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Game Reviewed: Quantum Break
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Platform: Xbox One, PC
Category: third-person shooter
ESRB Rating: M
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Remedy Entertainment has a good track record. They made some of the first noir-style action games ever in the Max Payne series (not counting the disappointing third one, which was made by Rockstar Games), created an interactive tribute to Steven King in the acclaimed but under-appreciated Alan Wake, and now they’re seeking to combine television and video games in a way no other game has.
Quantum Break is a time travel story in which the player makes choices that impact the narrative. But unlike most games, where the impact of these choices is seen in future gameplay segments, the game is actually split into chapters with episodes of a live action miniseries. Over the course of four episodes, sandwiched between gameplay segments, this miniseries tells the story of behind-the-scenes drama that changes in subtle ways based on what the player does in the game itself.
It’s a really interesting and ambitious idea, and a natural decision given Remedy’s past fascination with interbreeding television and game storytelling. While the gameplay is fairly standard (third-person shooting, special abilities to mix things up, collectables with more narrative insight, etc.), the game manages to be a unique experience nonetheless.
We’ll find out how far that uniqueness takes the game in a bit, but for now let’s go over the content you’ll want to be aware of before nabbing this game for your kid.
What Parents Need to Know
When the action is happening, Quantum Break is a third-person shooter. The player controls Jack Joyce as he shoots his way through countless goons to try and fix time before it all freezes up. There is certainly a lot of shooting in this game, along with powers that adjust time in various ways. There are blood splatters, often in slow motion or completely frozen in time (time is constantly slowing and freezing throughout the story of Quantum Break), but no extreme violence like dismemberment.
The live action show is a little bloodier, but still not extreme. The most gruesome moments include a man bleeding to death (lots of blood on the floor) and another man getting shot in the eye.
The F-word, S-word, and other minor expletives (ass, damn, etc.) are used throughout the game. The language is not constant, but is certainly there.
Nothing worth noting.
The events of Quantum Break may perhaps have some level of spiritual implication, but this is never explored; it’s a story about time travel, and remains purely within this realm of speculative science fiction.
Before each episode of the live action miniseries, the player is put in the position of the game’s villain to make a choice. As one might expect from such a premise, these choices can have various negative consequences, and since you’re playing the part of the villain it turns the typical “good/evil” choice on its head a bit.
Quantum Break is ambitious, and while what we got was impressive, I’m hard-pressed to say it fully lives up to its ambition.
What it’s done with the live-action miniseries is impressive; as someone with experience in both film production and game design I’m genuinely impressed that they even tried such a thing. And since the miniseries mostly follows secondary characters, it creates a nice sense of separation from the events of the game itself, making the player feel more like their actions mean something to the rest of the cast. And of course the actors involved turn out excellent performances, coupled with some great motion capture for the in-game segments.
Unfortunately, the choice-based element of the game is a little lackluster. Your choices will only affect minor elements of the live-action series, and there are even moments when the characters are unaware of things that you’ve read about by finding collectable documents in the game. While some elements of the game’s fusion with television are impressive, it ends up feeling more like a proof of concept than a fully realized product.
The gameplay is typical, but still enjoyable. Honestly my favorite parts of the action sequences were the visuals; as time stops, reverses, and accelerates, there are some really neat visual effects. Explosions that occur when time is stopped reverse back to how things were, since time cannot move on in this space; enemies that use chronon technology to move in stopped time simply freeze with everything else when killed; the very world around you stutters and shifts as time strains to keep moving in the face of a total shutdown.
Overall, even if I struggle to say it lived up to its potential, Quantum Break is a very enjoyable ride with a twisting sci-fi story, solid action gameplay, and a very unique fusion with live-action television. It’s certainly not for children; when you judge your kid is ready for a game with a lot of violence (non-graphic though it may be) and some fairly consistent language, they could certainly do worse than Quantum Break.