Quantum Break Reviews

  • Titanium DragonTitanium Dragon154,737
    30 Oct 2018
    3 0 0
    Made by the same studio as Alan Wake, Quantum Break is very much something which follows in the footsteps of that game – a game that focuses very heavily on narrative, with weak gameplay stringing the game along between sections. And much like Alan Wake – indeed, perhaps even more so than that game – it ended up falling short of its potential as a result.

    Quantum Break seems like a really cool idea for a game – you play as Jack Joyce, a man who is involved in the activation of the first time machine, alongside his friend, Paul Serene, and his brother, William Joyce. But something goes terribly wrong – time breaks, and a villainous, much older version of Paul, aged many years, appears shortly after and sics a bunch of corporate goons from his ominous Monarch Corporation on Jack and his brother. It seems the older Paul believes that things cannot be fixed – the end of time is inevitable, nothing can be changed, and he needs some things to ensure that at least some people survive when time stops forever.

    But Jack Joyce isn’t willing to accept that. He has new powers – powers that allow him to manipulate time, to slow it down, to freeze it in certain places, to even rewind it at times. Surely these powers will allow him to change things, to fix it.

    Right?

    This is a really cool premise for a game – the idea of playing a hero with time manipulation powers is inherently really cool, there’s a neat stylization to the time breaks in the game, and the idea of playing around with these powers and beating enemies in cool time-control powered gunfights seems like it would be hard to mess up.

    They messed it up.

    This game’s actual gameplay is quite poor. And it all ultimately comes down to a matter of fluidity – this is a rather clunky third-person shooter. Jack Joyce does not control very fluidly – indeed, many of his powers have a bit of wind-up time, and not only that, transitioning into their use just doesn’t feel nearly as awesome as it should. Running around the battlefield at super speed is represented by freezing time for everyone else, which works okay, but at the same time, you don’t really feel like you’re moving super fast. A flash step sort of dodge is probably the best bit of the game, but the slightly awkward movement sometimes results in you getting snagged on something. Freezing time around someone allows you to pepper them with bullets, but after the first few times, it just doesn’t feel that satisfying – doubly so as many enemies later in the game seem to be immune to the power.

    The other powers, however, are even less reasonable. You’ve got a vision power, which serves as a sort of detective vision, highlighting enemies or interesting objects in the environment, which not only feels like it has been in many games, but also feels like it is not even reflavored or retextured to make it feel more “timey”. You’ve got a shield power that just seems to deflect bullets somehow. And you’ve got a time explosion, letting you blow people up… with time?

    How did they mess up this theming?

    And the whole game sort of feels this way – the gunplay is never all that satisfying, the enemies are pretty much bullet sponges, and only a couple enemy types feel all that interesting to fight (a juggernaut foe who you have to teleport around behind to shoot their backpack out to take them out, and a foe with a version of your own flash step powers). Mostly, the fights are pretty much just swarms of foes circling around you, and while they actually act reasonably dangerous, trying to flank you, your powers make them pretty easy to defeat.

    The game occasionally tries to mix things up with some environmental navigation, but these bits are always extremely simple – for all your time powers, these always basically boiled down to rewinding some environmental object (via an on-screen prompt to hold Q), then shooting my time freeze power on it to temporarily hold it in place, and sometimes use my super run speed power to get across it fast enough. All of the “puzzles” in the game all functioned exactly this way, with the only difference being some of them lacked the need for one or more of these steps – they were all extremely simple and straightforward, and only one (navigating through a frozen collapsing bridge) was all that interesting, and then, only for the visuals.

    It’s quite the pity, to be honest – the game wants you to feel stressed out by the combat and impressed by the environmental navigation, but the combat is mostly just standard “hide behind cover/your shield until your health regenerates, and use your powers to freeze foes” while the environmental navigation is purely rote. Only a small number of fights are threatening in any way, even on hard mode, and half the time, those feel more frustrating than fun – “Oh, those snipers kill me in one hit, can’t get shot by them.” “Oh, the boss can power up their attacks while time is slowed down at the same rate, better avoid using my powers to attack when they’re doing that.”

