Quantum Break Review

Richard Walker

If I've learned one thing from Quantum Break, it's that time is apparently an egg. And thanks to experiments with time travel gone awry, that egg is, to use the game's scientific nomenclature, “fucked”. As such, it's your job as time-manipulating hero Jack Joyce to unfuck that very egg, saving the universe from the end of time and existence as we know it.

A cinematic action game that continues Remedy's tradition for making great cinematic action games, Quantum Break is fast-paced, engaging and fresh. Its gameplay mechanics are wonderfully complex but never obscure, and the overall execution in marrying live-action with playable sequences is impeccable. And although Quantum Break isn't necessarily as deep or brooding as Alan Wake or Max Payne, it does manage to play with concepts of time and space in exciting and interesting ways. It's never anything less than totally compelling.


That looks like it might have hurt a bit.

Where Wake and Payne plumbed dark depths for their respective stories, Quantum Break is an altogether more accessible affair, eschewing diversions into surreal territory in favour of more mainstream, sci-fi leanings. It's something of a departure for Remedy, but it's one that works remarkably well, leaving room for little tongue-in-cheek diversions like collectible parts to a screenplay for Timestabber, a laughably godawful take on time travelling shenanigans.

Despite being an initially slow starter, as Quantum Break drip feeds each time power little by little for the first couple of acts, things soon heat up. Once you've obtained and started upgrading Jack's powers, stringing them together becomes all part of the fun, as the game lets you off the leash during its tightly designed combat encounters. It's the game mechanics that prove to be the real draw, each gun battle an opportunity to play and experiment with Joyce's time powers.

The balance is perfectly pitched, with each power given its own cooldown so you don't get carried away, and the abilities in Jack's arsenal cover all of the bases. You can stop an enemy with a time bubble, stacking bullets into it until time returns to normal, spectacularly blowing them away; confuse enemies with a time dodge, slowing time momentarily to train your sights; or throw up a time shield to deflect bullets. Later on, Jack's powers evolve, and you can summon a time blast, blowing away any enemies caught in its radius; or slow time and run behind foes, smacking them down with a melee attack. It's enormously gratifying.

Perhaps Remedy's finest trick with Quantum Break is the deftness with which it handles the game's splintering narrative, casting you as bad guy Paul Serene during its Junction Points, and forcing you to make pivotal decisions that effect where the story goes next. These choices may be binary, but it means playing the game twice through is definitely worthwhile rather than throwaway.

Not only does this add replay value, but it also offers a glimpse into Serene's gradual downfall, causing you to empathise with a conflicted character caught between a rock and a hard place. Serene could have quite easily been a grinning, one-dimensional pantomime villain otherwise, but his journey, coupled with Aidan Gillen's performance ensure that doesn't happen. Seeing both sides of the story is a novel touch.

Quantum Break is by no means perfect, of course, and you could almost build a drinking game around some of the cliched dialogue that finds its way into the script. “This is bigger than us” is uttered at least three times during the story, for instance. As for the science behind the game's time travel, mentions of chronon particles, the Meyer-Joyce field and the fight to obtain the Chronon Field Regulator (CFR) countermeasure to save the universe do little to clarify things. There's a lot of jargon, but it mostly makes sense, even at a rudimentary level.


I guess that's one way to tidy up.

You'll have to trawl through the reams of text left on computers, in notebooks and on tablets, as well as the various diagrams scribbled on whiteboards in an effort to understand all of the ins and outs. Not that it's essential to your enjoyment of the game. It's the quality of the performances, the underpinning drama and the strength of the gameplay that makes Quantum Break such an entertaining and compelling experience, presenting something with a far greater pace that's refreshingly different to Remedy's previous efforts. Yet the studio's storytelling DNA and flair for creating great third-person action games shines through.

And to see everything that Quantum Break has to offer, you'll have to play through it twice. Indeed, to gather every collectible, and by extension, earn every achievement, you'll have to put in both a PR and Hardline playthrough, something I utterly relished. Quantum Ripples add extra little (if disposable) snippets to the live-action episodes, while each Junction Point choice (starting with Hardline or PR) alters the course of the game in mostly subtle ways and decides which live-action episode is available to view. Each decision also unlocks an achievement, making two playthroughs essential to bag the full allocation of Gamerscore. Oh, and you might as well play on hard to stack the difficulty achievements. It's not that tough.

Quantum Break is a stellar action game that builds upon Remedy's inimitable pedigree for combining A-grade storytelling and fantastically inventive shooter gameplay. Its live-action component is well-made, well acted, and engaging, whereas the time-bending shooty bits prove consistently exciting and deliriously enjoyable throughout. Remedy has nailed it once again.

Quantum Break

Like Max Payne and Alan Wake before it, Quantum Break has already left me desperate for a sequel. And with one or two loose threads left dangling tantalisingly, the way is certainly open for one. Quantum Break is another superlative Remedy game, combining story and gameplay to startling effect. I want to go back in time and play it afresh, all over again.

Form widget
90%
Audio
90%

A fantastic licensed soundtrack and wonderfully nuanced score complements superb voice work and performances. This is about as good as it gets.

Visuals
80%

Sure, Quantum Break runs at 720p, but don't let that put you off. The game has a cinematic quality to it, with a nice bit of grain adding to the warm, filmic style, while the game's digital actors are right on the money. Remedy's latest is remarkably pretty at times.

Playability
90%

Encouraging experimentation with its selection of time-based powers, Quantum Break is exciting and entertaining throughout. Gunplay and powers both work beautifully in tandem, making for some great combat encounters. Fun.

Delivery
90%

A decently proportioned game at around 10 hours or so in length, Quantum Break's replay value comes in discovering the divergent path that each Junction Point takes. It demands to be played twice. And then one more time, just for the sheer hell of it.

Achievements
80%

A well-rounded list that rewards a second playthrough (as you scoop the alternate collectibles), Quantum Break also doles out achievements for playing with Jack's time powers. Play it on hard and stack those difficulty cheevos.

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