Quantum Break was literally the first game we heard about for the Xbox One during its May 2013 unveiling. Three years and a delay later, the game is on the cusp of release. However, does Quantum Break live up to the hype, or does the risky way with which it tells its story cause Quantum Break to fall flat?
Quantum Break uses both its game and a live-action show to weave it’s time-bending story together. Microsoft has pulled out all the stops, bringing on A-list actors such as Shawn Ashmore (X-Men), Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), and Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings), among others, to flesh out its cast — both in-game and out. You start as Jack Joyce (Ashmore) visiting the lab of your best friend Paul Serene (Gillen) and your brother, William Joyce (Monaghan). In the lab, you realize that they’ve been toying with a time machine, and William isn’t seeing eye to eye with Serene regarding its use. Long story short, the experiment goes awry, and Jack and Serene are exposed to chronon energy, giving them the ability to alter time around them. It eventually boils down to Iceman and a Brandybuck square-off against Littlefinger.
Remedy has built a great game in Quantum Break, but these impressions only reflect experience playing the Xbox One version, as the Windows 10 version hasn’t been made available yet to reviewers to test out. So if you’re looking for information regarding the PC, hold off, as you likely will not see too much leading up to the April 5 launch.
One of the major debates in gaming today is resolution and whether or not the console can truly project a native, HD image. Quantum Break is, unfortunately, another example on the long list of Xbox One games that falls short of that mark. As the Inquisitr previously detailed, Quantum Break runs essentially at 720p, although the way Remedy constructs their 1080p output image gives the illusion that there are more pixels onscreen than a normal 720p image. Quantum Break, as a result, looks incredibly soft, especially when it comes to its character models while the game is in motion (the cut scenes look fantastic by comparison). The game also struggles to load textures and assets quickly, causing a lot of pop-in reminiscent of the old Gears of War Unreal engine pop-in we saw on the Xbox 360.
And unfortunately, in terms of performance, Quantum Break does suffer in some key instances. The game runs at a targeted 30 frames per second, and for the most part, it maintains this. In sheltered, enclosed areas, the game responds and plays beautifully. That changes when you get to some of the larger set-piece fights, mainly happening outdoors, with a lot going on. The game has a tendency to buckle in those moments, and a real feeling of input lag takes over. Quantum Break instantly goes from a great mechanical experience to a slogfest, where the simple act of finding cover feels floaty and unrefined. When these moments crop up — and they become more and more common as the story ramps up — it has a definite detrimental impact on your experience.
Thankfully, Quantum Break’s main attractions, the time powers, are one of the best additions to an otherwise generic cover-based shooter in recent memory. The time powers make gameplay feel fast, energetic, and ultimately satisfying when everything is working just right. And while Jack might go from hapless lab assistant to full-blown Time Lord relatively quickly, the satisfying feeling you get when using your Time Powers during firefights never gets old.
So it’s a shame that the other part of the equation, the gunplay, is absolutely abysmal at times. Quantum Break is a cover-based shooter at its core, so it’s disconcerting then when the game punishes you for using cover. While you can use your time powers from behind cover with no restriction, your guns don’t work the same. You cannot blind shoot from cover, meaning that you are required to stand up and take the brunt of the damage from the enemies around you just to fire back. It’s incredibly infuriating, especially late in the game when enemies can negate your time powers, and the shooting is all you have. This is even further exacerbated by the frequent latency input issues mentioned before in some of the game’s most demanding moments.
Quantum Break’s real focus has and always will be its story. It was hyped as a cross between Live TV and gameplay, and, for the most part, it works well. It’s a little weird that a core feature of the game is entirely optional, seeing as you can simply skip the live show if you choose to. It’s a great way to tell the story, though, and for me, it worked. This might be a polarizing area, as many people will not exactly enjoy playing a game for a few hours — and Quantum Break is only about 10 hours in total, even counting the live-action show run time — only to have to sit and watch a show for 20 minutes or so. That itch to get back to playing never arose within me, as the idea of seeing the machinations and motivations of Quantum Break’s villains was intriguing.
Quantum Break also gives the illusion of some agency, as after every major chunk of gameplay as Jack, you take on the role of Paul Serene as he directs Monarch and decides how he handles your interference. It’s interesting, as the decisions you make do change a scene or two in the show, as well as some interactions you see in the game, but they all lead to the same, eventual conclusion. However, it does give the idea that you maybe don’t have to completely replay the whole game — just relive the junction spots in Quantum Break’s story. Additionally, the game’s length can make Quantum Break feel too fast, forcing some character interactions and development to be non-existent, with some interactions jumping from A to B with no real progression.
All in all, Quantum Break has some issues, but it can definitely be a wild experience when everything is playing out as it should. The Time Powers make triggering your chrono-skills time and time again fun, but the lackluster gunplay does damper that to an extent. It’ll be interesting to see how well the Windows 10 version pans out, especially considering it’s five days from launch and no one’s played it yet. However, if you’re looking for a great story experience, Quantum Break might be right up your alley.
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[Image via Microsoft/Remedy Games]