Finnish developers Remedy have a pretty good track record, beside Death Rally and it’s remake their only major releases have been the first two Max Payne Titles and Alan Wake.
So when you hear of a next-gen AAA exclusive which merges the time-mechanics of Max Payne with the story and atmosphere of Alan Wake, it’s little surprise that people are looking forward the the new IP ‘Quantum Break’, but will it be a waste of time, or another timeless classic.
The story begins with the protagonist, Jack Joyce returning to Riverport university after 6 years away. Your old friend Paul Serene has called for your help with an experiment after your brother Will backed out at the last minute. Soon enough, you discover the time-travelling nature of the experiment and after Will turns up to try and stop proceedings, there’s an error that causes an explosion and with Paul trapped inside the machine, your forced to flee with your brother as Monarch Corporation guards.
Initially it might all sound a little confusing, but as the game progresses you soon realize there’s an incredibly deep and engrossing story to discover.
Throughout the first act, you’re mostly introduced to the story, characters and movement, by the end of the first act you’d be forgiven for feeling like there’s not been an awful lot of game-play, but worry not because that will change soon.
Hitting the end of the act, you’ll be greeted with a junction, during this section you control Paul Serene. It’s an interesting mixture of playing good while carving out the path of the story-line with the villain, and after this decision, you’ll be taken straight into a sitcom length, live action episode that fits in perfectly.
I’m sure many will be dubious about the merger of game and live-action, but if you allow yourself to sit and watch the first ten minutes, I’m sure you’ll find yourself hooked, not only in the live-action episode, but the world of Quantum Break which ultimately leaves you wanting to press on with the second Act.
As you progress past the first act you’ll find just as much story content, but also plenty more game-play, there’s a few time bending puzzles to fathom along with platform elements and suddenly you find yourself experiencing far more of the fire-fights. Sadly some will see this unbalance as a negative, as the first 3 act’s all seem to concentrate more towards story, platforming & puzzles and then gunfights, but personally I think there’s a nice mixture especially for the last two acts, and while the difficulty ramps up a little after the half-way mark, careful use of your time bending powers, and utilizing techniques such as aiming straight after a dodge/dash to enter a Max Payne style Bullet-time.
It’s also around the half-way point when you really start to appreciate how good the graphics are, sure things look great from the start, and while it’s difficult to put a label on the exact resolution, you can rest assured with all the technological wizardry going on, it looks very good at times, amazing at others and only occasionally a little choppy, but due to the glitches of time, this can be forgiven.
When you start encountering enemies who can move while the rest of the world stands frozen, and killing them leaves them equally frozen in time, this gives some screenshot worthy images of guards falling after a shotgun in the face frozen in time, or pushed aside as you move past them.
Effects are equally as impressive as you view the live action episodes, with the exception of one chromakey section that looked a little artificial the entire presentation is top notch and more than worthy of the extra development time afforded by previous delays.
Sure people will complain because of development delays (myself included), but when you see the integration between video game and live action, you don’t just forgive a delay, your actually quite thankful for it. While initially it’s very easy to label Quantum Break as the love child of Max Payne and Alan Wake, it’s far, far more than that.
Gameplay certainly borrows plenty from both franchises, but it’s during the live action episodes when you start to enjoy the game side even more, going back for a second playthrough, I found myself not only looking for intel (collectibles) to pick up, but reading them word for word, because of the depth, detail and power found inside some of the transcripts. There’s also Quantum Ripples, found in game which will align with events in the live action series just as your decisions do during the end of act Junctions.
After completing the game, I jumped back to Junction 1, and made the opposite decision, and much to my amazement, not only did the live action episode change quite considerably, quite significant parts of the game did too and I was quickly reminded that the person who had helped me throughout the game in my previous venture, was now unable to, and so I set about a new adventure, following the same story but with some very different elements..
It’s also worth noting that Remedy had incredible praise for Rockstar and their work on Max Payne 3, labeling their work as “Brilliant”. So there’s no surprise that there’s a few elements of Max Payne 3 tied in too. It’s great to see developers praising and learning from each other, and Alan Wake certainly seems better for it.
So we know there’s a deep engrossing and immersive story-line, tied together with a live action series which feels near-perfectly implemented, and the game looks great and thanks to the cast of high quality actors sounds great too, and with some drastically different twists it’s not just recommended you play through the game at least twice, It feels more mandatory, there’s certainly a healthy dose of longevity even if you choose not to seek out the narrative pickups and collectibles.
So what is wrong with Microsofts latest AAA title…..
The answer is, not much at all.
There’s the occasional graphical glitch, platforming occasionally feels a little loose but my only other criticism would be that difficulty certainly peaks in a few places, forcing you to rethink your approach because depending what time powers you want to utilize, it can make parts much tougher than another approach.