Quantum Break (XOne) - Review
Brandon J. Wysocki
, posted on 05 May 2016 / 7,211 Views
Quantum Break is a unique endeavor. On the surface it's simply a third person shooter, but as is increasingly common amongst modern video games, that is a huge oversimplification. While there is plenty of action and shooting, there is also a fair amount of platforming, puzzling, and collecting to help round out the gameplay. On top of that, there is a “fork in the road” toward the end of each act that allows you to make a decision on behalf of the antagonist which is said to affect both the game and the live-action TV show, the latter of which is itself a distinct and remarkable part of Quantum Break.
While we don’t ordinarily cover much, if anything, in the way of entertainment outside of video games, the TV series cannot be ignored, as it is a fairly big focus of the game. It is not necessarily essential to following the narrative, but it is a concerted effort to expand upon and deepen the game. In addition, it helps make Quantum Break the incomparable experience that it is.
Quantum Break is made up of a fairly impressive cast. That cast represents characters both in the game and in the live-action series. The in-game models for these characters are rendered very well, and the acting performances notably raise the quality of both the show and game.
The story is fairly weird, wild, and seemingly implausible, revolving around time machine technology and the potential breakdown and ultimate end of time itself. However, that concept is delivered in a believable way which incites suspended disbelief about as effectively as fiction, especially regarding such far-fetched topics, can.
The intriguing, mystery filled story of the game is well told (something that I expect from Remedy), despite the occasional moment where a story element may feel forced, maybe even flawed, or a line of dialogue seem clunky. The TV show maintains the quality of the game on almost every level too, the biggest exception being when the show attempts to convey some of the more complicated 'special effects' of the game. It appears the team behind the TV show deliberately (and wisely) kept such attempts to a minimum.
Whereas the majority of the game shows things from the perspective of the protagonists, the show focuses more on the antagonists. In doing so, it really does add a nice layer to the overall experience, but also one that can be skipped if you're so inclined. The largest flaw or disappointment I found in the story was the limited impact of the choices you make at the completion of each act. They do result in changes, but they are minute, and all seemingly converge in the same finale. On that note, however, I appreciate the fact that you can easily replay every part of each act, although such a feature naturally reduces the game's replay value.
In the end, I found the story as revealed during actual gameplay and notably enhanced by uncovering various collectibles, combined with in-game cut scenes, and further supplemented by the live-action episodes, to be terrifically compelling. The narrative is the foundation of a game like this, and Quantum Break excels in that capacity.
The complaints I have specifically for the show are mostly technical in nature. The streaming seems to perform worse than any other streaming video on the console. From low quality streaming, to buffering and blatantly stopping, it may have been a fluke(s), but it was consistent enough to merit mentioning. Alternatively, you can download a monstrous 'Episode Pack' that is just over 75 GB. It’s a welcome option, but I would never want to spend that much time and disk space on such content, especially when streaming could and should be a perfectly viable solution. Similarly, I was disappointed by the clunky and basic nature of the video player.
Focusing more specifically on the actual game itself, as is my actual job I suppose, it too proves to be a pleasant blend of gameplay and performance, though it's also not without its imperfections. The gameplay is composed of a mix of types, with exploring and collecting forming a rewarding accompaniment. I found the platforming, puzzles, and even the action mostly simply serviceable, but the platforming and puzzles in particular often felt rather uninspired, almost like a perfunctory change of pace to the fine storytelling and solid-enough action.
The core gameplay and controls stand out a bit more than the platforming and puzzles, but they too ultimately play second fiddle to the story. There are a variety of powers that are essentially just given to you as you go along (albeit at a balanced pace), and these can be upgraded as you desire by collecting in-game items called 'chronons'.
The powers add some nice variety to the combat and provide the potential for some thrilling "set piece" sequences to unfold. They all revolve around 'time', even if just in name (I’m looking at you “Time Vision”, which is essentially Eagle Vision from Assassin’s Creed and rarely has anything to do with time itself). But others are more suited to the game and have you instantly warping through time (and space) to a new location in order to dodge, for example.
Disappointingly, I found the powers to be too rigid in their integration into some of the tedious puzzles and platforming, as it seems as though they have to be used specifically as intended by the developers. I often felt different powers could have been used to accomplish the same goal, albeit in a slightly different manner, but that was not to be; the solution more often than not relies on utilizing an ability you've conveniently recently acquired.
That sort of 'convenience' extends to other aspects of the game. Weapons or ammo packs are often right where a shootout is soon to take place. Worse yet, at times the game will remove the option to use most of your powers (Time Vision was normally the lone exception) and weapons, spoiling any suspense that an engagement might occur around the corner.
On the audio and visual side, consistent with the rest of the package, I was mostly impressed, or at least pleased. The score, accompanied by licensed songs at the end of acts, does a fine job in setting and enriching the tone of the game. The sound effects do the same, and they're evidently crafted and utilized very well.
Quantum Break is generally gorgeous. Lighting is employed effectively with the realistic graphics to achieve a believable, pleasing world for the story to unfold in. The performance is mostly perfect too, though I did experience occasional screen tear, texture pop-in, and some rough animations. The most consistent issues I noticed graphically were some flat, unconvincing textures (mostly only noticeable up close) and a more persistent crushed or fuzzy appearance overall. The game does utilize a film grain effect and motion blur (that cannot be disabled), and I suspect these (as well as simple technological limitations) are the culprits. All the same, I was delighted by the graphics and felt they served the game wonderfully.
Quantum Break is commendable in not just what it delivers, but also in what it aims to deliver, even if some of those efforts fail to be particularly impressive individually. Really, many of the individual mechanics or aspects of the game (and the show) are rather mediocre when viewed in isolation; however, anchored by the story, they complement one another and come together to create an exceptional experience. Indeed, I take the fact that I found it hard to separate my review of the story as featured in the show with that of the game as a testament to the seamless assimilation of the different mediums to convey the fascinating ideas of the game. While both the content and overall experience may not be perfect, collectively they compose a bold, engrossing, brilliant blockbuster of a game that should absolutely be experienced.
This review is based on a digital copy of Quantum Break for the XOneRead more about our Review Methodology here
Brandon J. Wysocki is a writer for VGChartz... (SHAMESLESS SELF PROMOTION! - Check out some of my sci-fi story here and here! It's free, and I'd love some feedback. We now return you to my regular little blurb) ...You're invited to contact Brandon (username SpaceLegends) in the comments below or through private messages on VGChartz, or even at his barely ever used and effectively dormant Twitter account @BrandonJWysocki.