Review Price to be confirmed
Xbox One exclusive
Quantum Break release date: 2015
Journalists have been salivating about the prospect of writing about Quantum Break ever since it was first unveiled at E3 in 2013. The reason for this is that out of all of the games revealed that year, Remedy Entertainment’s TV show/game hybrid looked like a decidedly odd duck.
Its mix of real-world TV footage and video game graphics struck most hacks as an unworkable combination. Remedy had traipsed into this territory before with Alan Wake, which was structured like a high-end TV series, but it had met with mixed reviews that criticized everything from the repetitive gameplay to the unlikable protagonist. Remedy’s attempts in the past to mix gaming with a TV format, then, had met with limited success and Quantum Break appeared to signal that, in spite of that, Remedy was taking its ambitions widescreen.
This meant that Quantum Break was likely to be either a revolutionary new way of looking at games or a trainwreck of epic proportions. Either way, it was going to be very interesting to write about.
So it was rather weird, then, to see Quantum Break’s on stage reveal at Microsoft’s Gamescom keynote contained no footage or hardly a mention of its TV particulars. The demo behind closed doors in the convention centre was equally puzzling. While Remedy’s studio head Sam Lake confirmed that the TV series would ship with the game, the only inkling those in attendance were given about the show’s content was that it would be about the villainous corporation in Quantum Break, Monarch.
So the TV show seems to operate as background to the game. Whether or not it has to be viewed concurrently or before the player gets stuck into the game component wasn’t made clear. The game itself, though, bears all the hallmarks of Remedy’s previous offerings, Max Payne and Alan Wake, in that it’s a third person shooter (TPS) with a reality bending mechanic overlaid on top of it.
With Max Payne, the mechanic was bullet-time. With Alan Wake it was the ability to make enemies vulnerable by burning off a protective layer using light. In Quantum Break, it’s all about time manipulation.
The premise for the game is pretty straightforward; after an experiment at a research facility turns horribly wrong, a gravel-throated bloke named Jack Joyce (presumably no relation) picks up the handy ability to manipulate time. Unfortunately, another byproduct of the experiment was that time itself has begun to splinter and snap.
At the same time, the Monarch Corporation has targeted Joyce, believing him to be the key to solving the temporal crisis. Joyce has to stay alive and figure out a way to prevent what Remedy have termed ‘the end of time itself’. So, no pressure then!
In the demo at Gamecom, Joyce finds himself having to cross a bridge crawling with Monarch troops who are searching for him. It’s not long after he approaches the bridge that all hell breaks loose and provides Remedy with the opportunity to show off the game’s time-bending mechanic.
Quantum Break comes on like the illegitimate child of Uncharted and Braid. The lion’s share of the action is a cover-based Third Person Shooter affair, but it’s augmented by Joyce’s ability to manipulate time. In a gunfight it seems he has two options; blur and contain. The former involves slowing down time and sprinting between pieces of cover. This causes any enemies trying to draw a bead on him to lose him completely and allows him to blindside them. The latter creates a temporal bubble around the gun barrel of anyone firing bullets at him and then he’s able to spray them back at the person firing them.
The whole affair looks very stylish – and not just because Joyce’s time-bending abilities give the whole thing a very Matrix-esque vibe. Remedy has been hammering cinematic flair into every game it has made since 2001’s Max Payne. So it comes as no surprise that when Joyce targets a gas main with his handgun or cuts the distance on a foe and takes them out with a flying punch, the camera pulls back and the action slows down to make everything look as cool as humanly possible.
Outside of the game’s gunbattles, players need to wrap their heads around the concept of Stutters. With time crumbling around him, Joyce occasionally finds himself in temporal dead zones where the actions and activities of the living world are frozen in place. Here, he has to navigate time pockets in order to survive and combat Monarch operatives, who possess the technology to pass through into Time Stutters and engage him directly.
The action doesn’t stop there. Since the Time Stutters are essentially pockets of temporal shifts that Joyce – and by extension, the player – can pass through, he’s sometimes required to deploy his time-bending powers to slow down flying debris in order to create a pathway through crumbling environments. It’s here that Quantum Break stops being a shooter with a nifty mechanic and starts being a puzzle platformer that the player has to navigate with an exacting sense of timing.
Whether or not this is enough to keep players engaged over the seven to eight hour stretch one would expect from a Triple A title – and a console exclusive at that – remains to be seen. It’s also worth pointing out that for all its TV/gaming hybrid aspirations, Quantum Break still feels like a game with a TV show bolt-on at this stage. Remedy says that its Gamescom reveal is just a small segment of a wider vision. Here’s hoping that’s not just good PR…
Read more: Best Xbox One Games