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Quantum Break - Review

For years, Remedy Entertainment have been pioneers of storytelling and gameplay. From Max Payne to Alan Wake, Remedy have started trends and awed viewers with their unique stories, and with their newest outing on Xbox One, is Quantum Break also able to hold a candle to Remedy's legacy?

Developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft, Quantum Break is a third person action adventure with an all star cast. Quantum Break was actually the first game ever announced for the Xbox One all the way back in 2013. So let's see if that long wait was worth it.

The end of time is rapidly approaching due to a time travel experiment gone horribly wrong. Starring Shawn Ashmore, Aidan Gillan, and Dominic Monaghan; Quantum Break follows Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore) as he attempts to stop the end of time with his new founded time manipulative powers while his once best friend, Paul Serene (Aidan Gillan), uses his powers to let the end of time to take it's course.

Time travel isn't exactly an original story basis, but Remedy have found an exceptional way of making it fresh again. Typically, whenever a story has the involvement of time travel, you can expect countless plot holes and "scientific" elements that make absolutely no sense. You won't find any of that here. Quantum Break features the most realistic depiction of time travel you will ever experience in a form of media. It's apparent that Remedy spent years researching the plausibility of time travel and how it could be applied to the real world. It's difficult to describe without experiencing it for yourself, but even with limited knowledge of time travel, Quantum Break displays the most true to life use of a time machine and the consequences that would inevitably follow.

Anyone who has witnessed a Hollywood actor in a video game knows the worry that follows. Hollywood actors phoning in their performance and waiting for their checks to clear is a common practice with video games, but not here. Everyone brings their best performance and every character feels real; Aidan Gillan as Paul Serene and Dominic Monaghan as Jack's brother, Will, being stand out additions. There is one problem though, and it's that you will never really feel that attached to anyone. Sure, they're well rounded characters, but you never really feel the same desperate need to help or save another character in danger like you would have in Max Payne or Alan Wake.

Quantum Break is further proof that true to life graphics are just around the corner. Remember how amazing the facial capture of L.A. Noire was back in 2011? Well, I'm glad to report that the technology behind Quantum Break manages to not only look better than the facial capture found in L.A. Noire, but also make you question if you are watching the accompanying live action show or an in game cutscene. Every detail of an actor's face is captured in shocking detail and each of their animations are captured so well that it looks like you are finally playing as a human being and not a plastic doll. It's also quite humorous seeing Aidan Gillan aged 17 years in reverse at the beginning.

Texture detail on everything from firearms, vehicles, walls, and the ground; to even little details like posters and TV/computer monitors are some of the best that I've seen in years. Even the time distortion effects are great and original. Every time Jack uses his time powers or the entire world freezes in time, the effects are neat to look at. Polygons are ripped apart and objects appear to look as if they are in two time periods at the same time. Like a broken mirror displaying an object from different angles. If time did begin to break down, this is what it would look like.

The only problem with the graphics lies in its resolution on Xbox One. This is the first time I was ever able to tell the difference between 720p and 1080p. 720p is the base resolution for Quantum Break, but it also hosts 4x MSAA to present high pixel quality and complex shading/effects. While this is nice, sometimes the picture just isn't that clear and it's a shame because Quantum Break is a phenomenal game in every other regard. We can blame hardware limitations on this one.

Going into Quantum Break, I expected Alan Wake with Max Payne-esque bullet time. While that is, in a sense, what I got, that would be a huge oversimplification of the entire product. Unlike the first two Max Payne games and Alan Wake, Quantum Break is a cover shooter. Before preconceived notions of Gears of War cover shooters come to mind, know that Quantum Break is not at all like that.

Those who played the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider will feel right at home with this cover system. Unlike, say, literally every cover shooter on the market, you don't tap a button and become instantly glued to a chest high wall to shoot at enemies. Instead, once you are in a combat situation, Jack will immediately duck behind any cover he can fit under, but you can still move around freely. While this is an option, you will hardly ever find yourself doing this because of your borderline overpowered time abilities.

Within the first couple acts, you are given almost all of your time powers. Standouts include: being able to see through walls, the ability to dash across the room and slow down time to pick out targets to shoot, and creating a stasis bubble around enemies and firing into it so that a hail of bullets flies into them when the bubble dissipates. Even on the hardest difficulty, I dare you to die once outside of the tricky time manipulated platform puzzles. As long as you hide behind cover and give yourself time to heal when you are low on health you will probably never see the death screen.

The problem with giving the player almost all of the powers the game has to offer is that you will find yourself doing the exact same thing all the way to the end. It sounds like it becomes repetitive or even boring, but that's where the show comes in. Once you begin to tire of the gameplay, you have finished the act and unlocked a new episode, but I never found myself bored. In fact, I had to break myself away from the game so I wouldn't finish too quickly. Even after taking my time to enjoy every little detail Quantum Break had to offer, I still clocked in at a little over 9 hours (not including the TV episodes). This is a little on the short side for a purely single player experience, but the game is built around multiple replays so you can change your decisions and see how the story ends differently than your last play through.

Where Shawn Ashmore as Jack Joyce is the star of the game, Patrick Heusinger as Liam Burke is the star of the Quantum Break show. Shawn Ashmore is reduced to a mere cameo in each episode, but that's okay because Patrick Heusinger absolutely steals the show as Liam Burke. Blurring the lines between good and bad, the Quantum Break show mainly focuses on Liam Burke as he discovers the truth about Monarch Solutions and what is really going on with time ending.

The show features almost an entirely new cast from the game (with the exception of Aidan Gillen), featuring: Patrick Heusinger as Liam Burke, Lance Reddick as Martin Hatch, Marshall Allman as Charlie, and Mimi Michaels as Fiona. Although given less time than their in game cast mates, the cast of the show also have just enough time for all their characters to become three dimensional and feel like real people.

The way the show works with the game is that at the end of each act of the game, you are given control of Paul Serene as he makes a decision that will affect the next episode of the show and, consequently, the rest of the game. At first, the choices you make as Paul seem purely cosmetic in nature, but soon you will be making choices that affect the locations you visit and which enemies you will face. Each episode only runs for about 30 minutes; which is plenty of time to cool down from all the action you played through. You are also able to skip each episode, but that is not recommended if you are paying attention to the story.

The way Remedy interjected the show into the game without it feeling forced is impressive, but one thing almost kills it. The show is streamed rather than being on the disk. This may not sound like a huge problem, but one slip up in your internet connection (or no internet connection at all) will cause the show to buffer and will force you to watch in a resolution that can dip below 360p at times. The one saving grace to this is that you have the option to download the offline episodes as free DLC, but the download is 75GB, so get ready to clear up your hard drive to avoid the pesky "Content Buffering. Please Wait..." icon plaguing your viewing experience.

There are some genuinely impressive shots in the show and the action seems like it could have been intense to watch, but someone seems to have forgotten to tell the director that filming close up to the action and using a shaky cam is awful and (or should have) died off in the mid-2000's. Although small, it was still a bit disappointing that the show wasn't standalone. Say you have a friend that would love the story of the show, but doesn't play video games. You wouldn't be able to have them watch the show because the show depends a bit too much on the narrative only seen in the game. Like I said, it's a small annoyance, but it doesn't detract from the overall exceptional show that could rival the likes of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Let's hope for a season two.

The number one killer may be time, but you will have a killer time with Quantum Break. To this day, Remedy has never disappointed with their incredible writing and storytelling abilities, and Quantum Break is no exception. Despite a few odd graphical problems and streaming issues, Quantum Break is a definite contender for game of the year and a worthy successor to Max Payne and Alan Wake.


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