When the Xbox One was revealed back in May 2013, the first exclusive we heard about was a game titled Quantum Break. Details were thin back then, but it was apparent that Remedy, the developer behind the critically acclaimed Alan Wake series, was aiming to do something drastically different with Quantum Break.
Originally scheduled for a 2015 release according to Polygon, Quantum Break was delayed till 2016 to give the developer more time with the title. The game melds action gameplay with the storytelling of a live-action television show. Since its first gameplay reveal till now, Quantum Break has been an intriguing title, one that many Xbox One owners, and now Windows 10 PC users, are itching to get their hands on. Warning to those reading: This article may contain some slight story spoilers.
So how do the early moments of Quantum Break hold up? They definitely keep you yearning for more, that’s for sure.
Quantum Break pits you as Jack Joyce (played by Shawn Ashmore), who is fighting to save the future before time runs out — literally. With Quantum Break, your actions have discernible choices on the way the game plays out, which your first taste comes with Act 1 of the game. After an explosion at the university lab, Jack and his brother William (played by Dominic Monaghan of Lost and The Lord of the Rings fame) are trying to escape Monarch’s pursuing troops. Although you’re not entirely sure who they are, they make it readily apparent you’re their target. Jack begins to showcase he has gained some sort of power over time, which definitely comes in handy as you move your way to William’s car.
However, it’s in these early moments that if you’re a stickler for resolution, you might want to brace yourself. Quantum Break is a sub-1080p game in 2016. Digital Foundry did their analysis of what is called by Remedy to be “final code” and their findings consistently found Quantum Break to be running at 720p. I realized this myself early on as I played, mostly due to the incredibly soft textures and character models, as well as incredibly noticeable aliasing when the game is in motion. Although Remedy has yet to address the findings of Digital Foundry publicly, nor have they responded to my request for comment before publication, Xbox boss Phil Spencer has implored gamers to try it for themselves before pre-judging the game.
There are many who have been optimistic that the proverbial “Day 1” patch would bring the resolution of the game to 1080p, but Remedy’s Head of PR Thomas Puha has also put that down, stating that they “never said that.” In fact, the title patch released a few days ago for reviewers, and it definitely did well to improve some gameplay stability issues early on, but graphically the game is the same.
[UPDATE] – Remedy has replied back regarding the 720p output of Quantum Break with the following statement:
Quantum Break’s 1080p output is a temporal reconstruction from four previous 720p 4xMSAA frames. This approach gets us high pixel quality in combination with complex shading and effects, allowing us to achieve a cinematic look. However, varying sample counts between passes and temporal upscaling makes talking about resolution, as it is traditionally understood, complicated in the case of Quantum Break. Since the start of “Quantum Break’s” development, the most important thing for Remedy and Microsoft has been delivering a compelling gaming experience with superior artistic quality. This is what Remedy is renowned for. We’re confident that we have achieved this, and can’t wait to hear what fans think on April 5 when they play the game.
All of this aside, the art direction Remedy has taken with Quantum Break is definitely beautiful. The game truly has a filmic look, one that matches the look and feel of the Live Show that accompanies the game. Additionally, cutscenes are well detailed, with Quantum Break showing off some great character model work on all of the actors. For the most part, the people you see take a prominent or lead role in the live show are beautifully rendered in-game as well.
As you move through the university in this first area, you’re starting to learn your time powers piecemeal. Quantum Break is a cover-based shooter, but you don’t “stick” to cover as you do in other games of its type. This is both a great thing — and a bad thing. On one hand, you can move freely around, never feeling as though you cannot maneuver due to being, well “stuck” to a wall or something. On the other hand, it is a bit harder to scramble for cover — and then adequately get behind cover once you’re there. Shots still manage to find home from Monarch’s lackeys even when crouching behind a pretty solid wall.
Quantum Break’s gameplay draw, though, are those time powers. Time Stop allows you encase an enemy or object in a bubble of frozen time. Riddling that bubble with bullets and then watching everything fall into place when the bubble collapses is one of the most satisfying things in Quantum Break. It never gets old. Additionally, you can use your time manipulation powers to dodge incoming attacks or quickly get behind cover. You also learn a time shield, which blocks you from incoming bullet fire as well as knocks back any poor unfortunate soul who happens to be nearby you.
Quantum Break definitely opens with a ton of action, but it also presents some of the game’s early choices, which will make you want to revisit and relive. I won’t spoil anything, but these early choices have the ability to define much of your experience moving forward and do alter how the Live Show plays out. Speaking of Quantum Break’s Live Action Show, this is where Quantum Break really sets itself apart from other action games. Most other games tell their story through an interweaving of gameplay and cutscenes, which Quantum Break does. However, rarely do games show the other side of the story, the true motivations of your enemy. Quantum Break does this, and it give a whole new appreciation of what’s going on in the early stages.
Early on, Quantum Break definitely is intriguing. However, the 720p render target is a disappointment, especially in 2016. However, if you can get past that initial disappointment, Quantum Break’s opening act does leave you wanting to learn more. As you look over the scene as Paul Serene (played by Aidan Gillen of Game of Thrones), it settles in that Remedy’s penchant for storytelling is in full force while the opening act comes to a close.
Looking forward to Quantum Break? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Microsoft]