Remedy has tried to do something completely new with Quantum Break. It’s an experiment in narrative game design that we are seeing for the first time, it is an experience nor you or I have never had before with gaming. Attempting to blend a television show and a videogame is certainly an interesting proposition.
Couple that with enjoyable gameplay, inventive and fun time manipulation mechanics, and stunning visuals and we have quite the game on our hands.
Remedy; with Quantum Break is trying to break ground on a completely new form of interactive narrative. They are achieving this by situating a episodic TV series around each Act of the game.
Finish Act 1 you then watch Episode one, Finish Act 2, then Episode 2 and so on and so forth. The episodes for me were streamed…relatively well on my very Australian internet connection, however at retail they will be able to be pre-downloaded, if you have the time.
The TV series being inserted in between gameplay I am quite divided on. On the one hand this has allowed the writers time to explore the characters who are integral to the narrative, but not especially featured around the protagonist; side plots can be explored without the player needing to learn a different set of abilities or having abilities removed from the player.
Despite enjoying the TV segments I found they brought the flow to a screeching stop. Just as I was really getting into the gameplay; mastering my time manipulation abilities BAM the Act would end and I have 20 minutes of TV to watch. Sure it’s technically skip-able; but as someone who cannot get enough of a good story that just isn’t something I can do.
In order to make the episodes slightly more interactive; extra scenes and features in them are unlocked by finding secrets or “ripples” in game world. This, while being a nice idea, I found to be rather inconsequential and while technically interactive I didn’t feel like I was having a real impact on the series.
Fast forward to another mechanic, which I was tasked with selecting my a choice of two possible outcomes, certainly managed feel as if it held greater impact, but like the mechanics I’ve mentioned about this comes with a twist: The game tells the player exactly what the ramification of this choice are going to be. You are shown two paths and where they lead, you know the positives and negatives of both outcomes and the decision is still difficult. These are hard choices, and the game doesn’t ruin the weight of your choice by giving you a karma meter or a reward, the full weight of the choice is on you and this decision heavily impact the future of your game and what takes place in the ensuing episodes.
Quantum Break’s core gameplay is gun combat and this is possibly one of the stalest parts of the title. It’s your standard 3rd person shooting mechanics; pick up guns, 3 main types, switch between them with the D-pad. We’ve all played it before.
But Lets rewind back to time abilities however, what Remedy has implemented to spice up the combat is a series of 6 time based abilities that force the player to re-evaluate how they enter combat situations. While some of these are clever ways of introducing game mechanics that we’re all used to in modern shooters and have come to expect, a lot are exceedingly inventive and fun to use time-combat mechanics. I didn’t find myself really neglecting any of them in favour of the good ‘ol spray and pray technique, it was faster and far funner to utilize all the mechanics as much as their cool-downs allowed. They’re well implemented, well realized and using them feels intuitive; they’re well mapped to controls and their use never breaks the flow or brings you out of combat.
Quantum Break is one of the absolute best looking games on the Xbox One. It actually really makes me want to buy the PC version just to see how gorgeous this game can get! The effects and the art direction rub me in the best possible way. I found the visual direction just jaw dropping. This is a game whose art director has vision. Whose team who has managed to execute it seamlessly, and had enough time to do it. Even as I was getting later on in the game the visuals and to be exact, the visual-effects kept blowing me away.
The rippling, shattered glass effect that Remedy has implemented has to be one of my all time favourite visual representations of fractured time ever. This is to say nothing yet of their motion capture and facial animation, which is just plain astounding. Honestly I could go on for hours about everything I loved about the visual presentation of Quantum Break, but time isn’t falling apart in the studio just yet.
The Bottom Line
Remedy’s last big game was Alan Wake and whilst I love me a good story, I’m also useless when it comes to anything horror and so I never really got a chance to experience a Remedy title in it’s fullness until this now. Quantum Break lives up to their name and elevates it higher. Visually it is stunning, the narrative is intriguing and enjoyable even if it does sometimes suffer from Remedy’s patented over exposition. However despite this praise; I’m still left unconvinced that the TV series format is a winner, it’s great for exploring narrative, but it forgets why we’re here, to play a game. That said, Quantum Break is definitely worth your time.