First announced in 2013 with the launch of the Xbox One, it’s been a long wait for Quantum Break, a Microsoft-exclusive action-RPG. Three years after the first tease, it looks like Quantum Break isn’t just worth it, but it might just be the game for you to spring for an Xbox One (or, you know, just play it on your Windows 10 PC).
Created by Remedy Entertainment, the guys behind the Alan Wake series, Quantum Break tells the story of Jack Joyce, who is caught up in time-travel hijinks after his best friend, Paul Serene, builds a time machine. The very first Quantum Break trailer featured a grizzly, older Jack, but over the years of development we now have Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) in the lead role, and Littlefinger himself, Aidan Gillen, as Paul Serene.
As you can imagine, the game has got a huge Hollywood boost. Joining Ashmore and Gillen are Lance Riddick (Phillip Broyles from Fringe) as Serene’s employee Martin Hatch, Marshall Allman (LJ Burrows from Prison Break) as employee Charlie Wincott, as well as Dominic Monaghan (Charlie Pace from Lost) as Jack’s brother William. No idea why they didn’t cast Shawn Ashmore’s twin brother Aaron as the brother, but odd match of accents aside, there is quite the resemblance between Ashmore and Monaghan.
If you’re afraid that this might then end up as some easy cash-grab by some of the actors, thankfully it isn’t: There’s some strong performances within Quantum Break. The game’s story is told in two ways – within the game itself, and in live-action episodes in between chapters. Other than some horrible streaming speeds for the videos (you do get the option of pre-loading about 80gb of video to prevent streaming issues), there’s some compelling story in there.
The story starts with Jack being caught in an accident at Paul’s lab, triggering time control powers in Jack, as well as accelerating the world towards a “Fracture” – spelling a-r-m-a-g-e-d-d-o-n, aka the end of time itself. Jack’s brother William arrives in time to tell Jack that there might be a chance to stop the world from ending. Paul, however, has another idea to escape the end times (haha) – leading former best friends to come into conflict.
As Jack, you’ll have access to tons of cool time-controlling powers, whether it’s slowing down time or pausing pockets of it even as the rest of the world moves on. It’s fun when you string multiple powers together whether in combat or in puzzle solving – but the icing on the cake is the work Remedy has done to make the game look extremely good especially while time is on the fritz, it’s breathtaking at times.
The best parts of the gameplay belong to the moments where you’re left to figure out just how to manipulate time enough to bypass obstacles. While some of it can be straightforward, the fun lies in watching the collapsing environment around you be affected by pockets of time. The game is graphically excellent with just some minor isolated ghosting, and here it’s really allowed to shine.
Shooting is where the game is a little weaker: As Jack you’re really encouraged to make full use of your powers and so instead of a regular cover shooter, Quantum Break leans towards going out powers and guns blazing. Hiding behind cover is not as sticky as I would like, and aim assist sometimes doesn’t work very well – but once you get the hang of it you’ll be leading with your powers first, especially against some of the stronger foes you meet near the end.
The game is broken into episodes that work just like a TV series – while the events happen within a single day (or not, including time travel), there are some good cliffhanger moments. But the game doesn’t just show you a score and get you to move on – you’ll then step into Paul’s shoes and decide how the game proceeds (think Telltale, but only the key moments), and this influences the next section of the game, including what Jack has to do, as well as the live-action episodes in between game episodes.
These live-action episodes are a treat, and feature some great production values that wouldn’t be out of place from a TV show like Fringe. While the game focuses on Jack and Paul, these episodes focus on the lives of the other characters, fleshing out the story and making it a lot deeper than it already is. While it would have been nice to see more live-action sequences with the main characters, these episodes do a good job in letting you rest your thumbs for a while pushing the story forward.
And story is where Quantum Break does admirably well. Time travel stories can easily be problematic when one puts cause and effect into question – but here the writers have managed to tell a compelling tale that moves forward without leaving gaping plots holes. And given the episodic nature of the game, well, its safe to say that they will leave you wanting more.
With great time effects, a compelling story, and some Hollywood stardust sprinkled all over, Quantum Break is a game that deserves to be played. Playing it on a weaker PC will do the game’s effects a disservice, but this time around it feels like a game that might help sell a few more Xbox Ones.
Quantum Break will be released on both the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs on Apr 5. Digital pre-orders on the Xbox One will unlock the Windows 10 version for free. This game was reviewed on an Xbox One with a pre-release code provided by Xbox.