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Quantum Break

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Remedy
Release Date: April 5, 2016


XOne/PC Preview - 'Quantum Break'

by Adam Pavlacka on March 3, 2016 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Quantum Break blurs the line between gaming and TV by integrating drama and gameplay into one seamless, uniquely immersive experience.

There are some game companies that push out game after game on a regular basis. Then there are others that tend to let their projects simmer in development, waiting until they are "just right" before releasing them into the wild. Remedy is one of the developers that falls into the latter camp. Two of its major games, Alan Wake and Max Payne, both look and play very differently, but the games share one thing in common: a heavy focus on story. Remedy's latest title, Quantum Break, is no different.

Set for release in April on the Xbox One and Windows 10, Quantum Break is an action game that is part third-person shooter, part choose-your-own-adventure and part mystery. All of the elements are intriguing on their own, but the way they are merged together in Quantum Break promises to make this game a memorable one.

Quantum Break actually starts out rather slowly, with the first section of the game being almost all exposition. Sure you're wandering around and doing "things," but Act 1-1 isn't there to blow your mind. It's there to lay the groundwork for the story that drives the rest of Quantum Break.

The short version is that an experiment in time travel has gone wrong, and as a result, Jack Joyce (Shawn Ashmore) begins to exhibit strange powers. He can move freely through time "stutters," while the rest of the world is frozen, and he can also control time in localized areas. Joyce can do things like slow time, reverse time and even use time stop as a sort of personal shield. All of these, and more, will be necessary if you hope to solve the mystery behind the accident and fight off the mysterious corporation that appears to be trying to take advantage of the accident.

After the first segment of the game, the action picks up at a measured pace. Joyce's time powers are doled out one by one, and the game smartly dumps you into situations where you are forced to use them. This immediately gives you a chance to practice, because in the later sections, not using your time powers is going to mean death.

Quantum Break isn't shy about sending more enemies than you can handle your way. If you think you can just run-and-gun your way through, you're likely mistaken. True, there will probably be someone out there who does a "no time power" run, just to prove it can be done, but it won't be easy. Chaining together your time powers to gain an advantage is like a ballet of destruction. Do it right, and the whole thing has an odd elegance about it.

Time powers are also useful for puzzle-solving. For example, while slowing time can stop enemies, it can also be used to hold open a gate that would normally close too quickly for you to make it through. Temporarily reversing time means you can do things like eliminate an obstacle, reconstruct it once you're on the other side, and use that to reach a location that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Just when you think you've gotten the hang of your time powers, Quantum Break throws you a curve, as enemies who also have mastery of certain time powers start to appear. Unlike you, these enemies have gained their power via technology. This means you have a choice. You can face them head-on, or you can focus on disabling their tech. Depending on the situation, the latter may be easier than the former.

All of the characters in Quantum Break are modeled after, and voiced by, real actors. This isn't unusual for a game, but Quantum Break takes advantage of that fact in an innovative way. Instead of traditional cut scenes, Quantum Break offers up full TV episodes featuring the characters. The transition is rather seamless, but more importantly, what happens in the TV episodes is shaped by the decisions you make during gameplay.

Right before each TV episode, you take control of Quantum Break's antagonist for a short bit and are forced to make a decision. That decision impacts the story of the game and the events of the TV episode that you see after the level finishes. These are the major changes. Then there are minor changes that can occur based on finding specific items. If you believe the hype, Quantum Break has multiple storylines and endings based on the decisions you make. What we don't know is how much (or how little) those storylines can diverge and if exploring them is more of a curiosity or a solid reason to replay the game.

Having experienced the first two hours of Quantum Break and one episode of the TV show, it's safe to say that I'm hooked. Much like a good sci-fi show on network TV, the beginning acts of Quantum Break do an excellent job of setting the hook and then reeling you in. The TV episode, while not lavishly budgeted, fits in well with the game, with all of the main characters feeling like they have depth. These aren't just basic stereotypes brought to life.

Perhaps the most telling thing is that when it finally came time to put down the controller, I just wanted to keep playing Quantum Break. It certainly didn't feel like two hours had passed, but sure enough, the clock doesn't lie. If the rest of the game can keep up the quality of those first two hours, Remedy will have another hit on its hands.

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