Quantum Break is broken: Xbox One's time travel epic is a game of disappointing, disjointed parts
Xbox One, PC - $59.99 / £39.99
Throughout the history of entertainment, the idea of manipulating time has always captivated audiences. Movies like Back to the Future and The Terminator, TV shows like Doctor Who and Quantum Leap and video games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Prince of Persia and Braid all popularised the idea and established it as one of the most interesting and dynamic concepts around.
In Quantum Break, developers Remedy Entertainment sought to break boundaries and create a unique transmedia story that is at once both video game and live-action TV show, with an A-list cast of actors to back it up.
Players take control of time-manipulating protagonist Jack Joyce – played by X-Men regular Shawn Ashmore – and find themselves at war with an evil corporation, Monarch.
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X-Men alumni Shawn Ashmore features in Quantum Break as the time-bending protagonist Jack Joyce
It is led by Martin Hatch (Lance Reddick – The Wire, Fringe) and Paul Serene (Aidan Gillen – Game of Thrones, The Wire) who are desperately trying to cover up and contain the aftermath of a botched time travel experiment.
Quantum Break takes place across five acts, with 20+ minute adrenaline-fuelled live-action episodes between each that – whilst being totally optional – drive the narrative forward, give insight into the motivations of each character (and humanize them in the process) and give players a unique cross-media experience.
Jack has a number of time-bending powers at his disposal including the ability to slow down time, freeze time in a specific area, generate a Time Shield to deflect incoming bullets and dodge out of harm’s way with a Time Dodge and this is where Quantum Break shines.
Having such a versatile set of abilities is tricky to begin with as cooldown timers are unforgiving and careless players can often find themselves in the middle of a bullet barrage, but once mastered the player is provided with an almost unlimited number of options during combat that can flow together and make short work of a room full of heavily armoured enemies.
That being said, the rest of combat becomes dull very quickly.
There are many time stutter abilities available to Jack including the ability to freeze time in a specific area
In spite of there being a good selection of weapons in the game that attempt to give some degree of variety to the combat, clunky player movement and weak shooting mechanics that lack the heavy punch of good gun sound effects cause the action segments of the game to become stale after the first few acts.
Quantum Break also features a very awkward cover system that snaps Jack into cover whenever he is near an object, but unfortunately it takes some getting used to and feels dated compared to the myriad of current-gen third-person shooter’s that nail this mechanic.
Plastered between the hectic combat and the live-action sections are awkward and uninspired platform sequences that force Jack to scale objects and use his time powers to solve very simple puzzles, however the clunky player movement causes these segments to become frustrating.
Quantum Break features highly destructive environments that can be manipulated with time powers
In an attempt to offer players extra story details there are ‘narrative objects’ - Quantum Break’s take on collectibles – scattered throughout each act that come in the form of emails, audio files, intel etc.
While these collectibles are designed to enhance the player’s experience (and sate the achievement hunters out there), what they actually do is encourage players to slow down and explore the levels, but as Jack’s movement speed is already so diabolically slow it ends up becoming more of an inconvenience, especially when some of the emails are painfully long to read and are often not interesting enough to justify tracking them down in the first place.
Aesthetically Quantum Break is ambitious.
The motion-capture is top notch and while it does use anti-aliasing and other visual effects for the time stutter elements very well, the game has a grainy overlay filter that’s reminiscent of TV shows like Battlestar Galactica that should have been toned down a notch or two.
Despite Remedy going to great lengths to optimise performance – even going as far as locking the Xbox One version down to 720p/30fps - screen tearing and frame-rate drops were common, especially during the busier fight sequences and most of the time it did not feel like playing a current gen game.
Lance Reddick and Shawn Ashmore have strong performances as Martin Hatch and protagonist Jack Joyce
That being said the live-action segments do feature great performances from Ashmore, Reddick, Gillen and the plethora of other lesser-known actors and the production value is stellar, but the live-action sequences often felt like a relief from the stagnant gameplay – which was unlikely to be the intention.
Quantum Break is a game of disappointing, disjointed parts. Whilst certainly ambitious, Remedy fail to bond the different elements into anything memorable.
Quantum Break has many striking visual effects, including a creative use of anti-aliasing
The shooting mechanics are some of the weaker elements in Quantum Break
Using the Time Shield allows you to be protected from incoming bullets while still being able to fire out
Aidan Gillen plays antagonist Paul Serene who is a playable character at certain junctures in the game
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