Quantum Break Review – Time-Bending Brilliance

When Quantum Break debuted as a teaser trailer during Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal way back in May of 2013, I found myself in a bit of a dilemma. As a long time fan of Remedy Entertainment and Alan Wake, I struggled with the reality that they were choosing to create a new IP instead of continuing the story of everyone’s favorite best-selling thriller novelist.

After two extensive playthroughs over the span of 16 hours, I’m pleased to say that all of those concerns are a thing of the past. Quantum Break is not just one of the most ambitious multimedia experiences this year but it’s also Microsoft’s best new franchise so far this generation. Here are a few more reasons why this immersive third-person shooter may or may not be for you.

Quantum Break takes place in the fictional northeastern town of Riverport before, during and after a top-secret time travel experiment goes horribly wrong. This catastrophic event impacts the lives of millions including Riverport University Project Director/Future Monarch Solutions Founder and lead antagonist Paul Serene, Quantum Physics Scientist William Joyce, Rogue Monarch Solutions Officer Beth Wilder, and mysterious outsider/main protagonist Jack Joyce.

Shortly after the accident, time breaks down and Jack and Paul acquire time-based abilities that put them at odds with each other. Paul gains the ability to see into the future while Jack is able to stop and manipulate time. The end result is a narrative full of twists and turns that evolve over the course of an 8-10 hour campaign with five action-packed acts.

Shawn Ashmore delivers a memorable performance as Jack Joyce.
Shawn Ashmore delivers a memorable performance as Jack Joyce.

Another significant part of the campaign experience lies within the fantastic episodic live-action TV series that takes place in between acts. At the end of each chapter, players have the ability to complete a brief junction sequence as Serene and make one of two choices. These decisions then bleed over into both the show and game, ultimately impacting how different aspects of the storyline pan out.

Additionally, Jack encounters 8 Quantum Ripples throughout the game that are referenced later on in the show. Using both of these mediums as the connective tissue to the narrative is nothing short of remarkable and shows just how much creativity the writers put into the finished product.

With so many positive things said about the plot, there are of course a few questions that are left unanswered by the end of the game. I’m not going to go into any specific spoilers and theories now, but I will certainly touch on this topic again after the game releases. For now, I’ll just say that if you’re a fan of classic third-person shooters with hints of action and science fiction, then you’ll certainly love what this story has to offer even if everything might not be clear.

Graphically, Quantum Break is stunning from start to finish. The seamless transition between cinematic cutscenes and gameplay succeed in pulling the viewer directly into the action. Unfortunately, this title has already received its fair share of criticism due to the reports of the resolution only reaching 720p on the Xbox One.

As I stated on a recent episode of the Co-op podcast, my TV automatically outputs every game to 1080p so I wouldn’t know the difference and I personally don’t care either. If you want to play this title on the highest settings, then you should consider buying the Windows 10 version which already comes free with every digital preorder of the game. At the end of the day, its important to remember that there are several gameplay mechanics in place that contribute to resolution and thus experiences will vary between console and PC.

Impressive graphics and gameplay makes this an instant classic.
Impressive graphics and gameplay makes this an instant classic.

Speaking of gameplay, Remedy’s approach to honoring traditional third-person shooters makes this the single best component of the game. The controls are slick, responsive, and keep you coming back for more. In addition to having the slow motion kill mechanics that we’ve seen in other shooters, the greatness is only magnified further thanks to the use of time-bending techniques. Below is a quick description of 5 time-based powers that you’ll earn as you progress through the campaign.

Time Vision – Reveal enemy positions and items from varying distances.

Time Stop – Freeze enemies and attack them for a brief period of time.

Time Dodge – Dash past enemies to execute and avoid ongoing attacks.

Time Shield– Create a shield to deflect attacks for a specified amount of time.

Time Blast – Unleash a powerful blast attack that damages enemies instantly.

While these powers start out pretty basic, you’re eventually given the opportunity to upgrade them by collecting 60 different Chronon sources throughout the entire campaign. These units of time play a major role in explaining how both Paul and Jack evolve as characters over time. Another cool aspect about adding time powers to this game is that it allows you to rewind moments in time to access past conversations and manipulate time to navigate through obstacles. Many may look at this stuff as gimmicky, but I promise you’ll definitely get hooked once you give it a try.

Time-based abilities make this a fun campaign from start to finish.
Time-based abilities add to an already engaging third-person shooter experience.

The final aspect of gameplay that makes this title memorable lies in just how enticing the world is around you. There are several narrative driven documents, Intel, media files, and computers you can find through the game which add further context to the core cast of characters. Remedy also used this opportunity to provide nostalgic callbacks to previous titles they’ve worked on. Part of the fun is in collecting every bit of information that this title has to offer. This gives players yet another reason to replay the game in the event that just seeing how alternate choices play out isn’t enough.

While the majority of my time with Quantum Break was fantastic, there were at least two things that annoyed me. One came from the fact that I experienced a few minor performance bugs while playing through the campaign. Remedy has released a patch to address most of these problems but there is no telling if another issue will surface once the day one patch drops. With that said, the game runs fine now and there shouldn’t be any other significant issues with bugs in the foreseeable future.

Bugs were present in the game but have since been patched out.
Bugs were present in the game but have since been patched out.

Another issue that I had with the game stemmed from the constant video buffering I witnessed while watching episodes. As it has already been reported, episodes aren’t on the disc but can be downloaded if you happen to have 76GBs of hard drive space. The game already takes up approximately 45.7GBs of space and asking for more space to download episodes is a bit extreme. This is of course all optional and doesn’t take away for the overall package.

In closing, Quantum Break is a solid shooter and speaks volumes about what Remedy Entertainment is capable of. It certainly will be interesting to see what they do once they revisit the Alan Wake franchise. For now, they have a hit on their hands and you definitely owe it to yourself to take this trip through time.

This review was based on a digital review copy of Quantum Break for the Xbox One provided by Microsoft Studios.

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