    The final boss in particular is the worst fight in the game – while it is by far the hardest, as the final boss uses his powers to blast you (with the power of TIME), while goons attack you, in the end it often feels like you’re fighting against the camera (to see the attacks that are coming at you) and the poor UI (as the game, for some strange reason, uses the color red to show the boss’s attacks, to just randomly paint the whole environment red, to designate an area where your powers don’t work, and to show that you have been heavily damaged, leading to frustrating confusion as to whether or not you’re outside of the area of effect of his next attack).

    Had the game decided to just let most of the fights be really easy, and let you just totally tear people apart with your ridiculous time powers without much effort, with only a few real bossfights, I think the game would have been a lot less tedious. Instead, fights are seldom difficult but often require you to fight in a safe but uninteresting way, and your powers, with their cooldowns and their clunkiness, never feel as cool as they seem like they should. The overall lack of fluidity of the controls and the sense that the guns don’t do much damage just makes the game as a whole feel kind of lousy to play – not absolutely awful, but just not very good.

    What should rescue this game is the story, and the people who made it really thought they had that nailed. Every character in the game is based on an actor, and the game is interspersed with four live action segments, each about the length of a TV show episode, which fill in what is going on with the various other characters in the game while Jack Joyce is doing his thing. Moreover, these segments are affected by your actions – picking up certain items in the environment causes “quantum ripples” which affect these segments.

    But the really big seller of these is the junction system – at four points in the game, you briefly control the future verison of Paul Serene, and make a choice about how he, the villain of the game, is reacting to the situation. For example, does he eliminate all the witnesses to preserve his secrets (but turn the city against him as people “disappear”), or does he make use of them in a PR campaign to turn the city against Jack Joyce while letting his secrets getting out when they’re allowed to live? Paul Serene’s own time powers allow him to see some of the consequences of his own actions, both positive and negative.

    This is an interesting conceit – it both allows you to build the villain you want to play against, as well as engage in a little bit of roleplaying, and gives you a better idea of the kind of person your foe is. Is he a decent man who is stuck in a bad situation, believing that he is doing the right thing and trying to save everyone that he can while simultaneously recognizing that not everyone can be saved, or is he a ruthless killer, unhinged by his trips through time and no longer capable of trusting anyone?

    Unfortunately, only the first two junctions felt all that interesting, with the PR or eliminating loose ends feeling the most meaningful; they had a lot more nuance to them, and more interesting pros and cons. The second two felt like they were just “be sane” or “descend into madness”, and while that’s a slightly interesting idea from the perspective of deciding what kind of person you’re going up against, Paul Serene is just a much more interesting character when he’s trying to do the right thing rather than being an unhinged man driven to the brink.

    But what’s more problematic is that the live action stuff, while reasonably acted, just felt kind of tangential. The live action segment follows not the main character, but mainly focuses on three side characters – a Monarch operative who is wrongly believed to have betrayed the company, forcing him to betray the company; a female character who is helping the protagonist surreptitiously; and Charlie Wilcott, a sleazy hacker who works for Monarch behind the scenes and who is ultimately pretty much just a chew toy for a situation he has little control over for most of the plot.

    The problem is that the arcs of these characters just feel so disconnected from the main plot; it isn’t really until the end of the game that their plot intersects all that significantly with the main plot, which means that most of them only barely show up in the actual game part of the game for 80% of the game. While these segments do give us some idea of what Monarch is like from the other side, a lot of it just doesn’t feel like it is all that connected. The strongest thing about it is that it helps fill in some story around Paul Serene and his right hand man, the ominous Martin Hatch, who seems to have ulterior motives of his own; indeed, Mr. Hatch is in some ways one of the most interesting characters in the story, because we don’t really understand his motivations until quite close to the end of the game.

