Quantum Break is an innovative hybrid TV show/game from Remedy Entertainment and Microsoft Studios. Remedy is responsible for such hits as Max Payne and Alan Wake and they’ve brought a lot of what’s good about those games to Quantum Break.
The cast is amazing. Shawn Ashmore is the protagonist Jack Joyce. Dominic Monaghan is his genius brother Will. Aiden Gillen is Jack’s former best friend turned nemesis Paul Serene. Lance Reddick is Martin Hatch, head of Monarch Corporation and Paul’s right hand man. Courtney Hope is Beth, formerly of Monarch, now Jack’s ally. The graphics are amazing. The actors’ performances are excellent both in game and in the TV episodes that define each chapter of the game. As for the television segments, they’re good and feel very much like some of the independent programming you might find on Netflix, Amazon or Hulu.
The playable parts of the game are classic third person shooter stuff. This is a Remedy Entertainment game, so Jack’s time powers feel a lot like Max Payne’s bullet time, but there is some new stuff too, like a time shield that protects him for a few seconds and the ability to shoot across the room for short bursts. There is a detect-life kind of option that is time vision so you can see where the bad guys are and where the goodies you need to collect are.
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This is all good stuff, but it’s not really new. In fact, some of the controls are kind of clunky and it does take some effort to use the time elements. Although, there isn’t really anything new in them, you have to use them all in conjunction with each other to beat the levels. You can’t ignore them. It’s not like you can go all stealth without them or just blast your way through levels. The time powers are critical to game play, and in that sense, they are innovative in that it’s a set of skills you must develop and a different way of thinking about completing a level. As you move through the game you can find stashes of chronons (time particles) that allow you to improve Jack’s powers.
The soundtrack is excellent and really moves you through the story. It’s cinematic in much the same way that the game is. Unfortunately, the game is a little too cinematic and the TV episodes within it take up more time and more story that they should.
The actual game play in Quantum Break is pretty short, between six and eight hours depending on how adept you are picking up new game skills. While I understand that the story behind Quantum Break is complex, it’s almost like the developers didn’t trust the players to pick up everything and read everything, and so they made the TV episodes to spoon feed it to them. I didn’t care for that.
Perhaps because I’m one of those people who pick up everything and read it, or perhaps because I read the excellent tie-in book, Quantum Break: Zero State that goes with the game, I felt like the TV episodes were too long in the middle of the game I was playing. They were like cut scenes from hell. No matter how good the acting and production is, when I’m playing a game, I’m not in the mood to watch TV. I just watch TV when I’m in that mood.
Which brings me to the biggest flaw in Quantum Break. Television and video games are not the same. Television is about disengaging your brain and passively enjoying a story. Video games are about fully engaging your brain to work your way through a story. Being fully engaged and then disengaged and then engaged again, didn’t really work for me. Also, as I was watching the TV segments, I began to resent that I couldn’t play parts of them. Why, for example, could I not drive the car to get Liam to safety in the first segment? I’m playing a video game; I want to drive the car!
Ultimately, I gave Quantum Break four out of five GiN gems because the production was excellent, the decisions you make during the game do effect outcome, although there aren’t that many of those decisions, but they do offer some replay value, which is good, because as I said before, it’s a pretty short game for $60. It also has Lance Reddick in it, and Lance Reddick is worth one GiN gem all by himself. Not to mention, I think Remedy Entertainment deserves credit for trying to do something different with games, even if that difference didn’t really appeal to me personally.
Let me know what you thought of Quantum Break in the comments below.