Quantum Break (Xbox One)
A fantastic Xbox and Windows 10 exclusive that should sell consoles, Quantum Break is a relatively obscure title that deserves the attention of anyone looking for a cinematic action adventure game.
Unique Mechanics, Good Gameplay
Part of what makes my heart go pitter-patter for Quantum Break are the time bending powers you'll use to kill baddies. There's the expected powers of speeding and slowing time, but Quantum Break takes it a creative step further by allowing you to bend time around specific enemies, objects, or yourself. Freezing time around yourself, for example, crafts a bullet stopping shield as you run for cover.
The coolest ability by far, though, allows you to freeze space/time around an enemy. I'm not going to pretend to understand what that sentence means, but it has this AWEOMSE effect of allowing a magazine or two of fired rounds to queue up before impacting said enemy all at once. Then, in a spectacular, explosive flair, the enemy will be quantum locked in an explosion-- Its difficult to explain, but it's fucking sick as fuck, bro. Bounce around that gameplay video above to get an idea of what it all looks like.
Combining those neat abilities with small weapons fire keeps fun on the boil until the game's end. This is important, because in other cinematic action adventure games, like Uncharted, playing the actual game takes back seat to a cinematic story. Roll your eyes all you want, the most fun part of Uncharted games is watching the story unfold, not jumping around old buildings with inexplicable finger strength.
Search your heart you know it to be true.
Quantum Break, on the other hand, is equally as fun to play as it is to watch. What a concept that Curiously, its won zero meaningless GOTY awards. Admittedly, outside of the time powers and shooting dudes, the gameplay doesn't do much to shake things up. It's just fun, plain and simple.
Enemies will flank you and, I assume, tip-toe behind you to melee you to death to keep things challenging and interesting. You will unlock stronger powers and carry stronger weapons as you progress, but Quantum Break will remind you that you're playing as a squishy human in way over his head named Jack Joyce.
|That's this adorable, angry-faced man right here.|
You will die a lot but most times its clear why you were outgunned or outflanked.
That sort of challenge is the kind I can get behind: challenging enough without pissing me off. Also, that vulnerability ties well into the game's themes of choice and consequence and how our species can miraculously exhibit selfless choices that truly only serve the self. The story explores some deep concepts of actualization, and overall...
The Story is Damn Fucking Good
It's damn good indeed. In the beginning, regular ol' Jack Joyce is visiting his smart, rich douche friend named Paul Serene.
|You know he's the bad guy because he is rich.|
He's called Jack after some odd years to witness the activation of a time machine. Things obviously go nutty, shit breaking left and right, and this creepy ass company, Monarch, is now trying to kill you.
Immediately our hero is thrown into a chaotic, multifaceted plot to avoid and prevent the end of time. There is a LOT going on story wise that can be confusing, but it is more parts compelling than confusing. Besides, there's plenty of story recaps during cutscenes and before each TV episodes in addition to in-game intel that'll fill in any gaps. Those inclined to get more out of the story should read and view as much of that intel as possible, by the way, especially students of philosophy, sociology, and the movie Primer. Your school doesn't offer a Primer Studies class? That's weird.
You select few will eat Quantum Break's story up. You'll actually care for most of the well written characters you'll see in-game and during the TV show because they face actual human problems. Problems like "Wow I can't believe my old best friend has done this to me" or "Gee, I hope I'm making the right choice". This is in contrast to problems like, "Wow, I can't believe I literally murdered hundreds of people to steal something for glory, I wonder if I will get the hot blonde chick as a reward." Fucking Uncharted.
You haven't seen Primer?
Shane Carruth had a budget of $7000 and made a half million at the box office.
It's on Netflix and you should totally go watch it.
If you're not the type to delve into intel and such, no worries, the main story is enough of a meal on its own to fill your belly. But I bet you're also the type to order a steak well done from a fancy restaurant and complain that its dry. While I understand that choice, I do not respect it. Frankly, you disgust me.
Right, Jack has it in his head that he can reset time to save all of existence. Being a kind of... Act first, think later kind of guy, Jack maintains a singular goal, no matter the consequences of his choices, until certain things happen and his mind changes. I can't say more without spoiling the story, but what's important is that while this isn't a sprawling, branching arch with multiple endings like Heavy Rain or Beyond Two Souls, your choices will affect the plot and you will feel the gravity of every choice made.
Like whether or not to trust the obviously evil, menacing guy from the beginning.
This is because Quantum Break presents it's plot from multiple angles. The game shows the plot through Jack's point of view while the TV episodes shows the views of multiple Monarch employees. It's a cool way to tell a story because you won't soon forget that the Monarch baddies you are killing are actual people with real lives, who-- Oh gosh, there I go again. Spoilers. Go buy this game right now, guy. It's a refreshing take on the cinematic, action-adventure genre and is the very definition of what a good video game story should be and how it should be told. Take a hint, Uncharted.
Here's a fun game, kids: Have a drink whenever you hear "Uncharted" during this review.
