Not a whole lot of video games are centered around time manipulation and even fewer let you control it in such a spectacular fashion as Quantum Break does. We do have a few good examples like Timeshift, Singularity or Project Temporality, but games like that are rare and often ignored in favor of titles with bigger budgets and fancier graphics. Well, not anymore.
Now we finally have a major AAA time-bending game by Alan Wake creators Remedy Entertainment and it definitely looks the part when it comes to graphics while also taking a new and interesting approach to storytelling. Some might argue that Remedy didn’t deliver on its promise with this game but I feel like a lot of people are kinda missing the point here and I’m going to tell you why in our Quantum Break PC review below.
Ok, so first off let’s just tackle the elephant in the room which comes in the form of Quantum Break’s sub-par performance on PC. Frankly, some of the complaints are well-deserved and some are not, but all in all, I found my experience with this game to be satisfactory and not at all game-breaking in spite of the performance issues. Naturally, I can’t speak for everyone but it seems like performance varies greatly from person to person, though I think we can say that about almost any modern PC game.
That being said, the PC port is obviously less than ideal and you are likely to encounter frame rate drops from time to time regardless of your machine. It’s pretty clear that optimization wasn’t a priority here and that’s very strange coming from a company that has plenty of experience with the PC platform. As you may or may not know, Quantum Break was originally meant to be an Xbox One exclusive, so ironically, it might be that Remedy didn’t have enough time to make a good port. That’s not to say that the Xbox One version is flawless, but most of the complaints are clearly directed at the PC version and with good reason.
Despite that, there were few moments during my 10-hour playthrough when frame rate drops were an actual issue, particularly during combat. In fact, combat was almost always smooth and save for the occasional glitch, I found it to be very enjoyable. Aside from the visuals, combat is arguably the best part of Quantum Break thanks to your array of time-bending powers that make you feel like a total badass and never get boring no matter how much you use them.
The shooting mechanics, on the other hand, are unfortunately quite the opposite, with cover not always working as intended and guns sometimes refusing to fire for no apparent reason. This creates some very noticeable discrepancies between those memorable moments when you link together multiple powers to create devastating jaw-dropping mayhem and the clunky situations when you’re cowering behind boxes and blinking around in confusion as you’re trying to figure out where enemies are shooting from and why your gun suddenly stopped working.
Luckily, the spectacular use of time manipulation powers does a great job at making you forget about those little hiccups when you come to realize just how responsive the whole environment is to your actions. Casting a Time Blast affects both enemies and destructible objects, causing them to remain suspended in time while creating a shield around you. Stopping time in a certain area will freeze all projectiles in place, which resume their normal trajectory once the effect passes. Similarly, zipping around the battlefield and slowing time confuses enemies and causes them to lose track of you and mutter humorous lines as they pause to wonder in awe at your god-like powers.
Things change later in the game when you encounter specialized enemies that are not affected by most of your abilities or have some time-manipulating powers of their own. Couple that with the fact that you usually encounter said enemies in areas where time is constantly freezing or glitching out and you get what may very well be some of the most visually impressive fights found in a video game. The downside is that Quantum Break doesn’t offer too much when it comes to enemy variety, a fact that becomes painfully obvious at certain stages during the game. However, finding new ways to use and combine your powers for greater effect means that every combat sequence will feel unique and satisfying even if you are fighting the same generic enemies more than I would have personally liked.
Quantum Break does a pretty good job at gradually introducing you to your powers throughout the game and providing specific scenarios in which you learn to use them. In addition, there’s also an upgrade system that allows you to boost these powers, though I found it to be mostly shallow and uninteresting. Acquiring upgrade points requires you to explore the game world in search of so-called Chronon Sources, which can be quite interesting in and of itself as exploration generally feels rewarding if you’re the type of person that likes to learn more about the lore of a game.
What’s not so interesting is the actual upgrade system, mainly because you rarely feel like you’re increasing your powers regardless of how many points you spend on a certain ability. It almost feels like Remedy decided to put together this system at the last minute because it’s not fleshed out at all and there’s little point in going out of your way in search of Chronon Sources if you’re not very interested in exploring the world. On the flipside, looking for various documents and other interactable objects can be quite fun as they often contain a lot of information that will help you piece together the complex backstory of Quantum Break and figure out the motivations of certain characters, which aren’t really clear if you’re only pursuing the main story.
Speaking of which, the story of Quantum Break does seem a bit convoluted at times due to the whole time travel aspect but ultimately it’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on and what each character’s goal is. The aforementioned collectibles are definitely a good source of extra information, however, you’ll also want to watch the episodes of the miniseries if you want to get the whole picture. The way this works is very interesting but also a bit disappointing for several reasons. The story of Quantum Break follows protagonist Jack Joyce as he attempts to fix time and repair the damage done by the activation of a time machine built by his brother William.
