Quantum Break Review – The Ultimate Remedy Experience
Quantum Break feels like the game this generation has been craving all along. It’s inherently ambitious in its design, creative with its execution, and stylish as all hell. Then again, we’ve come to expect nothing less from Remedy Entertainment.
This is, after all, a studio that has built itself quite the reputation through 20 years of developing linear, cinematic shooters in the likes of Max Payne and Alan Wake. Quantum Break is another success for the studio, a must-play experience that pairs a sublime campaign with an intertwined live-action series. The resulting product is more successful than you may ever have imagined (or reasonably considered) it could be.
At the heart of it all, Quantum Break is a confident and driven action-adventure game that rewards those that are willing to pace themselves and take the time to investigate every oddity, every corner of the world and (perhaps most importantly) question everything placed in front of them.
That was, admittedly, a gamble on Remedy’s part. Modern media that dares tackle the realities and complications of time travel can often find their plots unravelling as soon as you begin to tug at a loose thread, though Quantum Break persists with some presence.
If you’re willing to put in the time and truly allow yourself to be enveloped by the world, you’ll have no trouble getting your head wrapped around the time warping realities of a failed experiment at Riverport University and the impact it has had on Quantum Break’s warring lead characters, Jack Joyce and Paul Serene.
Quantum Break largely borrows its structure from Alan Wake; it’s a game built around moments of intense cinematic action, broken apart by lengthy opportunities to digest the plot and soak in the atmosphere. Admittedly, it can sometimes feel like it’s dragging its feet a little, but that’s by design.
Remedy has a habit of pacing its games in a resolutely old-school fashion. The intent behind that decision is to not only give you room to breath between gun fights, but to give you a chance to fully understand the intricacies of the time travel narrative and the various shifting alliances of the characters – not to mention an opportunity to appreciate the creation itself.
As time itself begins to break down, as stutters in reality cause moments to freeze and unravel around you, you’re left to marvel at one of the most beautiful and visually evocative games of the generation. Were you concerned by news of Quantum Break’s limiting 720p resolution? Don’t be, the studio’s new proprietary Northlight Engine has allowed the artists and animators at Remedy to craft some truly breathtaking scenarios.
Where the structure similarities between Quantum Break and Alan Wake break apart, however, is in the moments between chapters. While Alan Wake was more than content in ending a chapter with title credits and a tease of what’s to come – giving it the illusion of having TV sensibilities – Quantum Break goes one step further by introducing full-length, 20-minute episodes of live action to consume. After running, gunning and time-shifting your way through a segment of gameplay as Jack Joyce, you’ll have the opportunity to play as villain Paul Serene and use his control over reality to dictate the direction of the story – that’s where the live-action episodes come into play.
It’s a little strange and disorientating at first; actively being asked to put your controller down and to passively engage with the game for a length of time but, honestly, it works. The quality of the show is fantastic – feeling on par with Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D in terms of budget and production value.
While the pacing of episodes has a tendency to stumble, it’s made up for massively by strong performances from the cast (who have given their likeness and voices to characters in both game and show) and strong scenes of action that really raises the stakes for all involved. We can’t see this working for every game, nor would we want it to, but it’s an interesting experiment that makes Quantum Break feel truly unique; it’s the realisation of Microsoft’s original ‘All-In-One Entertainment System’ dream come to life, albeit three years too late.
While the live-action integration will likely be the talking point for some time with Quantum Break, as will the standout performance from Patrick Heusinger – cast as Monarch bodyguard Liam Burke – it’s the combat that truly sells the game and its concept of time-warping action and adventure.
If you’ve ever wondered whether Remedy misses making Max Payne games, this should effortlessly answer the question for you – gun fights are cinematic and explosive, forcing you to utilise an array of time shifting powers to get the better of your enemies. Be it darting between cover in the blink of an eye, tearing apart the fabric of reality to rush opponents, or freezing specific bubbles of time to enhance your damage capabilities, it has a way of making you //feel// powerful, dangerous even.
That does have quite the effect on difficulty curve, even on the hardest difficulty setting we rarely struggled – in fact, any deaths we encountered were largely down to miss-timing some of the more intensive (and sometimes frustrating) platforming puzzles.
It’s clear that the six year development of Quantum Break – which necessitated re-casting lead characters, cutting playable characters and entire script overhauls – has been arduous for Remedy, and that means that a fair few plot points are left dangling by the game’s conclusion. Beth Wilder (a playable character once upon a time) feels a little short changed, and the threat of new, more powerful foes never quite delivers . That all said, Quantum Break manages to keep it together in its closing act much better than Alan Wake was able to.
Quantum Break isn’t for everybody and that’s //okay//. It doesn’t move at the breakneck pace most genre games do nowadays, nor does it ever seem particularly concerned with some of the plot points or character development gaps it leaves dangling, but for those that take the chance on the full Quantum Break experience (episodes and all) will find a quirky and unique game waiting that you just won’t see replicated anywhere else.