoring it based on the extremely high expectations the developers at Remedy have set for us over the last couple of years.

Quantum Break_REVIEWS_Screenshot 1

Story

This is where Quantum Break shines, and it should, as well as trips itself up by being overly ambitious.  Set in the fictional university town of Riverport, the main protagonist Jack Joyce takes part in a failed time travel experiment that goes horribly wrong.  A vast amount of Remedy’s resources were dedicated to developing a multi-layered and multi-pathed narrative that is driven by choices you make throughout the game.

These choices are beautifully animated and reminiscent of the back story segments we got when introduced to new characters in inFamous: Second Son, the only real issue I had with them was how detailed they were in showing the consequences of each choice.  I would have preferred a tad more ambiguity in what would happen if I chose the light or dark side throughout the game.  After choosing a path Quantum Break awkwardly launches into the TV episode that is tailored based on the choice you have made.  While these episodes are not mandatory and can easily be bypassed, when I did this I genuinely felt like I has missed something when I stepped back into the gameplay.  The problem being they are the length of actual TV episodes, clocking in around the 30 min mark, they interrupted the momentum and excitement I had started to build during actual game-play.  I found myself saying out loud “when do I get to play the actual game again?”

At times that the XBox One wasn’t powerful enough to play these episodes in game, as they stuttered throughout.  Though at time of release this may be resolved as I was playing a pre-patched copy and since Remedy has offered an update that provided “updates to your gameplay experience,” and promise another stability release at launch day.

Putting the TV series aside the in-game story is deep and fantastic and spans across several characters that you take control of.  The character models are some of the best I have ever seen, in fact when the first TV episode started I thought I was seeing an extremely high rez cut scene from the game engine.  I do love the in-game story, I just wish it was more of a fluid experience, and could probably have benefited from axing the ambitious TV series and put that time money and resources into the game itself.

Quantum Break_REVIEWS_Screenshot 13

Gameplay

It’s so difficult to rate the gameplay of Quantum Break, because the abilities you accumulate throughout the game are fun, intuitive and pretty original.  While arguments could be made that the time freezing ability is just a rehashing of bullet time in Remedy’s previous property Max Payne, I would counter that it is fresh enough and much more refined this go around.  I loved the style of stacking bullets on frozen enemies, escaping tricky situations with bursts of speed and “force” blasting enemies as Jack explores his inner Jedi.

Battles were a blast, the AI was smart, as enemies actively flanked me from all directions and the different types of enemies forced me to really use all of my powers and not just rely on a single set of abilities.  Sadly it was when I wasn’t fighting enemies that the game really tanked, and traversing the linear landscape was tedious and frustrating at times.

It was difficult to move from excellent fight mechanics to the stiff controls you were left with to make it into the next stage.  At times I almost boiled over in a rage when my character couldn’t stiff leg jump across a plank when not two minutes before I had torn through enemies with all the speed, and agility of a top tiered meta human.

Running was unnatural and laughable, I almost don’t want to talk about it because it was so disappointing.  It felt like the developers at Remedy felt it necessary for pacing to insert these small puzzles in after battles in order to force the player to use certain abilities to get to upper levels, hopping around on planks and metal beams with all the grace of the old classic Pitfall.

I also question the effort put into the periphery, while items up close rendered nicely the character models stood out a bit.  As if they were too defined for the world they were part of, and draw distance seemed like an afterthought because much of the outside game-play was either dark or blurred by time effects to keep you from asking to many questions.

Look, I said I was going to be hard on this game and I was.  This does not mean that I am not going to give other aspects of it a try.  I still have more choices I can make and game-play branches to explore.  Am I a glutton for punishment? Maybe, but I also believe I am holding out hope that the next patch will fix some of the glaring issues I have had with the Quantum Break.  Maybe this time rather than being shocked by the length of the “cut scenes,” see also TV show, I will just pull out a bowl of popcorn and enjoy it for what it is, now that I understand better what the game is trying to pull off.  I just wish that Quantum had tried to be the great game that it could have been, instead of trying to combine two massive mediums the first time out.

Quantum Break_REVIEWS_Screenshot 8

 

 

Quantum Break
  • 8/10
    Story - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Gameplay - 7/10
  • 5/10
    Mechanics - 5/10
6.7/10

The Verdict

Quantum Break has moments of gorgeous brilliance but ultimately feels unfinished and awkward

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