Quantum Break Review
Updated: Dec 26, 2019
When Remedy Entertainment announced Quantum Break would be a video game and tv show hybrid, many fans had their expectations in check. Yes, Remedy is known for classics like Max Payne and Allan Wake, but this new direction was clearly based on an idea that Microsoft had long said goodbye to. Quantum Break could have easily been nothing more than a gimmicky cash grab, but that couldn't be farther from the case. Like previous games, Remedy crafted a game that is not only filled with fantastic action but excellent and relatable characters for us to follow on a pretty incredible journey.
Players control Jack Joyce. A regular guy who, while helping his childhood friend, Paul, with an experiment involving time travel, inadvertently causes a fracture in time itself. When Jack comes to, he finds he has been granted amazing time manipulation abilities and now must find a way to fix time, stop his friend turned enemy Paul, and prevent the end of the world. The time travel idea is not new to movies or video games by any means. Still, Quantum Break continually feels fresh and exciting in its execution. The plot is filled with twists and turns that always throw something interesting at you. Mostly though, it's due to the excellent performances Shawn Ashmore as Jack and Aiden Gillan as Paul. They do such an excellent job transporting us to this world. These real-life actors transitioned well into the game. I was most surprised by Ashmore if I'm honest, and his performance took me by surprise. He knocks it out of the park, he's funny, charismatic, and could bring the drama.
The plot is definitely a massive factor for Quantum Break. Unlike similar games like The Order 1886, the gameplay department is almost just as strong. Quantum Break is a third-person shooter that puts a big emphasis on constant movement. The player can take cover, but doing so will only protect you for a few seconds since your protection can be destroyed, and enemies are abundant. They use flanking tactics to smoke you out, so you are never safe for too long. Thankfully Jack has some pretty spectacular time manipulation abilities that give you a fighting chance. Experimenting with them is a whole ton of fun. These powers include a quick teleportation dash, a time bubble that allows you to stack bullets on an enemy, a time force field, and a couple more I won't spoil. Using these abilities is key to surviving, and they look rad as hell. Jack will also have to use these abilities for some light puzzle elements and platforming. The puzzle and platforming sections work well enough and never overstays there welcome while also adding a nice amount of variety to the game.
The game has a decent amount of enemy variety... at first. Quantum Break does a pretty decent job at cycling them through, but at a certain point, they just stop, and you are left fighting the same baddies over and over. With no actual boss fights, this could get a little repetitive. Still, the A.I is very competent, so firefights are always engaging and hide the monotony from lack of enemy variations.
Thankfully though, the environments are anything but monotonous and offer an excellent level of variety. Initially, it might seem like you are in a regular shipyard, warehouse, or office building, but due to the time fracture, your surroundings can shift erratically at a moment's notice. This causes amazing spectacles shifting in and out of time. Quantum Break is also an absolutely beautiful game with excellent lighting and top-notch facial animations that, even now, 3 years after the game's release, looks excellent.
There is also the aspect of the "butterfly effect” in the form of Junctions. At the end of every act, players take control of Paul Serene, the villain of the game. In these brief but essential moments, players will be forced to make a decision as that will alter the game and the following live-action episode in one way or another. This feature is not as impactful as I would have hoped, but seeing the small ways it does change the following act or episode is no doubt super cool. It adds just enough flavor that going in for a second playthrough would be worthwhile.
The Quantum Break TV show is thankfully just as polished as the game itself. A big worry was that the show would be some tacked-on afterthought with a shoestring budget, but this is not the case. It rivals any cable or Netflix show in quality and performance. Instead of focusing on Jack Joyce, the show follows Monarch, the evil corporation Jack is fighting, and their role at the end of time. Patrick Heusinger leads the cast in the show as Liam Burke, a special forces Monarch agent who is just as compelling a character like Jack. He's badass but also very easy to sympathize with. The show is action-packed and moves at a very steady and rapid pace. With only 4 episodes and a 25-minute runtime, makes sure its trim of all the fat making each episode very focused and engaging.
Alone, both aspects of Quantum Break work great, but together it becomes something exceptional. Game/TV Show hybrids are not new, but I don't think it has ever been done this well. The moment to moment gameplay is great and the tv show is just as engaging. Each feels like a reward to the other. Unfortunately, those who follow games media probably know that the series will likely not continue, and I think its criminal. Still, even so, as a stand-alone experience, Quantum Break should absolutely not be missed.