At the end of each chapter, you are placed into the shoes of
This is a bit misleading because you are told that finding certain objects in the game will change the miniseries, but the impact is often minimal and you’ll have to pay very close attention in order to notice these changes. You are also asked to keep an open mind when it comes to the motivations of the other characters as things aren’t as simple as they seem in the game. However, this is quite difficult at times as you rarely encounter them while playing and inadvertently get attached to Jack Joyce, which usually makes most of the other characters seem like villains.
Truth is, there are no villains in the traditional sense of the word here because everybody in Quantum Break tries to do what they think is right and follows “the end justifies the means” motto to further their agenda, including you. Objectively speaking, Jack Joyce could be considered the bad guy here because he kills the most people (by far), and yet, he is depicted as the hero of this story. Ultimately, though, your actions do seem justified because you’re the only one who actually believes that time can still be fixed and has the power to do it.
The ending doesn’t feel extremely rewarding for multiple reasons
As for the miniseries itself, it’s decent enough but lacks the special effects you are expecting after playing the game, which makes it look very bland by comparison. It’s worth noting, however, that a lot of money was poured into this whole project and most of it seems to have been allocated for the game, so I can understand why there wasn’t all that much to go around for creating fancy special effects in the miniseries. That said, you will find a handful of scenes in the show where time starts to break down and the characters are left to deal with the consequences.
In terms of the actual acting quality, I really don’t have any complaints, at least as far as the main actors are concerned. On the contrary, I really appreciate that Remedy Games went to great lengths to assemble a good cast comprised of familiar faces, some of which you most likely recognize from movies or TV shows. Aside from Shawn Ashmore who famously portrayed Ice Man in several X-Men movies, Quantum Break also stars Aidan Gillen as Paul Serene, Dominic Monaghan as William Joyce and Lance Reddick as Martin Hatch, among others.
If those names don’t really ring a bell, you probably know them as Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish from Game of Thrones, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck from The Lord of the Rings and agent Phillip Broyles from Fringe, respectively. Needless to say, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another game that features such an ensemble of good actors like Quantum Break.
What’s really impressive about the game is the fact that all the characters look incredibly similar to their real-world counterparts. I would even go as far as to say that Quantum Break features some of the most realistic facial animations out there and some of the most impressive use of motion-caption technology. The voice acting is also pretty much flawless throughout the game, though that shouldn’t be a surprise considering that these are all Hollywood actors with plenty of experience under their belts.
To top it all off, Quantum Break brings to the table a great soundtrack that includes both licensed music by popular bands from a whole bunch of different genres, as well as many original atmospheric pieces by composer Petri Alanko. There’s definitely a nice blend of good music here and it all fits together perfectly with the tone of Quantum Break during all stages of the game.
With all that in mind, let’s slowly move towards reaching a conclusion, shall we? There’s no doubt that Remedy’s latest effort was a very ambitious one that required years of development and plenty of manpower, but did it reach its goal? Overall I think it did, even if the PC version clearly needed some more work. If you’re fascinated by topics like time travel and time manipulation, my bet is that you will love the game. But even if you’re not, Quantum Break does a decent job at explaining some basic quantum physics concepts that you may find interesting all the same.
Remedy had an actual physicist as their scientific advisor for the game and it definitely shows at certain points. Still, I would suggest you don’t take some of the science stuff too seriously because this is a work of fiction at the end of the day and there are a number of complicated things that the game isn’t very good at properly explaining. This includes Chronon Particles, the Countermeasure, or even how and why exactly can Jack Joyce do what he does
At the end of the day, there’s really nothing like Quantum Break on the market right now and I think it’s important to give credit where credit is due for the innovations Remedy brought to the table. But, it is equally important to mention that there are plenty of things that could have been done better and flaws that gamers will not soon
Call me crazy but I really loved Quantum Break, though I can definitely understand where people are coming from when they criticize this game. It’s not perfect, but I would still recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone looking for a third-person shooter with stunning visuals, time manipulation mechanics, and a tie-in miniseries that tries to do things differently when it comes to storytelling in video games. I don’t know about you but I think the industry really needs some innovation at this point and I appreciate what the folks over at Remedy Games were trying to do with Quantum Break. As always, don’t mind the critics too much and figure out for yourself if you’re going to like this game based on your personal taste. Until next time.
This review was originally published on geeksnack.com on April 14th, 2016 before the site was taken down the following year. The review was edited to reflect certain events that have occurred since then that are relevant to Quantum Break.