Just think about it for a second. It’s the concept that humanity has created to measure the passage of the universe, and how we have made our mark. It is fundamental to our society, and is the basis for everything we do. The Past. The Present. The Future. Our Age. Time controls when we go to work, when we eat, when we sleep. It’s Years broken down into Months, and weeks, and days, through to hours and minutes and seconds. It is the single most important thing that we have. Without it, society would not be as it is today. We would not exist in the way we do today.
And now, imagine that it’s broken.
Quantum Break is the latest Microsoft exclusive that takes this frightening concept, throws in a hefty helping of Time Travel with a sprinkling of Fate, and delivers a unique experience. You take on the role of Jack Joyce, who is voiced and modelled by Shaun Ashmore. You may remember Shaun from his portrayal of Jake in Animorphs, or Iceman in the X-Men movies. Joyce, through a science experiment gone wrong, gains a number of Time-based powers and in doing so is thrust upon a path to save the world from the ‘End of Time’. Now, i used the word ‘experience’ instead of ‘game’ for a reason.
On one side, Quantum Break is a third-person, cover based shooter that has taken the genre and gameplay we have grown accustomed to, and delivered the kind of game you would expect. The environments are ultimately linear, with the fights involving a bit of hiding behind cover, and more often than not bum-rushing your enemies and mashing the trigger to kill them all. Pretty straight forward stuff. That’s not to say that it’s not fun, though. The Time-based powers you get access to can wreak havoc on your enemies, and it adds another layer of difficulty when you come across foes that are immune to these powers.
In between the fights, you get the ability to explore the surroundings and get further information on the backstory and history of the game at large. And there is a lot of information available. This is where I have spent most of my time, reading newspaper articles about the world that I am playing in, or email trails between main and supporting characters that give them both more depth. The amount of information you find and read will have an impact on your overall experience as well.
Like a lot of games being released now, in Quantum Break your choices will affect the outcome. Reminiscent of games like the Mass Effect series or Fable, there are a few major choice points scattered throughout the game. Each choice you make here will change what happens later, and will ultimately change what happens when you reach the end. Going hand-in-hand with this is the information gathering side of things. The more you find, the more the characters know. Certain conversations will happen (or wont) depending on how hard you look and what information you uncover.
All of this brings me to the other side of the experience. After each game arc, you are treated to the Quantum Break Show. This is a live action, TV-esque episode, that is streamed in-between each act. The consequences of the choices you make all play out on the screen here, which gives you a real feeling that the decisions being made actually matter. These episodes are produced well. Really well. It got to the point where I was playing the game just to see what happened in the next episode. It almost makes me wish that they just made these episodes into a standalone TV series. I’d watch the hell out of it. Now, a word of warning here. These episodes are not automatically downloaded when you install the game – they are streamed. That means that if you have a dodgy connection, or the servers are down, they won’t play. I have been told you can download these direct, but have not yet looked at this feature.
I think that this is where the replayability of the game will really come into effect. After each ‘episode’ i am left wondering, “What would be changed if i had made a different decision. What would this world look like then?” So much so that I’m already planning my next playthrough and the choices I will make next time round.
I can’t really tell you if Quantum Break is a great game or a shit game, because to me, it’s not just a game. It’s an experience. Would the game work without the TV show? Yes, it would. But only barely. Would the TV Show work without the game? I would like to think it would, but that’s something we will never find out for sure.
What it is, is both more, and less, than I had hoped it would be. And that is a good thing.