My first review. How exciting! I’m going to try and keep this relatively spoiler-free(ish).
I’m a little bit late to the party on this one but I’m going to be honest; I wasn’t sure about this game. When the “The Cemetery” trailer for the game was released I was intrigued but the instant question that came to my mind was: “Is this worth £40? (approx. $60)” So, I waited for my brother to buy it, complete it, give me his short opinion, and then borrowed it to play it myself.
To bring out the basics:
Title: Quantum Break
Genre: Action-adventure sci-fi third person shooter
Release Date: 5th April 2016
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Now never having played “Max Payne“, I only know Remedy from “Alan Wake” and I liked what I played of that game. It had interesting fight mechanics.
You follow Jack Joyce on his journey to stop ex-friend and CEO of the “evil” corporation Monarch, Paul Serene, from allowing the End of Time to happen after a time machine experiment goes wrong and causes Jack to end up with the power to manipulate time.
So now do I start with the good thoughts or the bad thoughts…? Let’s start with the good:
I really liked this game’s story. I’m normally sceptical of any form of time travel storyline, as many self-proclaimed geeks probably agree, but Remedy surprised me on this one. Always having been a fan of the ‘time is a loop’ theory over the ‘we can go back and change this event to cause an alternate timeline where it doesn’t happen and therefore the whole world changes’ one, I’m extremely happy to see “Quantum Break” went for the former.
Quick side note: If you even want to begin the full immersion and understanding of is game’s world, read the collectibles. Even if you just read the e-mails. Read. The. Collectibles.
Even if you don’t think that’s enough to read them, some of the e-mails are just overall amusing to read and include references to nerd culture (I saw your Darth Vader spot Remedy). Anyway, moving on…
The new way that Remedy decided to tell this story was so foreign yet interesting to me. They made a TV show. With real actors. REAL. And they were good. The show focuses more on three employees of Monarch and their side of the story based on the decisions you make as Paul throughout the game. Every time an episode began I couldn’t help but think, “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if they actually made a show about this game?” It was also interesting to watch one of the later episodes with my brother, who made different decisions to me, and see how different these characters lives were made just by me holding left trigger instead of right. (P.S. Sorry Charlie.)
The graphics in this game are wonderful. Every cutscene, area and character in this game looked wonderful. It was sometimes more fun to run around and look at the tiny attentions to detail, like the signs on the university campus or even just exploring the Monarch offices and finding coffee mugs everywhere.
The characters had realistic yet futuristic designs and seeing them exist on real life actors made it that much cooler because so often in content styled on the future you see characters wear ridiculous outfits that no real human could actually wear. (I’m looking at you…any costume from The Hunger Games). To add to that realism is that each character had unique facial expressions and movements even in their idle animations; although Jack’s was mostly a permanent scowl.
Now third person shooters are normally quite ‘samey’ in terms of gameplay but QB‘s time manipulation mechanic makes things very different very quickly by allowing you to essentially be a superhero even though everyone thinks you’re a terrorist. And let’s be honest, it’s made fun by the sheer fact you can speed past people back and forth in a mocking “I’m over here. Oh wait, no I’m not. Now I’m over here” fashion. Although, the addition of enemies that can also function within time-stopped areas allows the game to think it’s not letting you be completely all powerful but you still are. Ridiculously so if you actually think about it.
So what did I dislike?
The story telling process to me was way too broken up. Every time I would be ready to start the next chapter of the story I was forced to sit through a half an hour long episode and by the time I had become engrossed in the episode it was time to start playing again. It was too stop-start. Like American football. Except less sweaty men and exercise and more angry nerds and time travel.
I liked both as separate entities, but if you’re going to have a TV show just make one but if you’re making a game, make a game. Plot elements are held in both medias so you can’t expect to skip one and still understand what is happening. It made the story harder to follow because if you’re in it for the game you don’t want to end up watching TV. And maybe I’m just stupid but if you didn’t read the collectibles and made certain decisions, parts of the game and show don’t make sense. (It’s probably just me an I’m an idiot).
Don’t even get me started on the fact that the episodes were streamed from online and not directly on the disc either. Who does that?
As much as I liked some of the characters, (again, sorry Charlie), they seemed a little boring. I couldn’t relate to any of them. Two have superpowers, one is a double-crossing employee, one is a super-genius time machine creator and one is essentially immortal. The most relatable characters are Charlie, Liam and Fiona in the episodes and they barely show up in-game. I felt emotionally unattached to any of the major characters which is why when certain ones died…I did not care. At all.
Finally, what I disliked, without getting nit-picky, was the decision making system. I like making decisions in games. I like feeling that what I do matters in my make-believe worlds. I like having power over the story. I don’t like my decisions being pointless because I get the same ending anyway which I feel is what QB did (though I have not played it a second time).
Being a major fan of Telltale, decision making in games sort of has a standard to live up to now. I thought hard about my decisions in QB, don’t get me wrong, and I really liked that you made them as Paul rather than Jack but your in-game decisions didn’t take that much of an effect in-game and instead effected the episodes more. I didn’t like that.
Majority of the time I had already made up my mind based on the objective in the corner of the screen but being able to see what would happen when I picked it was a nice addition. But I also hated it. I like not knowing if I’m making the correct move and in those moments I felt like I was being told what the correct move was and it would bias my decision making. I like the feeling of “I wish I didn’t pick that”. Maybe that’s a personal bug I have with the game, maybe a lot of people loved it but to me it felt like cheating even if I still didn’t know the full consequences of my actions.
Maybe that last point was a bit nit picky but it made me mad. Madder than it probably should have.
Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this game and I would play it again; it has a lot of replay value. It was also the first game since Kingdom Hearts (my favourite series of all time, FYI) that I was actually sad to see end. That bittersweet feeling of not wanting it to be over but happy to have reached the end of the story, to me, is one of the best feelings a gamer can have. Even if there was so much sequel bait that they might as well have announced it right then and there…
So is this game worth £40 or $60? I would give it a big fat yes. It’s a short game but the graphics and plot make up for it.
I give this game: 4.5/5