Game Review: Quantum Break

Sometimes a game comes along and, even before reading any reviews, you just KNOW it’s going to be one for you. Maybe you’re a specific genre junkie or really dig a particular visual style. Maybe you love everything from a particular developer or publisher. Whatever it is, you know it when you see it. and Quantum Break REALLY felt like this to me when I first started reading about it.

I mean, everything from my love of third-person action games and characters with super powers, to science fiction and creative story telling. I just KNEW I was going to love this game. But then the fear set in. The fear over over hype. The fear of expectations not met. The fear of pure disappointment. The fear of wasted money. It paralyzed me. So I didn’t buy it until it was half price. And came with a free game (Alan Wake). Even then, I waited a month or more to finally play it. Despite the fact that I’d been able to temper my expectations by reading some so-so reviews (and some great ones too), I just couldn’t bring myself to face the potential disappointment in a game I so badly wanted to like.

Thankfully, I was wrong…

Quantum Break is a really solid game. And a fun experience.

Technically speaking
This game looks gorgeous. The environments look and feel authentic and the motion capture performances by the various actors are really solid. The sounds is also notable in that it seems very spatially aware. As you move around, towards, or away from the source of noise (dialog, machinery) the audio reacts very naturally. For example, f you facing a source of sound, it’s louder than if you’re turned away.It can be kind of annoying if you’re searching around while someone is talking, but pretty realistic which was kind of cool

The game play is solid for the most part, although my biggest complaint about the game is the lack of precision in the controls. Some of the environments and/or action sequences require you to be far more precise than the controls seem to allow which, mid-combat, can be really frustrating.  The actual mechanics are pretty neat, specifically the time-altering powers your character has. They’re fairly unique and can be used in combination in infinite ways which allows you to play out combat sequences with a little bit of freedom.

Play it Again, Sam
The story is where Quantum Break shines. Or, more specifically, the delivery of the story. It’s a combination of game play and live television episodes which gives you a nice way to break of the tension of the game while still taking in the story. Game play sections are 2-3 hours, with a 20 minute episode to follow. Between the game play and the episode are junctions, which is where you get to take control of the bad guy and make decisions from that perspective. Both happenings in the regular game play and the decisions you make in the junctions impact both the episode and  game play and junctions going forward.

As the story twists and unfolds, it gets better and more interesting. Much like time, things fold in on each other and it manages to stay fresh throughout.

Your choices in the Junctions DO make a difference in the story. It’s nice to be able to go back in your game and make a different choice to see how the story plays out based on those choices. It’s pretty cool. Also, you can’t 100% the game without doing it…Hmm…

It was compelling enough to push me to play the game through again just to see what happens.

Verdict: 8 (Very Good)
There is a lot to like about this game. The story is solid, the voice and mo-cap acting is really good, and it is beautiful looking. I really like how it delivers the story in a combination of game play and live-action television episodes. It feels like a method of story delivery that hasn’t really been explored much and one I could see being more prevalent in the future. My only complaint, other than the imprecise controls, is the way the final battle sequence is set up save-wise. I had to work my way through it a handful of times and it really put a damper on a solid gaming and storytelling experience. I ended up not punishing the score too much for this as it may just be that I sucked at it, but it was a frustrating way to end a really good game.

NOTE: If you didn’t get enough quantum physics, check out Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. It’s a good read and thematically similar to Quantum Break.

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