Ya' know how the movie Troy asks you to root for the antagonist, Achilles, playing his death up as heroic in a non-ironic way? This is unlike Breaking Bad, you see, where the burgeoning evil of Walter White is the point of the story, whereas the "burgeoning evil" of Achilles or Nathan Drake from Uncharted is the result of poor writing. Quantum Break doesn't ask you to feel positively or negatively towards the protagonist, instead, it asks you to form your own opinion. That's good shit that more video games should try and its why this game has such a fantastic story.
|You haven't seen Troy either? Wow, go see Troy, dude.|
Choice, that word coming up a lot. The game makes it clear that your decisions affect the story, and some have criticized these parts for being too obvious. I agree that the transition from normal gameplay to "make a choice" gameplay can be jarring, unfortunately. There sections are few and far between so it's not too terrible of a mechanic. You'll also have some smaller choices to make during gameplay. For instance, if you turn on a tape recorder--
You haven't seen a tape recorder before?
Jesus Goddamn Christ, what have you seen?
--in a level that's reading an absolutely awkward screenplay, that same tape will hilariously play in the background of the next TV episode. Hilarity!
Oh, shit, the TV episodes. We should probably talk about those.
At It's Gooey Center, A Baked-In TV Show
The way the game works is like this: Cutscene > Gameplay > "Make a choice" Cutscene > TV Episode. This formula can be off putting but I think it works very well. When Metal Gear Solid games hold us hostage with terrible plots for hours at a time and long-winded cut scenes, we miraculously forgive and praise them. Quantum Break deserves not only forgiveness for it's well acted, well filmed live-action episodes, but adulation.
Games now-a-days are either a some shooter or some RPG, but here we have Quantum Break giving us a quality television show with events that fucking change depending on your in-game choices in the middle of an epic action-adventure video game with good gameplay. To see the consequences of your choices unfold onto live-action characters works wonders to making you care about them. "I did X earlier and now so-and-so is dead?
The amount of honest to goodness work that must've gone into the filming the actors in both gameplay and in a TV production, along with the scenes of different choices and outcomes, and have it all work coherently as a good story is a true achievement. I can barely sync my morning poos with my shower time before ending up making a mess on the toilet seat, and here we have a game that smoothly adjusts a fucking TV show depending on the choices you've made during the gameplay. Holy fuck. I bet the commodes at Remedy Entertainment are so clean you could eat off of them.
It Looks 'ight
I could wax on and on about this game's tangy, gooey goodness of a story but it's not all perfect.
For starters, there's no getting around the persistent film grain on everything. I understand that modern games want to look as real as possible but it sometimes distracts from the sharp textures, awesome light effects, and the life-like character models. You're not Cloverfield, Quantum Break, drop the digital camera look during gameplay, at lest. Oh well, between the time bending effects and live-action episodes, Quantum Break is still a visual feast.
|I'm assuming you haven't seen this movie. Go see this movie.|
But for an Adventure Game, its a Bit Cramped
Lastly, it kinda sucks that you can't explore the city of Generic Fake Port Town, Massachusetts. I personally think all games should be true adventure games a la Tomb Raider, but this is one of the few that would actually benefit from a more open world. How cool would it have been to traverse town with time going all fucky like in the gameplay video? One moment you're solving a jumping puzzle and the next, the floor is gone and you gotta figure out how to traverse the area without time's fuckiness fucking you up. That would've been neat, huh?
An Awesome Experience You Won't Find Anywhere Else, It's Worth Giving it a Chance
But really, that's all just nitpicking. Remedy Entertainment has cooked up a mind-bending story of time travel, betrayal, and ethics that'll leave you drooling for more at each episode's end. Curiously, the game has sold well, but few of my hundreds of thousands of friends have heard of it. Those who have played it have nothing but good things to say. I don't normally gush for a video game because, frankly, modern games just don't excite me like Sonic Adventure has in the past.
But man, this one does. But of course it does, I friggin' love science fiction. So, if I'm being honest, between the TV episodes and the heavy sci-fi plot, it's definitely not for everyone. You have to really love science fiction and the TV episode mechanic to get the most out of Quantum Break. But, if any of that sounds remotely interesting to you, for sure spend the $20 and give this game a shot.
It's a meaty experience that doesn't like to be rushed, though. Take your time to read in-game intel, find fun ways to effectively wield time as a weapon, and prepare to watch each delicious in-game episode with pizza and soda. Do these things and Quantum Break may become one of the best video games you have ever played.
See at Amazon.
- There's this bearded hackerman in the game named Charlie played by actor Marshall Allman.While there are other notable, great performances by Brook Nevin, Lance Reddick, Shawn Ashmore, and Patrick Heusinger, Marshall Allman stands out because he is painfully adorable and I call dibs. Stay away ya'll, he's mine. He's also happily married and has children. Still, he is mine.
- Remedy Entertainment is a Finnish company know for delights such as Alan Wake on Xbox 360 and the Max Payne games from the Xbox and PS2 glory days.
- There isn't a confirmed sequel because Remember Entertainment are story tellers and good story tellers always leave their listeners wanting more but goddammit if a sequel doesn't happen I will write a strongly worded letter.
- Marshall Allman, if you're reading this... First, why are you googling your own name? Ha, dork. Second, I was joking earlier; we can just be friends.