Quantum Break is the culmination of many years of refinement and execution. Remedy Entertainment’s latest is an excellent video game, while also giving a glimpse into the potential future of an entertainment experience that spans across multiple media platforms – which, if executed correctly, could change the way developers tell their stories through video games and other digital platforms.
In 2010, my view of video games completely changed thanks to Alan Wake – Remedy’s previous title. Alan Wake managed to blend the exciting action of games with the intensity and intrigue of the modern day television show. And by having acts instead of chapters, and routinely having “Previously In…” at the beginning of a new act, Alan Wake felt cinematic – almost like I was involving myself in a story that changed through my actions, whilst maintaining the devices of what made a tv show tick as well.
Back then, the story-based video game was still a little bit of a loose gamble. Many-a-gamer preferred gameplay over story, and my instincts tell me choosing the latter for the main focus was a risky endeavour to find yourself in as a developer. However, Alan Wake and Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain – both released in 2010 – are great examples of story and narrative structure done well, and, as I was still making my way through high school, showcased to me a new direction video games seemed to be headed.
Looking at it now, narrative-driven games can be found almost anywhere you look, and that’s pretty damn cool. Quantum Break, though, is a completely different beast, with Remedy again finding themselves in waters rarely inhabited.
It’s safe to say most of us have fallen victim to a pretty shitty film adaptation of a video game at some point in time. So the notion of video games and live-action coming together usually grinds our respective gears, but Remedy have gone in guns-blazing with this idea, so-to-speak. And not only is this component of Quantum Break good, but it’s a fundamental pillar in the understanding of the game’s world and the importance of the events transpiring.
In fact, the live-action show is surprisingly great. Following the movements of Monarch Solutions, the game’s enemy organisation, it gives Quantum Break room to breathe and showcases a different side of the people Jack Joyce, the game’s protagonist, is fighting against.
The four 30-ish minute episodes are filled with explosive set pieces, great sound design, and good acting from the cast, and give the game an extra foothold to explore different avenues of telling the overarching story. It kept me intrigued throughout, and allowed me to develop a connection with characters who, had these episodes not been included, I wouldn’t have cared about whatsoever. It’s been designed as an integral part of Quantum Break, and the game fares much better with it than without.
In saying that, I wish the live-action series had gone on for a bit longer. Some of the major plot points and decisions feel rushed, and the payoff you’d usually see in a well-developed television series doesn’t really come to fruition here. It is, however, a fascinating look into a different method of storytelling that hasn’t been done well before. And, if anything, I think Remedy are on to something here.
When it comes down to it, there’s not much different in the way Quantum Break plays when compared to your standard third-person shooter. Like Remedy’s previous work, the game’s a linear experience through-and-through. However, the gameplay is varied up thanks to the game’s main theme: time.
Time plays a major role in everything Quantum Break throws at you, from its well-executed, enjoyable story to the excellent, action-oriented gameplay. Taking the role of Shawn Ashmore’s Jack Joyce who, in classic hero fashion, finds himself right in the middle of a fracture in time – giving him and Aidan Gillen’s Paul Serene, who’s also right in the thick of things, time-shifting powers – you’re tasked with trying to fix said fracture in time, which could cause the end of the world.
Quantum Break’s story is a fascinating look at the importance time plays in our lives. Of course, it’s a fundamental part of how we function, but the way Remedy have tackled it gives the narrative enough grounding to feel real, while also experimenting with almost superhero-like powers and situations. It’s a complex, thrilling nine-hour journey that’s shaped by a handful of major choices you make in-game, and is certainly worth an extra playthrough to experience both sides of the coin.
Iterating on the theme of time, Quantum Break’s gameplay jumps from the regular to the fantastic fairly quickly, with Joyce developing his time-shifting powers early on in the game. This is where the game shines brightest.
Joyce’s powers range from a simple dash, which, as you’d expect, has him dash in a Flash-like fashion around an area, to shooting out a time stop, which freezes enemies and objects within a bubble. These, alongside a few other abilities which are best left discovering yourself, change up the game’s gameplay in fun and exciting ways. Stringing a couple of time-changing abilities together allowed for more than one quick escape from a sticky situation I’d found myself in, and, combined with the great firefights that are regularly encountered, made for some of the most enjoyable third-person action I’ve played all year.
Additionally, all of Joyce’s time-altering abilities can be upgraded through Chronon Sources – light objects found in the game world. These are plentiful throughout and are fairly easy to find most of the time. As is to be expected, Remedy have also thrown a plethora of collectibles around Quantum Break as well, which, if you take the time to find and read them, are great at grounding the game’s world and establishing context as to what’s happening with Monarch and Serene’s plans.
Remedy have played with the potential of time and its importance in the world (and combat) expertly here, and, coming together with tight controls and the gorgeously detailed areas explored in the game’s five acts, showcase just how much they’ve learned from their previous gaming endeavours. It never becomes boring or arduous to use the abilities Joyce gets, and they add to the game in satisfying, time-altering ways.
It’s disappointing that the game only lasted for nine hours though, as I feel like there was more room to move and explore in a world like Quantum Breaks. As well as this, the importance of the situation – while spoken about many-a-time – doesn’t feel like a priority in some instances. Instead, Joyce’s resentment of Serene seems to take a main focus throughout while the world slowly jumps between time stopping and starting. It doesn’t necessarily feel disjointed or annoying, but given the potential a story like this possesses, it would have been nice to have it be a little more fleshed out.
Quantum Break is a fantastic game by all means. Its live-action component, while I initially doubted how well it’d turn out, compliments the game’s story perfectly, adding a whole different dimension to the way you take to the narrative. The acting is great both in-game and in the live-action sequences, and that’s a credit to the direction and writing team. Remedy’s latest is a triumph, and the risks the Finland-based developers have taken has paid off. Minor faults aside, Quantum Break is an experience everyone should be looking to give a go.
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platforms: PC, Xbox One (reviewed)
A review copy was provided by the publisher.