    I’m not sure if all of that really justified the additional hour and a half of cutscenes into a game which already feels pretty slow-paced; for a game about time travel, it takes you roughly 2/3rds of the game before you actually get to do it, and the many collectibles, which help fill in details about the world and the plot and which would make the game very confusing otherwise, also further slow down the pacing. While it would be possible to run through this whole game in a handful of hours, most players will take longer, and if you do all the things, this game is likely to clock in around 18 hours.

    But it is not 18 hours of fun. It is 18 hours of a game trying to tell an interesting story but only telling a mediocre one. It is 18 hours of not so great gameplay. It is 18 hours where you only use your time machine twice. It is 18 hours where the coolest enemy in the game – the ominous shifters, people ripped out of time, who are in multiple superimposed quantum states, all of which must be killed before the shifter dies – is constantly alluded to, and seems to be coming at the end, when the End of Time comes… and then never, ever is fought even once in the entire game, only appearing very briefly in the distance in one level. It is 18 hours of a major plot point never actually being addressed directly, and, as it turns out, actually being something that is intended as a sequel hook for a game that is, frankly, not going to get a sequel. And it is 18 hours of not even getting to try to actually change the past and thus prove or disprove whether Paul Serene was right to suggest that the past couldn’t be changed (which was doubly disappointing as I was hoping that the disastrous consequences of creating a paradox was ultimately going to be the true cause of the time break in the first place – yet another missed opportunity).

    In the end, Quantum Break is a disappointment. It takes what should have been a really, really cool idea, and ends up failing to deliver on it. It feels like it made the promise of being a much better game than it actually was, and broke it. It’s hard to say whether that makes it better or worse – better, because at least it has some interesting ideas, or worse, because it fails to actually deliver on most of them.
    2.0
  • KinglinkKinglink324,885
    21 Feb 2018
    3 0 0
    Quantum Break is Remedy Entertainment’s latest game. From the company who brought us the amazing Alan Wake comes another experiment in storytelling. This time perhaps it’s a bit too experimental, yet it’s unique and interesting, and that catches my attention a lot more than the typical game.

    The big gimmick of Quantum Break’s gameplay is the time power that allows people to manipulate time. You are Jack Joyce ( Shawn Ashmore (Iceman from X-men)) who comes in with very little backstory to check out Paul Serene’s(Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger from Game of Thrones)) new experiment. It goes horribly wrong (what a surprise) and you gain time powers. From there you use your time powers and gunplay to kill guard of a mythical Monolith corp

    The other gimmick of Quantum Break is it’s a television show and a game in one. You play the game, you make choices and then you watch television programs about this. That’s not just a boast by the company. After a couple hours of gameplay, the game stops and you watch full 22 minutes of television grade tv episode with the characters in the game and more. In fact, everyone in this game is represented by an actor, and the game’s graphics try to live up to the bar.

    Yet I think they fall short, and it’s mostly because they stride confidently into the uncanny valley. If you look at any character, and you do quite a bit early on in the game, they’re 99 percent there. There’s just something ethereal off about them. I think it’s something is wrong with the eyes or maybe the face doesn’t animate enough, but the character in the episodes are real, the characters in the game are not and while some are really good (Lance Reddick and Courtney Hope stand out) the rest just have something just not right with them. None actually rival reality though so it’s clear when you’re playing a game and not.

    On the other side, 22 minutes is a VERY long time to watch a movie during a game. There’s, of course, a pause button, but the thing is after a while I saw some action and said. “Wow, I’d love to have played that.” Granted the scene didn’t involve the main character of Jack Joyce, but sitting passively for 22 minutes is a LONG time to watch one let alone four episodes.

    It might be better if this was mega ultra important scenes. But I’m watching an IT guy and a girl flirt. Did you know he has a thing about coasters? There’s literally a whole moment about it and it is about there you ask yourself. “What’s the point to this?” Why do I care he has a coaster fetish, why is this guy important? Why couldn’t this be done through in-game videos through security if it’s important, or emails (Which you start finding from the character later)? Another character goes home and starts to kiss his wife’s belly because they’re having a baby. IT just doesn’t work as well as it wants to.

