I honestly wanted to give Quantum Break a 10/10. I love sci-fi, I love confident and competent time travel stories and I love Remedy. It’s a wonderful game, don’t get me wrong, and is almost deserving
of absolute praise but a couple of things glared once it was all done and dusted, when I completed the experience last night. Largely, the standout is that I played on Hard (the highest difficulty setting), only ever used the pistol and managed to complete the experience relatively easily. The second is that the time travel thing finds its ‘out’ when you have about 10-minutes left to play.
But before I get ahead of myself, I should sell the experience a little better, because this is absolutely worth your time and investment from the outset. It’s a Remedy game through and through, but presents itself with a maturity neither Max nor Alan did. The game is gorgeous from the moment you fire it up, and while linear still offers plenty to experience from an exploration-for-exposition perspective. It also takes Remedy’s storytelling to new heights, but without it seeming like the studio is tall-poppying. If you want to, you can absorb yourself in the science of everything they’ve set up here across the game’s highly detailed environments, or you can just take the surface value of everything -- you decide your own level of involvement.
At AusGamers we’re well-known for spoiler-free reviews and here, that rule is absolute. All you need to know is that manifest destiny is the core of the game, and that your own input into this process is, by and large, why it all happens in the first place. Every character in the game -- and companion TV show -- is superb, and while disparate in delivery, the two coalesce as a unified whole. Amazingly, however, you can skip the show altogether and you’d still be able to wrap your head around the game’s story and larger-than-life concepts and philosophies. If you do dig deeper and eat up everything the game has to offer from a story perspective, you’ll find an incredibly well thought-out plot and narrative that is at the fore of the time travel subset of science fiction. Nothing is dumbed down and the rabbit hole gets deeper and deeper the more you dig, but the rewards are worth it.
From a gameplay perspective you play as Jack Joyce -- hapless brother and friend of two of the game’s integral characters. You have a history of violence and bucking authority, which is a flimsy way for Remedy to sell us into the idea that Joyce is not only capable of killing, but is also happy to embrace his time-powers he eventually gets. Again, for the sake of not spoiling the plot, just acknowledge that time is *sort of* your friend and you gain some pretty amazing abilities from it. You can freeze spaces in the environment for a short period for both puzzles and combat, you can teleport short distances to break line-of-sight or just get yourself out of a squeeze. You also have the ability to use “Time Vision” which is just a neat gameplay tool to know where enemies and engageable parts of the environment are. Eventually you’ll be able to upgrade these powers as you go and unlock news ones, and stringing them together in combat is one of the most exhilarating parts of the game. And, if you’re like me, you’ll be able to do this in such a skilful manner that you won’t even need to use any of the other weapons dropped by enemies about the place.
The pacing of the game essentially sees you dealing with arenas with enemies, progressing, gaining exposition or generally just exploring the environment for the game’s myriad collectibles, maybe getting to a cutscene and then engaging enemies again. The whole affair takes place on foot with most being in interiors, but there are some cool outside areas too. The incredible thing to behold is the 1:1 environmental share between the show and the game. They must have scouted for a long time to gain access to an area they could both shoot in, and spend time recreating in-game. It’s quite impressive from a logistical perspective and is executed brilliantly.
The show itself is well shot with great performances. You get four episodes and five chapters of the game. Each episode of the show follows on from the last chapter you played and depending on some environmental finds and a few binary decisions you’re tasked with making at various junctions, the show’s outcome will prove to be different. Overall on Normal you could probably knock the game over in less than 10 hours easy allowing for replayability, if that’s your bag. In my review time I didn’t have time enough to explore this side of things so it’s hard to know just how different the decisive outcomes will be, but that they’re there is still a plus.
In all honesty though, I think we could have done with another two episodes of the show and you could have maintained the length of gameplay comfortably. At the halfway point narrative just speeds ahead very quickly and you’re somewhat forced to assume you know more about the characters than you actually do. It’s a slightly uneven split where characterisation from the show’s perspective sits, because some characters get a little more time to justify actions later on, where others who are far more interesting feel -- at times -- like bit-players, despite having heavy hands in the narrative outcome. The experience’s story is a complex and engaging one, so more time establishing it would have served the production far better than the slice we get in the end.
Which is a good segue to my final gripe with the game beyond length, exposition and overall challenge, and that’s that there just appears to be a convenient out for everything you’ve been lead to believe throughout the experience. It’s hard to explain without spoilers, but there are no seeds planted for the change of events at the end in the lead up to it, and then with just 10-minutes left to play it’s handed to you in what I would consider over-convenience. This is a Remedy game taking heavy cues from good TV and good sci-fi, so yes expect there to be more after the credits have rolled and for it to be either a proactive post-release content machine, or for there to be a sequel, but it just didn’t sit as well with me as I’d have liked.
The overall experience, however, is excellent and the delivery of the game and show is handled with aplomb. I just wanted more of it. Combat is truly rewarding when you start playing with the game’s systems and stacking them to craft your own gameplay flair and style, it’s all just a bit easy (and I’m not even just giving myself bigups for being an awesome player). More TV, a little more game, a longer and more carefully handled ending and a challenge boost would have forced my hand to 10/10, easily. But it’s just not all there. Still an amazing experience though, if time travel is your bag.