What is time, but an egg. You can hard-boil your long-term plans or shatter that shell on a hot plate of opportunity. But what happens to time when it shatters? The correct explanation of time travel is that there is none. Quantum Break successful proves how ridiculous it would be, as a concept and a reality. At the same time it accomplishes a thrilling narrative and theorises how it could be possible and what the effects would be in the human world. What happens at the end of time? What happens when time is broken? Is your reality poached or sunny side up?
Quantum Break is a third-person action game by Remedy (Max Payne, Alan Wake) with a heavy story focus. Time Travel is a big concept to swallow but the game introduces things quite slowly with a main character who has no idea what’s going on. It’s 4am and your best friend has invited you to see something cool at this university. There’s been some sort of protest outside, with some stragglers about, with tents and posters barely visible in the scattered light. The game has a very calming, relaxed atmosphere much like Alan Wake did and it makes you hungry to explore. Just existing in this game world is interesting before the story even kicks off. The game engine is fluid with smooth controls and a high amount of detail to slowly take in. Let’s go for a walk, and travel through time at regular speed.
The action part of the gameplay is typical third-person shooting with the addition of time travel powers. These make you feel like a superhero while fighting. You can throw a time bubble to freeze a place in time, and stack bullets on, watching them all unleash at once as time unfreezes. You can also dart around behind enemies with Time Rush and dodge their bullets in slow motion, almost like you’re teleporting behind them. It makes you think about cover in a whole new way when you’re thinking about where you’re going to Time Rush towards. You start off fighting company grunts, but slowly the enemies become smarter as they get equipped with their own suits with powers.
At first I was absolutely stunned by this and excited about every battle, but it got repetitive near the end. The enemies just get more health and it starts to feel silly having to unload 50 bullets to kill a human in a suit. The same strategy applies to almost all of them, get behind them and blow up their suit. So really you’re just darting around like a maniac. It still has that same stressful crowded shooter feeling, even with time completely stopping. I feel like they didn’t realise the full potential of the combat but it probably only makes up 30% of the game, with so much exploring in between. Perhaps the most interesting use of time mechanics for me, were some of the platforming segments where you had to manipulate objects in the right order. Nothing too difficult but very fun and amazing to witness the environment transform so heavily.
The visuals are absolutely jaw-dropping to the point where sometimes it’s too much. Time distorts in some places and the screen flashes so much that it can seriously hurt your eyes or give you a headache. I was lucky enough to avoid these but still wanted to look away from the screen at key points. It’s over-the-top but also necessary in a way. I think they successfully captured how incredible time is and how precious and necessary the rules of the world are. Time being broken is illustrated as something you definitely don’t want to happen, and that makes the story and journey all that more important and engaging.
Splitting up the segments of gameplay are four live-action episodes of the story that go for 20-22 minutes each. Wait, is this a videogame or a TV show? If you don’t want to watch them they are optional, but they contain a lot of info and different perspectives of events. I know it seems out of place to have TV episodes in a game but the episodes themselves are fantastic with very good acting. They are also different depending on what choices you make in the game and what quantum ripples you find. The story gripped me to the point where I watched every episode glued to the screen. I listened to every journal entry in the menu. Scoured for every piece of info I could find. I just wanted to know more and more and see what happened next. I think this game brings the best feelings of TV shows and videogames together to make a highly engaging story that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. By themselves the live-action episodes might feel a bit silly and cheesy, but within the game universe they fit in nicely.
The pacing of this game was just perfect. It throws a lot of info and gameplay at you, but lets you be alone and digest everything. Each area has documents to find, objects to look at, computer emails to read, and chronon powerups to upgrade your abilities with. The environments are quite linear but finding everything requires a fair amount of poking around and curiosity. Some of the biggest info bomb-drops are in random things that you read during gameplay. It’s more than just time travel lore as well. There is a company named Monarch Solutions who are a key point of interest in the story, as well as many personal arcs.
I was so hooked on this game I beat it over several long sittings in 3 days. It’s the fastest I’ve played through a game in a long time, and I even replayed some Acts to pick up things I missed and make different choices. The sense of urgency and importance to the story, combined with a curious cast of characters and great gameplay just pulled me in. Every aspect is highly polished. I would say the only real negative is the loading and general presentation of the episodes. They are available separately as a 76GB download which was a bit too much for my internet or Xbox hard-drive to stomach. The other option is streaming the episode from the game which just straight up didn’t work for me as the server was down. I ended up watching them on Youtube instead, when the game prompted me. Still a good experience but requires a bit of investment to get the TV episodes up and running. The game’s delivery was almost too ambitious for current console hardware.
Quantum Break is one of the games I bought an Xbox One for and it absolutely delivered the unique experience I was hoping for and then some. I normally cringe at time travel but this game makes it seem tangible. It creates its own universe and atmosphere and drags you into it, throwing you back and forth through time. It’s absolutely incredible and now I’m really excited about Remedy’s next game Control which is out in a few months (and multiplatform this time). In the meantime this game is free on Game Pass and absolutely worth the massive download.
If I had a dozen eggs, I’d send 6 back in time, and give this game 6 out of 10 when it came out, then elevate it to cult status when the eggs come back to 2019 with a 12 out of 10. There’s truly nothing else like it in any timeline.