Imagine if you suddenly gained the ability to control aspects of time and travel to the past – would you use it for good or bad? Quantum Break, from the developers behind the story driven Alan Wake, thrusts you into the world of time warping, time fractures, and your usual gunplay antics. The game blends an episodic TV-style show with a game, something which is both intriguing and yet slightly disappointing in equal measure.
As Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore), you’re thrown into a world of chaos and time manipulation after visiting an old friend named Paul Serene aka ‘Moneybags’. Before the world dramatically changes, Jack’s brother William enters the story and the journey through time to save the world begins. The episodic television show which runs alongside the game are interesting to the say the least – think Alan Wake but extra doses of ‘shooty-bang-bang’ thrown in. Generally speaking, the live-action episodes can be hit and miss but the acting is top notch and does tend to make up for the episodes shortfalls. The cast includes the better known Shawn Ashmore (Fringe) and Lance Reddick (The Wire) but the lesser-known actors do a fantastic job throughout and due to this, I’d still suggest watching at least one episode to see see if it piques your interest. For those who do sink their teeth into the episodes, extra scenes are available to download alongside those already included in the game. Bonus!
The point of the live-action episodes is to bring a greater meaning to the choices you make throughout. Between your bouts of playing as Jack Joyce, you will also gain control of Paul Serene, the very man that is experimenting with time travel. Towards the end of the game’s episodes, you must make a decision which will change the course of the game in small ways. The changes, generally, do make adjustments to the gameplay which can see you shooting your way through a group of enemies as they wait unexpectedly or shooting your way through a small army.
The gameplay, which can be action heavy in some sections, can also be rather mundane. The game is heavily story-driven, Remedy’s favourite, and the environments are littered with extra content such as emails, videos, etc, which gives a background to the story and characters. If you’re not interested in any of these extras you may find yourself walking from A to B with nothing more than Joyce’s commentary to keep you company.
The combat system, which includes both gun shooting and time abilities, is one of the greatest aspects of the game. As you progress through the story you will gain new powers which when strung together can create some great slow motion death scenes when completely obliterating groups of enemies. From Time Blast to Time Dodge there are a variety of moves which help keep combat fun and all of these abilities can be upgraded by collecting upgrade orbs known as Chronon. However, the positivity can’t be shared with the dynamic cover system. During combat scenes, you press your character up to objects in the environment to take cover and Jack will go into crouch mode. The disappointing part of this cover system is the lack of freedom it gives you, despite being able to freely move around you are constantly exposed in some form or another to gunfire. Whilst you can fire your time abilities willy-nilly you’re not able to hip fire your weapons and instead, you must pop out of cover which on higher difficulties just isn’t fun.
The game does involve some elements of platforming, a handful of the later episodes which will utilise your time powers to move destroy and move objects. The only issue here is that they will always return back to their original state after a set amount of time – good things don’t last. The platforming is lackluster due to Jack’s awful movement and the bland environments in these areas.
Quantum Break whilst enjoyable as a whole package does suffer from some issues. The game is divided between engaging combat and boring environment traversal. The decision making can add some extra time on to the 10-hour campaign but not by much and whilst the developers encourage a second playthrough to make changes to your path of gameplay it’s not entirely necessary and isn’t really worth the extra time. The live-action show that’s included on the side will be hit or miss for many players but for some, it could add an extra couple hours of enjoyment for some.
The game looks great, the combat is interesting and if you have the time and want to put in the effort the extra emails, documents, etc can add a little more flesh to the story but platforming elements and gun controls to mention just a few let it down. Quantum Break does have limited appeal but you may just find yourself enjoying the ride like I did.