    It’s not that the tv show is bad. It’s not, it’s very high production values, it’s interesting writing and while it’s lacking a real purpose to watch it, it’s not bad. It’s just feeling like wasted time, whereas if they cut these to 10 minutes, and focused on important character (Jack, Paul, Will) characters we actually see in the real game

    The blending of the two formats just doesn’t work like it wants to, and man it really wants to. It’d be easy to dismiss the story, but actually, the story in-game is good. It’s all about time travel, and while it does a few annoying things (not telling backstories up front but then keeps hinting at long connections between people, using vague or specific terms that the character knows but the player has to figure out, using keywords (Ground Zero) to mean something else and again the characters already know them). I did care what was going on. Jack Joyce and Paul Serene are two incredibly interesting characters. When the story is about them, this game works, I just didn’t need 10 other characters that have minimal interaction.

    So we come to why there’s a tv program (other than a selling point). The big thing in this game is there are choices that should matter, and they change the tv program, and if you know anything about me yet, I am not a fan of this promise when is made because it’s always broken.

    But consider this game has four FULL episodes of television. These aren’t cheap either, I don’t know the pricing of television shows, and I don’t think these are game of throne costs, but they aren’t handheld camera cost either. Decent money went into them.

    So would the choices be possible to be so big, the player only sees a percentage of the footage and the developer's hard work goes into unused assets? Of course not! That’s wouldn’t make much sense. Problem is, the choices in the game become irrelevant. The story is going to go the same way, maybe less than 5 minutes of an episode is different because of the choices made in-game.

    In fact, it’s a bit insulting. The first episode has 3 “triggers”. There’s a major decision that shows a different three or four minute opening. Then there’s a collectible that “changes the episode” When one of my characters wrote something on the board. In the episode someone is sitting down at the table and says “They corrected the formula at the ….” and that’s the ENTIRE change? What’s really sad is that’s the only good ripple, the rest is you see an object somewhere (just notice it) and you then can notice it in the episode. These ripples should be easter eggs but they are presented as far more, the game calls your attention to them.

    It’s odd I spent so much of this review talking about the television show but that’s the big push of the game, what’s crazy is this is still a pretty good game. When you’re in-game, you get a story almost as good as Alan Wake (also by Remedy). There are better gunplay, fun powers, and the graphics are a little awkward but good. In fact, I really enjoy myself between episodes.

    The time powers work well and they recharge fast enough that I feel like I have superpowers. The in-game characters do have some minor story irritations but they are fleshed out interesting, and the story is unique. The ability to stop time and dash around is fun the guns are a little weak but still feel good, I love throwing powers around.

    Even the cutscenes in games are great, and a few made me think “This is the tv episodes” before I realized it wasn’t. It begs the question why waste resources on television when the cutscenes are more compelling and focused on the interesting characters?

    And finally, there are tons of collectibles in the game, a total of 206. Honestly, there’s so many in a shortish game that you just stumble over almost all of them and they’re mostly meaningless, this was similar to alan wake’s overabundance, and I feel they erred heavily on the side of too many. While they’re interesting at the beginning, the number makes them all run together. The good news, they don’t matter too much, the bad news is they’re spoilerific at times and interfere with some gameplay because of appearing on the “Time vision” ability.

    What the game ends up with is it’s a game with a great story, that also shows an almost unrelated tv show at the same time. The Tv show has importance, but also a lot of filler. The gameplay is tight and fun, the characters are interesting, and everyone is well acted. It just tries to hard to be something it’s not. It’s a game, not a tv show, and the hybrid they tried to produce doesn’t work, but if you buy this for the game, gameplay, and even the story in-game, you’ll be more than happy.

    If you enjoyed this review or want to see what other games I recommend you can find my curator page at this link. http://store.steampowered.com/curator/31803828-Kinglink-Revi...
    4.0
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