Quantum Break valiantly tries to break the mold
With how long the next gen has been out (do we finally call it the “current gen” now?), Quantum Break might be the first legitimately hyped exclusive for the Xbox One (with PC users getting some love as well).
Of course there's the Halo franchise, but that's a given, and isn't ever expected to do much different or shake up the genre. Quantum Break on the other hand finally offers those who went the Microsoft route something to rival the Playstation-only or Playstation-early titles.
Style Meets Substance
Like with Alan Wake, the idea here is to marry a particular gameplay style with the storytelling so the two are completely intertwined and not independent of one another.
On top of that, there is no question – this game looks amazing. Faces, environment, cut scenes, T.V. Episode segments: everything's top-notch. What's that? T.V. episode segments? Yeah, the game has four nearly half hour video clips to watch throughout the story.
There's lots of star power on display with familiar faces, many of which have dealt with time travel issues before, like Dominic Monaghan (Charlie from Lost), Lance Reddick (Fringe, The Wire, Lost), and Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger from Game Of Thrones).
Those live action, full video cut scenes are actually streamed online like a YouTube or Netflix video, unless you want to download them to your hard drive, in which case clear out about an extra 70 gigs ahead of time.
The story starts off innocently enough with the main character heading to a university to hang out with his old buddy Paul Serene – now a very rich man running a research project – while some protesters are around making a ruckus. Things get weirder from there, and as it turns out, you probably shouldn't mess with time.
Choice And Consequence
Quantum Break features an interesting branching storytelling choice system at the end of each area. Switching between perspectives away from main character Jack Joyce, you have to take control of the villain at the end of each segment and use your precognitive powers to pick one of two options, which changes the episode-long cut scenes.
These branching paths also bring about some minor changes in the background (for instance, what is seen on computer monitors and what information is presented in collectibles), and you can end up with one of two different side kick characters depending on your choices.
Speaking of collectibles, there's loads of documents and emails to find – some out in the open, some that you'll have to really search for - that explain what's going on behind the scenes, bringing to mind all the collectibles from games like F.E.A.R.
The game is easily worth playing through a second time to take the other branching path options, but it does feel like this element is underutilized to an extent, and we haven't truly seen the full spectacular range of choices that a game like this could provide.
Quantum Break's Gameplay
Gameplay is like a mashup of Infamous and Max Payne. The time twisting abilities are interesting, and make combat very satisfying for most of your first playthrough, but it does reach a point where you've pretty much done everything you can with them and it becomes sort of rote.
Those first few hours though? They're a wonder to behold. You'll probably spend several segments just marveling at what can be done and how it affects bystanders, staring slack-jawed at time ripples, floating objects, and people stuck mid-action while you go about annihilating enemies.
Time echoes reveal hidden triggers and enemies, time stopping lets you freeze an enemy in place, time dodge is bullet time on overdrive, and there's still more to discover!
That leads to one of the downsides... for all the lofty notions of the storytelling, this is absolutely a game about shooting gobs of faceless soldiers as you make your way through a level, like many, many games before it have been.
Remember the product placement debacle of Remedy Entertainment's previous game Alan Wake? Well, yeah, that's back of course, but its all Microsoft-focused this time around instead of promoting Energizer and Verizon.
The Bottom Line
Depending on how much time you spend searching for collectibles and exploring little nooks and crannies, you're looking at about 9 – 11 hours to beat the game (including watching the episodes). Your second play through will probably be shorter, making Quantum Break an excellent choice for a weekend rental.
Although its not a perfect game, it would be nice to see Quantum Break manage to do well anyway, just so that this idea can be expanded on and built up in new ways with future titles.