When a game is surrounded by a ton of hype, there’s often a sense of disappointment at release upon realisation that expectations haven’t been met. Unfortunately for the 2016 offering of Quantum Break, the developers behind it – Remedy – were not only held to high regard by the gaming masses, but the exciting time-traveling game with an interwoven live-action TV series within also showed promise of being a real game-changer. As if it didn’t need any further pressure, Quantum Break would be an Xbox console exclusive – a tag which carries a huge weight. Now, five years on, I wanted to explain how despite not living up to its full potential, Quantum Break is still very good and there’s plenty of enjoyment to be garnered from the experience.
Initially announced by Remedy in mid-2013, the first official gameplay trailer for Quantum Break was unveiled at that year’s E3. With Alan Wake fans desperate for a sequel, it wasn’t quite what they were holding out for, however the time-bending concept and live-action infusion caused plenty of intrigue. During the three years which followed this, every morsel of information or glimpse of the gameplay raised my own interest levels to their pinnacle and because of this I ventured straight in at launch on 5th April, 2016 for Xbox One.
To set the scene, Quantum Break is a third-person action-adventure which focuses on Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore) and Paul Serene (Aidan Gillen). These two are the best of friends until Paul builds a time machine, leading to their relationship and time itself becoming fractured. As a result of the experimental device, both guys receive special powers and the fate of the world rests in their hands. From that point on, the narrative is split between Jack who’s on a crusade to fix things and Paul carrying out rather villainous acts without a care.
First and foremost, as a bit of a telly addict myself, the main draw was supposed to be the live-action storytelling. All that shooty shooty stuff and wielding of extraordinary powers was merely a bonus, however it turns out to be the opposite as the gaming action is the real attention grabber. Our playable man Jack finds himself up against a shed load of security personnel working for a shady corporation known as Monarch. This is where the fun begins, with the odds firmly stacked against you, but not for long as you get the hang of the six special time-related abilities which are periodically introduced.
Time Stop actually enables you to freeze time and enemies within a bubble, while the Time Blast can suspend them in mid-air. There’s nothing quite as cool as a Time Rush though, seeing you dash like The Flash to an unsuspecting foe for a sweet takedown maneuver. These abilities are to use in collusion with any and all gun power you can get your hands on of course; ranging from shotguns to assault rifles. That raises the adrenaline meter to exciting new heights, creating many fun moments along the way. Obviously, it’s not entirely gung-ho, for there is a Time Shield to soak up bullets when a tad overwhelmed, an evasive Time Dodge, and a nifty option to scout an area for baddies beforehand – so you can semi-plan how to decimate them most efficiently.
Outside of combat, time often remains in a fractured state, encouraging exploration and discovery of additional bits of lore as well as collectibles. There are even platforming style elements to overcome, which incorporates the powers possessed by Jack to create some enjoyable problem solving sections. To add extra awesomeness to proceedings, the rendered cutscenes are fantastic and the realism is so damn terrific that it almost puts the live-action footage to shame.
On the subject of the Quantum Break live-action episodes, they take place at the end of the first four Acts and tell the story from the perspective of the antagonist, Paul. Throughout these, you’ll have to make decisions that can slightly alter the way the narrative unfolds – it’s like a Telltale game. With the power of foresight, you receive a glimpse of affects before committing to the selected choice. The overall feel is a definite change of pace after tearing it up with Jack and, in truth, the 30 minutes or so of content is missing something.
The acting is never in question given the well-rounded cast in place, featuring the masterful Lance Reddick and Aidan Gillen alongside Brooke Nevin, Marshall Allman, Liam Burke, and others. It’s just lacking in the excitement factor and occasionally the production value comes across as a low-budget affair – especially in comparison to the in-game scenes where the high octane nature and Shawn Ashmore’s voiceover comes together brilliantly. Nevertheless, breaking up the gameplay using these episodes at least helps with longevity and replayability.
While I may be in the minority, I’m sad that Remedy haven’t revisited the Quantum Break universe since its release and as of yet, nobody has attempted a similar merger of TV and gaming. Fortunately, Remedy did spend time developing Control instead, which arrived to a great reception for Xbox One, PS4 and PC on 27th August 2019. Taking control of the newly appointed Federal Bureau of Control (FBC) director, you must use all kinds of psychokinetic powers to fight back against the paranormal. Genuinely, it’s worth checking out if you haven’t already had the pleasure of doing so.
After all is said and done, Quantum Break succeeded in delivering an action-packed adventure, which is arguably the most important aspect. Sure, it would’ve been amazing to witness a top drawer interconnected TV series as well, but it does a fine job without managing to change the industry forevermore. But that’s enough from me, how did you find 2016’s Quantum Break as a whole experience? Please do share your thoughts, whether good or bad, via the comments section below.