Quantum Break (2016, PC)

By Lukeus_Maximus / April 29, 2017

Quantum Break's format is novel in both senses of the word. Five "acts" separated by four 20-minute live-action episodes showing what happened as a result of the previous choices you made. Those episodes, along with interminable follow-the-character-through-the-environment-whilst-they-explain-the-story-to-you sequences interspersed with brief moments of mildly inventive third-person shooter combat means that you do not actually play this game, you watch it. You watch it, as the passive spectator you are.

   Let's cover... combat! The only noticeable part of the game that can actually be considered play involves shootouts featuring conveniently placed chest-high cover and your collection of six "time bending" super-powers. Four of those superpowers are limited to simply slowing or stopping time while another two of them have no discernible effect on time at all. Despite having six of these, you will only regularly use the four which require a single button push, and forget about the other two completely because those other two would actually require you to aim. You will solely reserve aiming for shooting people with your guns.
   The high point of this game is the graphics. Very pretty. That's where your 70GB went. The graphical niceties include the 3D scanned likenesses of the real cast members. I'm fairly sure Lance Riddick's own model is accurate down to the pimples on the back of his neck (which are unreasonably close to the camera at one point which is how I know this...) This reinforces the point that the point of the game is to be looked at, rather than played. In the game, you are required to go to various points to hold a button next to a glowing light in order to upgrade your superpowers. I'm fairly sure this mechanic exists just to get you to look at the marvellous scenery. One thing I'd like to know is if those live-action episodes are streamed from your hard drive or the internet. For 70GB, it had better be the former.
   On the topic of choices, the game has four main "junctions" where you choose between two conflicting major outcomes of the junction decision. The choice you make will alter the course of history itself and lead the game to eventually conclude with wildly different endings... which are all completely identical. That is to say that no decision I made had any impact whatsoever on what happened to the protagonist at any given point. I still ended up doing the exact same things in the same order to reach the same conclusion. The only notable difference is which characters perform any given action. One character seems to exist solely to fill the shoes of the person who would have been there had they not died moments earlier due to a decision you made. Having played the game twice to encompass all possible choices, I can see no way in which the game is distinguishable from one that is entirely linear. This game is linear; the decisions merely decide whether the paint on the walls is white or snow-coloured.
   Still, the shooting is enjoyable for what it is, but there isn’t enough of it in the 10-hour game. Much of this time is taken up by the TV show and there is basically one long combat sequence every few hours and a bunch near the end. The rest of the game is threadbare, choosing to mix in weak platforming and bland time puzzles between a handful of enemies. What's more, the ending is unsatisfying, leaving itself wide open for a sequel.
   If you liked Remedy’s previous games then you will probably enjoy Quantum Break, but it’s not as strong as Alan Wake, and a far cry from Max Payne.