Here’s why Quantum Break is even better than expected.
Oh, sorry – we’re getting ahead of ourselves; our perception of time has been altered somewhat after sitting through the new Xbox One console exclusive from Remedy.
After ambitious and impressive demos at E3 and the like, initial reviews have ranged from extremely positive to lukewarm.
But after sinking a load of – non-reversible – time into it on release day, I’d have to side with the former of those two camps.
Its video game/TV crossover is a refreshing way to engage with content
I have to admit, when I found out that Quantum Break would further its narrative by placing 22-minute, live-action episodes among the missions, I didn’t much care for the idea.
I’ve never been a fan of box set TV, and the idea of putting my controller down for nearly half an hour to watch a hokey live-action version of the same thing didn’t really appeal to me.
But I gave it a go. And I was hooked.
The episodes provide interesting insight in to the story, which looks like it’s going to twist and turn for some time, and it ends up feeling like you’re ‘playing’ the television show.
The time powers aren’t overwhelming to use
Reading up on the game last week, my mind boggled slightly at the sheer volume of mechanics I’d potentially be dealing with. What the hell is a ‘Time Blast’ or a ‘Time Rush’? My head began hurting at what it was going to be dealing with.
Luckily, however, the game introduces you to them one by one, and by mapping them to slight variations on the bumpers and triggers, makes it easy to remember what does what.
It’s also nice to see you’re allowed to use the powers quite liberally, with just a short cool-down time if you get spam happy. So you soon work it all out.
It’s totally cinematic
I’ve already mentioned how Quantum Break can often feel like you are playing a television series, through its deft melding of live-action ‘episodes’ with gameplay.
But even when you’re knee deep in combat or adventuring, it still carries this distinct feel, with cutscenes and canned animation blending seamlessly.
At one point I was shimmying through an air duct to avoid patrolling guards, when a noise alerted them to the two onscreen character’s position. As a bright light shone through the duct’s grates, casting lateral shadows everywhere, it actually felt like I was right there in the vent following these two characters.
It’s full of nods to Remedy’s past
Literally 30 feet (in in-game terms) into Quantum Break‘s first level, I came up against a large plasma screen with a little hovering icon indicating I could switch it on if I so wished. So I did, and I was greeted with a live-action ‘trailer’ of sorts – which looked to be promoting an upcoming thriller based on Remedy’s previous game, Alan Wake.
Wake’s same voice was there, and many of the narrative beats of that game were alluded to in the spooky looking trailer. It even featured a cameo from Remedy writer Sam Lake – previously famous for lending his likeness to Max Payne, which Remedy also developed.
Further into the level I spotted a chalk board that seemed to link the two games together through a complex spider diagram.
Could we be looking at a shared universe?
It’s even better if you know as little as possible about it
Too often these days games try to make the hard sell by bombarding you with as many details as possible.
A single game can churn out countless trailers, and once a preview code gets into the hands of the gaming press, you just know you won’t be able to move for the amount of Let’s Play and gameplay videos that’ll be filling up your social media feeds.
For the most part, Quantum Break has bucked this trend, not really letting on its secrets until you actually get to play it. Sure, the final week before release was a minefield of spoilers and set-piece reveals, but I managed to avoid all of those, and it’s all the better for it.
It’s a game full of twists and turns, and it’s best if you let all of it take you by surprise.
It looks like nothing else we’ve ever seen
Graphically, Quantum Break is for the most part impressive. The world is detailed and, while there may be a few rough edges – the Northlight Engine seems to really stretch out the Xbox One’s capabilities. It looks really nice.
It’s the time effects that really bring it into its own though; with object warping and the kind of quantum trickery going on that would make Stephen Hawking blush.
During the game’s first time ‘stutter’ you’re trapped in a time loop, and as a nearby pane of glass is shattered by a fire extinguisher over and over again, you can’t help but linger on it for an eternity.
This is definitely an experience to savour.
Quantum Break is out now for Xbox One