Review Price to be confirmed
Quantum Break preview
Xbox One exclusive
Quantum Break release date: April 5 2016
Originally revealed in May 2013, Remedy’s Quantum Break has suffered a couple of delays this year to allow its Finnish developer more time to realise its ambition. According to Remedy though, the game is now complete – playable from beginning to end – and the last six months ahead of the April 5, 2016 release are being spent on polish and fine tuning. Taking a break in the schedule, Remedy invited us behind closed doors at Gamescom 2015 to show us how it’s been getting on.
The demo we saw was being played on a PC, although the final game will only be released on Xbox One. The story starts 17 years ago, when an experiment at Riverport University goes wrong, altering the fabric of time in the process. The main character of Jack Joyce is caught in the blast and gains time manipulation powers, such as the ability to stop time. The problem is, so does the game’s antagonist, Paul Serene, who is able to see into the future – an ability he uses to make decisions in the present that will help his nefarious business called Monarch.
Remedy joked that much like the demo they showed at last year’s E3, the Gamescom demo featured yet another ship being destroyed. It opens with Serene, the ruthless head of the Monarch corporation, ringing Joyce on his mobile. In a nod to Remedy fans, the ringtone was the Alan Wake theme tune. Serene traps Joyce by exploding a huge ship all around him, although thankfully Joyce is able to freeze moments in time in order to escape.
Making matters worse are the Monarch soldiers who have been sent down to take Joyce out. These soldiers are kitted out with hazmat suits that the Monarch corporation has designed, which allow them to move around within these frozen moments (or “stutters”) in the same way that Joyce is able to. However, Joyce still has the advantage – he has time-manipulation abilities including Time Dodge, which allows a quick getaway, Time Shield, which deflects incoming fire, and Time Stop, which freezes enemies.
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The demo was a much more polished version of the game than we saw at Gamescom last year, with better graphics, a smoother demonstration of powers, and a more reliable cover mechanic. Quantum Break is graphically impressive – one of the best-looking games on Xbox One at this stage, with impressive art design, some epic set-pieces and very realistic actor likenesses. Speaking of which, the actors playing the main roles were announced at Gamescom, with X-Men’s Iceman, a.k.a. Shawn Ashmore as Jack Joyce, and Game of Thrones’ Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, a.k.a. Aidan Gillen as Paul Serene.
Interspersed with the gameplay of Quantum Break will be four 22-minute episodes of a drama that will flesh out the story of the game. Interestingly, while the game will tell this story from the perspective of protagonist Jack Joyce, the drama will be framed from the viewpoint of Paul Serene. The show will also change depending on the decisions you make in the game – we got to see a clip where one of the secondary characters gets to live or die depending on your decisions. These TV-style episodes will interject at key moments in the game – you can skip them, but Remedy hopes you’ll watch them to fill in some of the major plot points.
See also: Best Xbox One Games 2015
While we applaud Remedy’s willingness to experiment (and Microsoft’s backing to do so), we have to admit we left the demonstration a little bit more confused than excited about what Quantum Break had to offer. Most of the questions at the end from the assembled journalists were to do with how the drama will work with the game – Remedy simply hasn’t done a good enough job of explaining why it feels they were a necessary part of the package.
To be brutally honest, the short clips that we saw of the show reminded us of the cut-scenes we had to endure in the 90s, when disc-based formats allowed game designers the chance to add loads of FMV to games, and they became so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should. Even thought the 22-minute final episodes will undoubtedly add to the story, their length reminds us of the longer cut scenes that have bogged down so many Metal Gear games, getting in the way when all we wanted to do was play the game.
See also: Best Games 2015
The game itself also seems a little bit laboured – time-manipulation is an interesting mechanic from a gameplay perspective, but the different ways it applies to the characters lacks cohesion and further adds to the confusion. As Remedy itself noted at the beginning of the demo, this is a game that’s obsessed with having ships fall on you, and while it makes for a graphically impressive set piece, it looks pretty boring to play. We’ll reserve judgement till we’ve played the finished game, but the cover-based shooting doesn’t appear to be particularly strong either.
Quantum Break will be arriving on April 5 2016, thankfully after the onslaught of big games that are releasing this Christmas. We hope the studio that brought us Max Payne and Alan Wake can deliver on its lofty goals.